Reflections on the Process of Developing an OER in 10 Steps

1 July 2016 - 3:51pm by Anna Page

The original article is available at 10 steps to developing an OER - republished here by kind permission of its author Jennifer McWatt (@JenTechLearning)

10 Steps to Developing an OER #TELStrath #OER #openedu#digitalliteracy #creativecommons

— Jen Techlearning (@JenTechlearning) June 27, 2016

Rubik’s Cube by Flickr ID Sonny Abesamis (CC BY 2.0)

I recently designed an open educational resource (OER) for a Masters module in digital literacies. It was challenging because it was such a puzzle to begin with. I didn’t really know what it was, where to begin, or what it would look like in the end. For the assessment of the OER we had the opportunity to give a presentation so that we could explain the rationale, process, and design approach we took which I think revealed a lot more than just showing the OER or submitting a link to be assessed. This blog post will show the steps I went through and what I learnt. Hopefully this will help any other educators who are thinking about designing an open educational resource.

1. Work out what an OER is or can be

I really wasn’t quite sure what an OER was at first. I got the idea the idea that it should be an educational resource (not necessarily a course) that was open for other people to access, learn from, and use for themselves as teachers or students.

However, I didn’t really know what it should look like or contain. I started looking at a range of websites and trying to work it all out then decided to store all the resources I used on a Pindex board (like Pinterest but for education) to build a bigger picture of what an OER was and to review them as a whole. I then shared the board with my classmates through Twitter and it helped us to discuss what our OERs might become as we were having trouble getting started. Little did I know, but I had created a basic OER on what an OER is, how unintentionally meta of me.

You can check the board out here and if you still don’t understand then there are lots of websites and videos offering further explanations. The trouble with this is that OERs are described in a variety of ways and look quite different. In the end, you get to decide what it is going to be as long as you make it open for the public to access and use. But in order for it to become anything, you must go through the process of developing your initial idea.

2. Decide what topic you want to focus on

An OER can be about anything but it is useful if you create one that solves some sort of problem that is perhaps not being addressed well in current education. I started by looking at The Five Resources Framework from Hinrichsen and Coombs (2014) to identify an area I thought needed more attention in education (I chose “Using” from the framework – to focus on improving how people use the Internet by promoting it as a problem solving tool). Don’t just create an OER for the sake of it – make sure it has a real reason for existing and your practice of creating the OER is informed by literature (see step 5).

3. Choose a platform to store your OER

My group reviewed several platforms for our OER including PindexStashes, Pearl Trees, and Diigo. In the end we chose Pindex because it had many features we liked such as:

  • Platform is especially for curating learning resources
  • It looks great on a mobile device
  • Attractive & easy to use
  • Can upload a variety of media
  • Create quizzes
  • Can gain digital badges
  • Make it open to public view
  • Public can contribute to open boards
  • Free to create and access
  • Can be shared easily through social media

It helps to review a few platforms and work out which one meets your needs. If you are working with a group then discussions will help you come to a conclusion on what you do and do not need your OER platform to have or be.

4. Ask yourself some questions

There are a few basic questions you should ask yourself before you start putting your OER together:

  • What is the main focus of my OER?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why have I chosen this? What is the significance or relevance to me/others?

This will help you to design and select relevant resources more efficiently. You should also make these points very clear at the beginning/top of your OER so that visitors know if it is relevant to them. This was something that wasn’t clear enough in my initial OER – I knew what the answers to the question were but someone visiting my page might not so after my presentation I worked on making the focus, audience, and significance more obvious.

5. Do a literature review so that you are well informed about your topic

From my assessed presentation I learnt that whatever you create for your OER (the practice) should have a good rationale (the theory/literature) for its existence. There is no use throwing an OER together for the sake of it. OERs should be created for good reason otherwise they are just taking up virtual space that no one will ever visit. It will have a lot more meaning if you identify a problem and review literature that goes beyond your initial idea of the problem and spark ideas for possible solutions. Your OER can be a response to the literature and far more meaningful. My earlier blog post on The Internet as a Toolbox acted as my initial literature review that led me to the other readings I used to inform my OER and reference in my presentation. Your literature review doesn’t need to be massive but your OER must be informed.

6. Decide on an approach

There should be some idea behind how you approach the design of your OER. I knew that I wanted my resources to be categorised with simple, accessible descriptions of what the resources were or could be used for. I was thinking about the idea that teachers are often very busy and need to find resources quickly so it helps if they can work out if your resources are relevant to their students or not. The tone of language is professional but friendly as if I were giving a recommendation to a fellow teacher.

It also helps if you can come up with a concept for your OER. It might not happen but your literature review might spark an idea. After reading about people online being divided into visitors and residents (Wright et al, 2014) where visitors (the majority) use the Internet as a tool when they need it but residents (the minority) occupy the social spaces of the Internet, I decided to design my OER with the concept of a toolbox where teachers would ‘visit’ when they needed a ‘tool’ or resource.

