Reviewing Your Options

Remixing a resource means you can adapt, reorganize, and remake a resource to create something new. This is especially helpful when you would like to adapt the material to learners’ needs, localize content to make the material more accessible, or add revised data to keep your resource current and up to date.

Example: You find an OER history lesson that has a Creative Commons CC BY license. The lesson includes most of the materials you want to cover, but is missing one key topic. You find another OER that also has a CC BY license that covers that missing topic. You can create a derivative work by taking both OERs and combining them – using only the content that aligns with your course objectives.

Yes You Can!

World History OER Textbook Cover

When it comes to working with OER, one of the conceptual hurdles faced by most people is around the notion of adapting or changing someone’s work. What exactly can be adapted within the scope of an OER?  Won’t the original author get upset if you change their work?

Anything and everything in an OER can be changed as long as the conditions of the open license are met. The modifications or changes you make can be fairly minor or major depending on what you need to do to make the OER work for you.

Changing someone’s work can feel uncomfortable. But rest assured, if the author has released their work under a Creative Commons license that allows for adaptation (which is any Creative Commons license that does not have a No Derivative [ND] attribute added to it) then they expect that you will change the content, provided you give them the proper attribution. That’s one reason why attribution asks that you include the link back to the original source when available – viewers of your work will be able to compare it against the original if the need arises.

You are in charge of the resource – that is the beauty and power of OER!


A good rule of thumb when customizing OER is to keep it simple, especially if you are approaching a remix project for the first time. While it may be tempting to make a number of major changes before releasing it to your students, think of the OER as a living resource that you can improve incrementally over time.

Click on each of the questions below for more to consider regarding the customization of OER:

How much content do you wish to change?

Do you want to remove content, or rewrite entire sections of content?

What technical format is the original work in?

A Word document is much easier to modify than a PDF document. If you are looking to customize a full textbook,  you will need it in a workable technical format, i.e. an editable file type. These include:

  • Pressbooks or WordPress files (.xml or .wxr)
  • HTML files (webpages)
  • Word document (.docx) or OpenDocument Text (.odt)
  • Simple text files (.txt)
  • EPUB
  • LaTeX files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations)

It is common that open textbooks may only be available as a PDF document. PDF documents are great formats to distribute the final version of the textbook to students in, but a terrible format for editing or adapting. If you want to adapt an open textbook that is only available in PDF format, you will need to convert the PDF document to one of the formats above.

If you need to remix an OER that’s only available as a PDF, it’s worth contacting the original author and asking if other files for the resource are available. Many OER creators are very happy to share source files upon request.

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? Remember, as long as the Creative Commons license does not have a No Derivative (ND) attribute, you are able to make changes.

How comfortable are you with using technology and creating content?

Once you find an editable file, you are ready to begin your customization. The tools you use to create your remix will depend on the source file of the original OER and how comfortable you feel working with the format and tool.

Where do you plan to share your OER?

What additional information might be needed for repositories, libraries and other course material distribution channels?

Who can be of help/assistance at your institution?

Librarians can assist you with copyright concerns – for instance, providing advice when remixing OER content with different licenses, or assisting you with licensing your new derivative work.

If the work you want to remix is only available as a PDF, your institution’s librarians or instructional technologists may have tools that can help you edit these more easily.

Finally, it’s likely that the remixes you’ve made will be of value to others beyond your classroom walls. Your librarians and instructional designers can help you share your custom OER adaptation more broadly, if you wish.

Remember to take accessibility into consideration. Even if the original OER was not fully accessible, try to make your remix as accessible as possible so that every student will be able to access it. Again, SUNY OER Services and  your instructional design team or instructional technologist can provide insight into this process.

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