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Open Educational Resources

Adapt and Remix an Existing Open Textbook or Open Educational Resource

This page outlines a simple 6 step process to adapting an existing openly licensed educational resource (e.g. an existing open textbook or Open Education Resource - "OER") to your own teaching and learning needs.

1. Why Adapt an Existing OER?

Consider any modifications you may need to make to the content to ensure it is appropriate for your own course learning outcomes, assessment approaches as well as your teaching style.  For example, you may wish to add, delete, re-order or re-mix the existing content.

The following is a modified list of reasons to modify an existing work that appeared in the article: Why remix an Open Educational Resource? by Liam Green-Hughes and used under a CC-BY license. 

  • Adapt the material to make it more accessible for people with different disabilities
  • Insert cultural specific references to make a concept easier to understand
  • Translate it into another language
  • Correct any errors or inaccuracies
  • Update the book to add the latest research discoveries or theories
  • Insert more media or links to other resources
  • Chop the book into smaller chunks that might be easier to learn from, or could be reused elsewhere
  • Adapt it for a different audience  
  • Change the target educational level 
  • Add input and participation from students who might be using the textbook
  • Expand the textbook by adding in other information
  • Insert differing viewpoints to that originally given in the material
  • Adapt it for different teaching situations. 

2. Ways to Adapt and Remix an Existing OER

Common ways in which an existing openly licensed resource may be modified include the following:

  1. Mixing: A number of OERs are mixed together and additional content is added to create an altogether new resource. 
  2. Adaption: you may adapt the resource in multiple ways to include local case studies and/or examples appropriate to the Canadian context 
  3. Extract and re-mix: You may extract only some of the assets of a resource or course and use them in a completely different context. for example: photos, illustrations, and graphs.  

3. Checklist for Reviewing an OER

As you find existing openly licensed content which you would like to adapt to integrate into your own course, consider the following review criteria:

  1. Permissions: do you have copyright permission to adapt and re-use the resource as you wish?
  2. Appropriateness / relevance: is the content appropriate to your audience? Level (i.e. First Year, Second Year, etc), experience / expertise
  3. Clarity, comprehensibility, and readability: is the content clear and comprehensible, well organised (logic, sequencing, and flow)?
  4. Consistency, accuracy: does the resource use consistent language, terminology? Is the content accurate, error-free and unbiased? Free from factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  5. Adaptability and modularity: is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?  Can the resource be easily divided into bite-sized pieces which can be re-mixed or reordered?
  6. Production quality: is the information clear and understandable?  Is the layout and interface easy to navigate? Do the design features enhance learning? For audio or video resources, is the sound quality high? Are there broken links or obsolete formats?
  7. Interactivity:  Does the resource encourage active learning and class participation? Are there opportunities for students to test their understanding of the material (e.g. A video with embedded questions)? 
  8. ‚ÄčInterface: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images, charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.
  9. Cultural Relevance: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.  It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
  10. Accessibility: is the content accessible to students with disabilities? is it AODA compliant? For example, do images have alternate text that can be read? Do videos have accurate closed-captioning? Are students able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner? See the Accessibility Hub for more information about accessibility at Queen’s.

4. Plan and Track Your Adaptations

Before adapting an existing OER, it is helpful to plan what and how you wish to adapt the resource as appropriate to the learning outcomes and needs of you own course.  This will also help structure the timeline for adaptations as well as helping you to anticipate any other supports you might need, such as technical expertise etc.

Before you begin your adaptations consider:

Before making any modifications review the existing textbook or resource and attempt to match all revised and new text, resources, layout and citation styles to that of the original work.

Language and tone:

  • Is the tone of the language formal, or friendly and conversational?
  • How does the author address the reader? E.g. with phrases such as “we learn” and “you will see”?
  • How is punctuation used? 
  • How long is the typical sentence? Paragraph?
  • Word count for existing chapters? Try to maintain the average count throughout.


  • Does each chapter contain specific pedagogical features such as Learning Objectives, Exercises, Summary, Suggested Readings, highlighted points of interest?
  • Does the author use lists? If so, are bullets or numbers used etc? 
  • How are headings used? Are sub-headings used?
  • How long are sections under a heading or sub-heading?

Resource integration:

  • How are other resources, such as photos, graphs, diagrams and multimedia content (video or audio links) integrated and labeled in the text? What types of resources are used? Caption (e.g. Figure 1 + description)
  • Figures and tables. E.g: Figure 1.2 or Table 1.2
  • When adding  a new type of resource ensure that it enhances the flow of the book
  • Attribution: consider using the attribution layout recommended by Creative Commons (

References and citation style:

  • Identify both the citation style, and how and where references are listed in the original book (e.g., at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book), or as footnotes. Be sure to follow the same style.
  • Note how in-text citations are used including the punctuation used.  


See: Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide, CC-BY.

5. Make You Adaptations

The options available to you to edit and publish an existing open textbook or resource may vary depending on the platform or format in which the original item is made available.

Original Format

Possible Editing Tools (web-based)  

Possible Editing Tools (Desktop)

Word or Open Office     Google Docs, PressBooks    Microsoft Word, OpenOffice
ePub PressBooks Sigil, Calibre
Text Google docs, PressBooks Word, OpenOffice
LaTex ScribeTex TeXworks, Texmaker
HTML Google Docs, PressBooks, Media Wiki Dreamweaver, MS Expression Web
OpenStax College Connexions n/a

Other editorial or conversion tools:

  • CAST UDL Book Builder 
  • Calibre (Windows & Mac) an ePub reader & document conversion tool. 
  • Sigil – Open Source tool for creating and/or editing ePub books
  • eCub – Another Open Source tool for creating and/or editing ePub books
  • Pandoc – Universal document conversion tool (LaTeX, Word, ePub, HTML & more)
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro – Not free, but useful for converting PDF to other formats
  • PDFtoHTML – Open source utility to convert PDF to HTML
  • TeXworks (Win/Mac/Linux) – Open Source TeX documents editor
  • Texmaker (Win/Mac/Linux) – Open Source LaTeX editor.

6. License Your OER for Reuse

Apply a Creative Commons license to re-distribute your OER. These copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way for you to give others permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice.

6. Re-Distribute Your OER

Once you have adapted your version of the OER, you will need a place to put your learning resource (e.g individual learning object or complete open textbook) where your students can access it.  Here are a few of the options available to you at Queen's: 

  1. QSpace: Host your textbook in QSpace, Queen's Research Repository. 
  2. onQ: Upload the raw html into onQ, Queen's Learning Management System. Use the LMS as your book 'platform'
  3. Web hosting service: If you have generated your textbook using a web editing tool such as, you can provide the link to your students e.g. via your web page.   Queen's IT Services provide the following web hosting services:

See also: Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide, CC-BY.