7. Start gathering resources

It is good to have a variety of resources such as articles, videos, images, and links. Visuals make it look much more appealing. To find resources with Creative Commons Licensing which allow for the reuse and sometimes modification of resources have a look at websites such as OER Commons and Wikimedia Commons, or select search filters that allow you to search for content with CC Licensed content on Flickr and YouTube.

Don’t worry about having to use professional educational resources produced by well known publishers or creators.  These days the cost of producing your own resources is relatively low and can actually be of a high quality.  Anderson and Dron (2012) noted that “materials produced by designers, teachers and even students are being used to supplement if not totally replace commercial-quality media production” so don’t be afraid to use material you have produced yourself.

I reused some videos I had made earlier this year that had Creative Commons Licensing that would fit with the topic of my OER. I also thought one of my classmates’ videos would fit with my OER so I emailed and asked for permission to use her video on my site as long as I gave her credit.  In terms of organising my resources, I had a loose structure to begin with then I categorised them.

8. Categorise resources: make your OER user-friendly

I think of categorising like signposting. You want to help people find what they need without having to go through everything – a bit like not making a visitor to your town walk all the streets aimlessly trying to find the main places of interest. With my toolbox concept, I thought of the sections of my OER as being like compartments in a toolbox where the tools were organised with labels. I began with an introduction and the theory behind the OER then I had categories for problem-solving tools. This structure would make it easy for me to add more categories and tools in future.

9. Test your OER on people who don’t know anything about it

I sent the link for my OER to a few people to see if they could work out what it was and who it was for. Most got the idea but said it could easily be targeted directly at students instead of teachers. I realise that the nature of open educational resources is that anyone can access them and if the students find them before teachers do then great. For now though, I think I’ll focus on targeting teachers because one of the reasons for creating this OER is that people are not using the Internet effectively and people who do not use the internet well will probably not find this OER! So hopefully by targeting educators on an educational platform, I will reach their students.

10. Share and Promote your OER

Once you have created your OER it is time to share and promote it. This could be done through social media, email, your course VLE, blogs, a newsletter, community forums or wikis. It really depends what kind of networks you operate in or where you work. Just don’t keep it to yourself – you created it for a reason!

Here is my OER: Digital Solutions for Students Please share with anyone who might find it useful. The page has Twitter, Facebook and email plugins so you can share it easily.  I recently discovered that it looks pretty good on a mobile device so you can even show someone before sharing.  I think students would like OERs with decent mobile usability so that’s something I’ll keep in mind during my next design process.

If you would like to see the slides I used to present my OER then please have a look at my OER Project Slides  These slides are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License so you may share or adapt with appropriate attribution.


The great thing about OERs is that you can go back and edit it at any time. This would be much more difficult with a textbook where you would have to bring out new editions which would take time and money. With OERs the process doesn’t really end, the product can continue to grow and improve over time with feedback and new ideas. Vincent Miller (2011) describes digital media products as being much more about their process than the actual product because the product continues to change and develop over time therefore it is a process. I have added a few resources to my OER since I presented it and I will probably continue to develop it whenever I see a relevant resource or I create something new that fits.

I think open educational resources are a welcome practice in allowing for wider access to quality resources regardless of geographical, cultural, or economic background. It may seem surprising but many teachers who design content for their courses keep it between them and their students and don’t share their content with others. This means that quality resources may have a very limited audience when they could reach many more teachers and students if resources were offered for free as an OER. There are also institutional issues where all content produced by teachers working for the institution is owned and branded and not to be made available outwith the institution.

Based on experience, I know that there are definitely teachers who keep all materials to themselves and institutions that can’t quite comprehend offering resources for free because “someone will steal our content and use it for themselves.” This is why we have to promote the practice of using Creative Commons Licensing (which I explored in my previous blog post). Using CC Licensing not only allows greater access to resources, it promotes the licensee as being a contributor and a producer. OERs allow the more democratic philosophies of the Internet and of education to meet and offer something that contributes to the growth of ideas and hopefully progress in online educational practices.


Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2012). Learning Technology through Three Generations of Technology Enhanced Distance Education Pedagogy. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (2). Retrieved from

Hinrichsen, J., & Coombs, A. (2014). The five resources of critical digital literacy: a framework for curriculum integration. Research in Learning Technology, 21(0). Retrieved from

Miller, V. (2011). Understanding digital culture. London: SAGE Publications.

Wright, F., White, D., Hirst, T., & Cann, A. (2014). Visitors and Residents: mapping student attitudes to academic use of social networks. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 126–141.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Image is Rubik’s Cube by Flickr ID Sonny Abesamis (CC BY 2.0)

Last modified: Wednesday, 19 Jul 2017, 13:31