When creating or adapting OER, it is important to keep in mind that the more technically complex the resource, the harder it is for others to revise the content for their own educational purposes. Those general guidelines can make developing and sharing OER easier for both the creators and adapters:
- Before creating something from scratch, consider looking to see if there is an existing OER you can build from. This saves time and effort.
- Keep technical aspects of the OER simple, since complexity can make it more difficult for both yourself and others to make improvements.
- Don’t build OER using proprietary software or platforms that can potentially lock up your content and prevent its sharing or re-use.
- Save your OER in at least one editable format (DOCX, ODT, RTF, GDOC, and HTML) in addition to your final display format, such as a PDF.
- Design OER in a modular format, so that parts of the content can easily stand alone and be re-used by others in other contexts. For example, think about subchapters and units, rather than chapters.
- When creating OER content, keep accessibility in mind. Provide structured content (headings and subheadings) and use descriptive links to make conversion to a screen reader possible. See Module 7 on Accessibility for detailed instruction.
OER creators should keep in mind that in order for users to reuse, revise, and remix materials, they must have access to the necessary technical tools. Some file formats are easier to use openly than others. For example, PDF is a popular file format for publishing, since it is usable on virtually any device and reliably preserves the integrity of formatting. However, PDF is very difficult to edit without advanced software. In addition to sharing a PDF for viewing, authors can release OER content in an editable format, such as ODT, RTF, HTML, or DOCX, enabling others to fully make use of the work. Authors can also publish OER using a platform that permits users to export editable files, such as Pressbooks.
It is also important to consider the openness of software tools, in addition to the openness of content. For example, DOCX is an editable format that enables users to engage in revising and remixing content, but users without access to the proprietary software Microsoft Word may not be able to use it. An open file format that could be used as an alternative is RTF. It is a good practice for OER creators to distribute materials in multiple formats to maximize usability.
Finally, don’t be afraid to test OER in the classroom; students can provide valuable feedback during the development process on technical features.