Evaluating Open Resources

Once you have found an open resource, the next step involves review and evaluation. This process will help you to decide whether to “adopt” the OER (use as is) or “adapt” the OER (make some changes).

Check out this comprehensive list shared by Queen’s, that includes criteria that are useful especially when your focus is on adopting and adapting OERs.

Checklist for Reviewing an OER (click on open this accordion menu)
  1. Permissions: do you have copyright permission to adapt and re-use the resource as you wish?
    • Before reusing content, check the license details and the exact terms of reuse to see if there are any restrictions on modifying the resource to create something new.  **Please note: we will focus on open licences in the next challenge!
  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. ​Interface: 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? 

Adapting Open Resources

In Challenge #1, you found an open textbook in the BCcampus Open Textbook collection.  One of the benefits of OERs is the flexibility to modify and customize them for your learners. This means that if you want to only use a few chapters, or want to change an image or an example in an open textbook, you can do that!  You can also grab sections of the textbook and cut and paste it into a different document so that you or your students can edit it. This is not something that is possible with traditionally published educational materials, which are copyrighted and often have DRM (digital rights management). 

Important note: If you want to adapt an OER, you need to be sure that the resource has an open licence that permits adaptation. We will cover open licences in the next challenge!

Here are some examples of open textbook adaptations:

  • Communication for Business Professionals (2018) is a Canadian adaptation of an American textbook, Business Communication for Success (2016). This adapted version features Canadian examples and has been reduced in size and scope to better suit an Ontario community college context. This version also includes additional instructor resources (slides, essay questions and a test bank).
  • Microbiology: Canadian Edition is an adaptation of the OpenStax textbook Microbiology completed by a team at the University of Guelph. The main changes involved the addition of more basic microbiology and microbial ecology, allowing this adaptation to be used in more educational contexts. They also reorganized and updated some content, and added Canadian examples and stories.
  • Teaching in a Digital Age was originally published in the BCcampus Open Textbook collection in English and now has  translations in multiple languages

Keep in mind that modifying an open textbook doesn’t need to be a big undertaking and involve the whole textbook, like the examples above.  It may be as simple as changing an example in the book, or swapping out a photo or image. Please open the following accordion menu to review other reasons for revising an existing open work.

Reasons to Adapt an Existing OER (click to open this accordion menu)

One of the benefits of using an openly licensed textbook or other educational resource is that you are free to adapt it to fit your needs. In other words, you can adjust the educational resources to fit your course curriculum, not the other way around. Other reasons for revising an existing open work might be to:

  • Address a particular teaching style or learning style
  • Adjust for a different grade or course level
  • Adapt for a different discipline
  • Accommodate a different learning environment
  • Address diversity needs
  • Meet a cultural preference
  • Meet a regional or national preference
  • Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  • Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  • Translate the material into another language
  • Correct errors or inaccuracies
  • Update the book with current information
  • Add more media or links to other resources
  • Use only a portion of the book for a course

Your Challenge Today…

Choose one of the two options:

Option A  

If you found a discipline-specific OER in challenge #1 that you might be able to use in your teaching, skim through the resource and think about whether you would “adopt” (use as is) or “adapt” (make some changes) this resource. 

Then depending on your decision (adopt or adapt), use the following prompts to contribute to the Padlet below:

  • if you would like to adopt this resource, briefly outline the evaluation criteria you used in your decision-making process
  • if you would like to adapt this resource, share what changes you would make to adapt/customize it for your learners. 

Option B

If you did not find a relevant discipline-specific OER in challenge #1, think about the content you are currently using in a course you teach. How you think the ability to modify open resources could help you in your teaching and/or would benefit your learners? Add your thoughts to the Padlet below:

Padlet for Option A and Option B

Made with Padlet


This page adapts and builds upon the following resources: