Considerations for Using or Creating OER

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Assess your teaching materials for the potential to release as OER.
  • Apply a backwards design approach when integrating OER into your course.
  • List the key considerations to keep in mind before adopting an OER.

Transforming your course to include can be as simple as switching one material for another or as radical as completely changing your teaching style. This chapter outlines some key considerations and questions you should ask yourself before adopting or creating OER.[1]

How will using OER improve your course?

When integrating OER into your course, you have the opportunity to critically evaluate your teaching methods and alter them to better meet your needs. Open education is a movement that supports innovative teaching. By using OER in a course, you are opening up new possibilities for greater diversification, multidisciplinary learning, and student engagement.

One way to go about this is to use for your project.

Backward design is a framework for planning your course around its intended outcomes.[2] Backwards design is a way to solidify more abstract course outcomes, such as critical and creative thinking, in order to ensure that students are actively engaged with the material they are being taught. There are three stages to the backward design process:

  1. Identify desired results,
  2. Determine acceptable evidence, and
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.[3]

You might notice that this approach does not end with “create and/or curate educational content.” Instead, it ends with more planning. The purpose of backward design is not to be done with your course transformation in a quick 3-step process. Instead, it asks instructors to question the processes and materials they currently use and to start over by plotting out what is needed to meet your course outcomes.

Considerations: Impact

Thinking critically about the purpose of your course and its learning outcomes helps to ensure an excellent learning experience for your students. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want my students to learn?
  • How will I communicate to students that the concepts I present are valuable?
  • How will I assess my students’ understanding of core concepts?

Who is your audience?

Once you’ve decided what you want students to learn, you are ready to think about what resources you can use. As you begin to look for OER for your course, it’s important to consider your target audience(s).

Considerations: Audience

  • Do you have a primary audience? For example, majors or non-majors.
  • Does your audience belong to a specific cultural or geographic background?
  • Are there national, provincial, or local contexts that you want to incorporate into an OER?

Although your OER may be used by educators around the world, you can create it with your local audience in mind. Often times, culturally relevant examples allow students to engage with work on a more personal level. Although perfectly ‘open’ resources would not include culturally specific examples, jargon, or humour, the ability to alter OER allows for adaptation to fit new audiences, without sacrificing engagement for the original target audience. [4]

Does the OER you need already exist?

It is generally a good idea to look around at what content is available for your course before creating something new. There are three reasons for this:

  1. The OER you want to create/use may already exist in the format you want, or you may be able to easily convert it to the appropriate format.
  2. You may be able to remix an existing OER in order to meet your course needs.
  3. Your own teaching materials could be adapted for use as OER. For example, lecture notes can be an invaluable teaching aid for courses with no excellent textbooks available. Consider asking students who have taken the course what they feel are the most useful resources for the course.

More information about locating OER is available in the Finding OER Chapter (Available December 2022).

Considerations: Availability

  • What changes would you need to make to share your own content as an OER? (See the Copyright Chapter for more information)
  • What types and formats of OER are you looking for?
  • What concepts or topics are missing in your current learning materials? There may be OER that can supplement these areas.

How will students access your course OER?

Whether you are using an OER as-is or creating something from scratch, one of the first considerations you should take into account is how you will share the resource(s) with students in your class.

Considerations: Access

  • Will you host OER in the LMS (Brightspace) or a third party platform?
  • How can you make it evident to your students that they are using an OER? How can you educate them about the benefits and use of an OER?
  • During your class, how will students access the OER?

What training or information do you need to use OER?

Using an OER can feel daunting, especially if you’ve not considered locating, licensing, and hosting OER before.  Integrating an existing OER into your curriculum doesn’t need to be exclusively your job. Training, like the module you are reading now, can provide basic information on these topics. At SAIT, Educational Developers from CADI and Library Liaisons can provide guidance to help you incorporate open resources into your course. The OER Librarian can also answer specific questions or provide customized training to departments that are interested in incorporating OER into curriculum. You can also get support when creating OER from the the Reg Erhardt Library.  More information about available supports is provided in the Creating OER and Teaching with OER chapters (Available March 2023).


  • What aspects of OER are you most and least comfortable with? List at least three activities you could do to increase your comfort level.

This chapter outlined some high level considerations to keep in mind when transforming your course to use OER. One aspect of OER not covered here, however, is how to make an OER “open” and what that means. To answer that question, in the next chapter we’ll discuss the role that copyright plays in an OER’s development and dissemination.



  1. This chapter was adapted from "Considerations before using or creating an OER" from The ABOER Starter Kit, by Technologies in Education at the Faculty of Education, the University of Alberta, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
  2. AvenuesdotOrg. (2013). Grant Wiggins - Understanding by Design, Part 1. [Youtube video]. Retrieved from
  3. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  4. McNally, M.B. & Christiansen, E.G. (2019). Open Enough? Eight Factors to Consider when Transitioning from Closed to Open Resources and Courses: A Conceptual Framework. Retrieved from


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Foundations of Open Educational Resources by Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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