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Open Educational Resources

Adapt an Open Educational Resource

This page outlines a simple process for adapting an open educational resource to your own teaching and learning needs.

Some Reasons to 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 or materials
  • Adapt it for a different audience/level
  • Adapt it for different teaching situations. 

Ways to Adapt an 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.  

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.

Organise Layout and Style

TIP: Plan ahead - Pressbooks, Queen’s Open Textbook editing and publishing platform, provides a set of pre-made box features that you can use to structure your chapters (see below)

  • Learning Objectives
  • Key Takeaways (can be relabelled as Key Terms)
  • Exercises (or related items such as Answers, Questions)
  • Other content can be segmented using Pressbooks 6 Headings levels, heading 1 being the most prominent and largest

Before you begin your adaptations:

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.


Plan and Track Your Adaptations

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.


Ensure Accessible Design

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is provincial legislation created with the intent of achieving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, in five areas.  Pertinent to educators Section 12: 'Accessible formats and communication supports', requires that:

'[E]very obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities'.


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.

Working with Copyeditors

Copyeditors add an important element to the creation or revision of a textbook. They provide an objective set of eyes that ensures grammar and spelling are correct, the style is consistent (see Style Guide), and that the book’s language will be suitable and understandable to the students reading it.

While the basic rules of copy editing apply whether working on a traditional or open textbook, there are some key differences. When working with a copy editor or other collaborators on an open textbook, keep the following in mind:

  • It’s important that editors, authors, and other participating parties understand how the Pressbooks platform works, and how changes in the textbook will be made so that no one overwrites someone else’s work.
  • Like print books, starting with a standard style guide is important. As the project progresses, be sure to record styling exceptions for the textbook on a style sheet. Openly licensed textbooks have special requirements such as ensuring that all images are properly licensed and correctly attributed.
  • A web-based textbook will likely make use of live links (in the body and reference lists), and multimedia. Determine at the outset who is responsible for those links and other embedded content.
  • A web-based textbook and online platform can introduce additional technical challenges. Technical problems should be reported via


Editorial Support 



  • Copyeditors
  • Freelance Copyeditors 
  • Illustrators

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.

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:

Share your OER with the wider community:

You can also consider sharing your work with the larger open community. One way to do this is by adding your adapted textbook to an established repository or open textbook collection. Some of these require undergoing a formal review before being accepted.