Customizing and Integrating OER

The next step is to determine if you want to use the OER as is, or modify it. One of the benefits of OER is the flexibility to modify and customize them for specific course designs as much or as little as you desire.

Many faculty feel driven to create the “perfect” resources for their classes and it can be difficult to put aside that perfection and use other people’s creations. However, the number, variety, and quality of OER available freely is such that anyone should be able to find resources they can readily (with or without adaptations) put to use within their classrooms. And adaptation or adoption of OER will almost always be more time-efficient than creating teaching materials from scratch.

Keep these things in mind when you are customizing an OER, and creating a derivative work:

  • Check the license on the OER you want to use to be sure that it allows for derivative works.
  • Consider your options for applying a Creative Commons license to your OER so that others can access, use, and modify it.
  • Keep accessibility in mind. If the OER you are using does not meet accessibility guidelines at your institution, take some time to make your customized, derivative work accessible to all learners.

Understanding Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons LogoIf you decide to customize OER, you need to take the Creative Commons license type, the format of the material, and potential hosting for a new digital version into consideration.

General rights for copying and repurposing are what make OER different from any other educational resources available online free of charge. In the case of Open Educational Resources, all users are given the right to copy and repurpose without needing to request permission from copyright holders (as long as they adhere to license conditions, such as attribution); the users’ rights are clearly specified and easily understandable. Most OER materials are published under free Creative Commons licenses or are available in the Public Domain.

Watch this video short animation video that explains the Creative Commons licenses:



The Licenses

CC BY License ImageAttribution (CC BY): This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.


CC BY SA License ImageAttribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.


CC BY ND License Image

Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


CC BY NC License ImageAttribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


CC BY NC SA License ImageAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA): This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


CC BY ND License ImageAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND): This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Note that every CC license except the non-derivative license allows for modifications!


Creative Commons Licenses Quick Reference

Download a .pdf of this Creative Commons Licenses Quick Reference

Working with Different OER Formats

If the open material is available in an editable format, then the easiest approach may be to use the same tool as the original author to add, delete, or modify it. Consulting course support services (such as your institution’s instructional design team) is recommended, particularly if you have not done this kind of work before. They can make you aware of tools that will streamline this process.

If you are remixing multiple OER in different formats, then you will have to decide which format you want for your final product, and convert the remaining resources to this format for remixing.

Integrating OER Into Your Course

There are several stakeholders on campus involved in delivering instructional materials to students, including the bookstore, library, IT help desk, and possibly on-site print services. It is important to engage these stakeholders in your move to OER as they can all assist in the smooth delivery of open materials to students.

SUNY OER Services is also available for individual consultations, and can help you find, adopt, and adapt OER to suit your needs.

Note that your institution may have a policy requiring faculty to notify the bookstore of any textbooks required for courses they are teaching by a certain date. In this case, you may need to work to broaden the policy so that an open textbook (digital or printed copy) selection can also be made available through the bookstore.

The simplest and most economical methods of delivering OER to students is to integrate OER into your campus Learning Management System (LMS).

You can also provide a link for students to view or download the OER.  Most open textbooks are available in different downloadable formats, such as PDF, ePub, mobi, or DAISY formats. Keep in mind that certain formats may be preferable for students with visual impairments. Downloadable options may also be useful for students without reliable Internet access, as they can download the material to their computers or mobile devices for offline access. This will also allow students to continue to access OER materials after the course ends.

Low-cost printing is another option for open textbooks. Some OER textbook providers offer low-cost printing services directly from their websites, in which case you may be able to work with your institution’s bookstore to acquire printed copies. Other printing options could include institutional printing services or students using their printing allowances to print chosen sections of the textbook.

SUNY OER Services coordinates with The SUNY Press to offer print services for OER. Start a conversation about your interests in print.

Write on this Course: OER at Your Institution

Hypothesis logoThere is a wide continuum of opportunities to use OER in our teaching, learning, scholarship, and research. When we share our OER stories ‐‐ from the adoption and remixing of existing open content, to creating new open textbooks ‐‐ we help shape the landscape of OER.

Share your OER story by responding to these questions:

    • How have you seen OER used at your institution?
  • How does your institution facilitate OER adoption, adaption, integration, publishing, and sharing?

You can use Hypothesis to add your answers as public annotations to this page. Comments are welcome anywhere on the page. Please use the tag #SUNYOERChat in your posts.

“Hypothes.is_logo.jpg” by Hypothes.is is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

This content is adapted from the following works:

“Find OER” by Open Education Consortium, licensed under CC BY 4.0
“OER Mythbusting” is licensed under CC BY 4.0
“A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources”by Neil Butcher, UNESCO is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


Creative Commons CC BY License ImageUnless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.