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Open Educational Resources: Adopting or Creating Open Textbooks

Adopting Open Textbooks

Several Guides have detailed outlines for adopting and modifying open textbooks in your course.

How Do I Adopt Open Textbooks?

In order to provide open textbooks to your students as alternatives to the textbooks they need to purchase, complete the following steps:

  1. Search for and examine the textbooks that are available through the various Open Textbook sources. Identify the textbooks that may be appropriate for your course.  [Note: not all subject areas and topics will have open textbook alternatives.]
  2. If you do find open textbooks that sound appropriate for your course, you will next need to review and evaluate both the content and quality of the material to ensure it will meet your needs.  Several guides are available detailing how to evaluation Open Education Resources.
  3. Determine if you want to use the textbook as is, or edit or modify the content prior to assigning it to your students. 
  4. Decide if you want to use the textbook as is, edit, or modify the contents. One of the benefits of open textbooks is you can use them as is, or customize them for specific course to meet both your teaching style and content needs. You do need to make sure the licensing will allow you to make edits or add content - this will depend on the source of the textbook. 
  5. Disseminate the open textbook to your students.

See also:

Why Adopt an Open Textbook

Evaluating OER

Clarity, Comprehensibility & Readability

  • Text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary.
  • Text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used.
  • Content, including any instructions, exercises, or supplemental material, is clear and comprehensible to students.
  • Content is well-categorized in terms of logic, sequencing, and flow.
  • Content is consistent with its language and key terms.

Content Accuracy & Technical Accuracy

  • Content, including diagrams and other supplementary material, is accurate, error-free and unbiased.
  • Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time.
  • The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
  • Content is accurate based on both your expert knowledge and through external sources.
  • There are no factual, grammatical, or typographical errors. 
  • Interface is easy to navigate, and there are no broken links or obsolete formats.

Adaptability & Modularity

  • The resource is in a file format that allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates.
  • The resource is easily divided into modules, or sections, which can then be used or rearranged out of their original order.
  • The content is licensed in a way that allows for adaptations and modifications.


  • Content is presented at a reading level appropriate for higher education students.
  • Content is useful for instructors or students.
  • 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.


  • Content is accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications.
  • If you are using Web resources, does each image have alternate text that can be read?
  • Videos have accurate closed-captioning.
  • Students are able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner.

Supplementary Resources

  • The OER contain supplementary materials such as homework resources, study guides, tutorials or assessments.
  • Have you reviewed these materials in the same manner as the original OER?


This OER Evaluation Criteria is by Regina Gong. It is adapted from Affordable Learning Georgia Selecting Textbooks Criteria, and BC Campus, Open Textbook Review Criteria, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.   

Creating or Modifying OER

How do I Create OER?

The major requirement to creating OER is to openly license your work but there are four major steps to creating and sharing OER in educational contexts.

  1. License your Work: Creative Commons Licenses and Copyright
    • By default, you hold the copyright for any presentation, video, website, or software that you create. You don’t need to register or include a © symbol, copyright happens at the point of creation. Copyright is "all rights reserved," which means if someone wants to download or copy documents or other content from the material, they can’t distribute that content to anyone else without the expressed permission of the copyright holder. Creative Commons licenses allow the copyright holder to change “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” The copyright holder retains copyright, but clearly identifies conditions under which the general public may use the content.  (UMIch)
  2. Use openly licensed material: Find Open Textbooks
  3. Attribute others' materials appropriately.
  4. Share your work so that others may access it: Consider upload your work on INDIGO, UIC's institutional repository or an OER platform.


See also: Open Education Resources: How to Author