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Tools and Resources for OER: Home

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Introduction

This guide provides additional information to support the Tools and Resources for Open Educational Resources workshop.

New tools and resources are being developed and released all the time, and each person's needs will require different support. This guide is not intended to be an endorsement of any particular tool but serves as a starting point for thinking about how to approach an OER project.

Regardless of which tools are used, OER users should consider the following points to allow for wider and easier usage:

  • Save the OER in a non-proprietary file format, i.e., a file format that does not need to be opened with a paid software. For example, an EPUB file, used for ebooks, can be opened with more software programs than an AZW3 file, which is the Kindle proprietary file format.
  • Provide access to an editable format (if necessary). Most open licenses allow other users to revise or remix the material, so it is helpful for creators to provide access to a version of the OER that can be edited easily. For example, a PDF is a non-proprietary file format that can be opened easily but can be difficult to edit without specialty software.
  • Upload to an open hosting site. Open sites promote greater discoverability. For example, sharing an OER to your Canvas site restricts it to students enrolled in that course. Sharing to Canvas Commons restricts it to users with access to the Canvas platform. Sharing to the library's Digital Collections Repository is open to anyone who visits the site and is indexed in search engines.
  • Design the OER with accessibility in mind. More information about this topic can be found within the guide, but some key points to consider would be to add alt-text to images and captions to videos and to optimize text documents for screen reader software.

Remember that none of these practices are required when using an open license. The licenses govern what other users are permitted to do with licensed material, not what the creator must do when publishing material. However, if the purpose of selecting an open license is to allow wider use and adoption of a resource, these practices will make that easier.

Definitions

  • OER (open educational resource) - "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities." (Creative Commons: Open Education website)
  • Open access - content, typically published research, that is free to read and may also be openly licensed for reuse.
  • Open source - a type of software that allows users access to the source code. The Open Source Initiative lists other required criteria, including free distribution and non-discrimination. Open-source software typically is given an open license, similar to the Creative Commons licenses.
  • Free Software - According to the FSF, "Free software means that the users have the freedom to run, edit, contribute to, and share the software. Thus, free software is a matter of liberty, not price." (Free Software Foundation website
  • Proprietary format/software - a file format or software for which the owning company retains licensing rights. Typically, the file format and software can only be used together. An example would be the .indd format used in Adobe InDesign.
  • Free-to-use software - In this guide, we use this term to refer to software that can be used without cost but does not meet the criteria to be considered open source. In some cases, you may see this type of software referred to as free or gratis as opposed to Free with a capital F as described above.

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