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Open Educational Resources

Steps to OER adaption success

1. Check the license

First, check the license to make sure you have the permission to modify the contents. As long as the Creative Commons license does not have a No Derivatives clause, you are able to change the contents of the book. See Creative Commons for more information on licenses.

2. The format of the textbook

If you wish to adapt an open textbook, you need to be able to have the textbook in a technical format that you can work with. This usually means the original source files used to create the textbook.

Common source formats for open textbooks that you should look for are:

  • HTML files (webpages)
  • Word or OpenOffice documents
  • Text files
  • ePub
  • LaTex files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations).

What tools you will use to create your version of the textbook will depend greatly on what format you find the original textbook in and what you feel comfortable working with.

Avoid PDF documents.

It is common that open textbooks may only be available as a PDF document. PDF documents are not editable. If you want to modify an open textbook that is only available in PDF format, you will need to convert the PDF document to one of the formats above.

Before you consider converting a PDF version of the textbook, you should contact the original author and asking for a copy of the textbook source files. Converting a PDF document to an editable format is a difficult, time consuming and imprecise process.

3. Tools for editing an open resource or textbook

Once you have a format that you can edit, you can begin to modify the textbook. What tools you will use to do this will depend greatly on what editable format you are working with, and your comfort level with working with that format.

4. Choosing a license

Once you have finished creating your own version of the textbook, you should decide on which Creative Commons license you will use to license your book. This will depend a great deal on how the original textbook was licensed.

For example, if the original textbook was licensed with SA (Share Alike) license, then you must release your book with the same license as the original source material to ensure it is fully compliant with the original CC terms of use.

5. Output

Students like flexibility when it comes to their textbooks. Some may prefer printed versions of the textbook, others will prefer using a website. Still others will like to use an e-reader or e-reading software.

To make your book as accessible as possible, consider making your textbook available in multiple formats so students have the ability to choose the format that works for them. At a minimum, the open textbook project will make textbooks available as a website (HTML),  ePub document for e-readers, and PDF document which students can print or choose to have printed via a print on demand service.

6. Hosting your book (or how do my students get my textbook?)

Once you have edited your version of the textbook, you will need a place to put your textbook where your students can access it.




Adapting OERs

Adapting OERs

The term, adaptation, is commonly used to describe the process of making changes to an existing work. Though we can also replace “adapt” with revise, modify, alter, customize, or other synonym that describes the act of making a change. Reasons for adapting or modifying an OER or open textbook can include:

  1. Update examples or content, correct inaccuracies
  2. Adjust the level of the material (too low/too high)
  3. Develop Canadian specific contentcomputer screen showing modification of files
  4. Add multimedia content
  5. Add case studies or other course specific activities
  6. Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  7. Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  8. Translate the material into another language
  9. Correct errors or inaccuracies
  10. Use only a portion of the book for a course[1]

How easy or difficult this will be depends on a number of factors, including;

  • How much content do you wish to change? Do you want to remove chapters, or rewrite entire chapters of content?
  • What technical format is the original textbook in? A Word document is much easier to modify than a PDF document.
  • What type of license is the content released under? Does it have a Creative Commons license that allows for modification or adaptation of the content?
  • How comfortable are you with using technology and creating content?

Some General Considerations

  • Whatever tools you choose to work with, remember that students prefer format flexibility with their textbook. For the BC open textbook project, each book modified or created will be made available in PDF, ePub and HTML (website) formats. If you use a tool that does not output those formats by default, you will need to find additional conversion tools to convert your final textbook to those formats.
  • If you wish to edit or create graphics, images, charts, and/or multimedia content, you will need to use additional, specialized tools to create those beyond the tools listed here. The tools listed here are primarily designed to modify text or (in the case of LaTeX) scientific or mathematical formulas.
  • Keep it simple is a good rule of thumb, especially if you are approaching a remix project for the first time. While it may be tempting to make a number of major changes to a textbook before releasing it to your students, think of the textbook as a living resource that you can improve incrementally over time.


This material is adapted from Experience Georgia and based WikiEducator. “Adapt” in OER Handbook for Educators ( and Why Remix Open Educational Resources? created by Liam Green-Hughes, both used under a CC-BY license  Creative commons licensing logp

This page is modified from “6 Steps to Modifying an Open Textbook" by Clint Lalonde, BCcampus.