Day 10 - Adopt, Adapt, or Create?



The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • The differences between and considerations for adopting, adapting, and creating an open educational resource (OER)
  • Engaging in an analysis of your teaching context to determine an adopt, adapt, or create approach to OER engagement

photo of a market stand with multiple types of fruits and vegetables

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

It’s Saturday and you’re at a bustling farmer’s market. You scan the bright displays of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Some are more ripe than others, some you prefer over others. Some you’ll eat straight from the carton, like the pint of blueberries. Others you will take home to chop up and combine into a fantastic dinner recipe. You’re inspired by the seemingly limitless possibilities around you.

As of 2017, there were 1.4 Billion Creative Commons licensed works available online (Creative Commons, 2017). Open resources can feel like that plentiful farmer’s market. Yet presence alone does not mean resources will be taken up or utilized to their full potential. 

Increasingly it is recognized how an educator’s decision to engage with OER - by adopting or adapting an already available resource or by creating one’s own - is a complex one influenced largely by contextual factors (Littlejohn & Hood, 2017; Pegler, 2012; Pirkkalainen, Jokinen, & Pawlowski, 2014).

Hence, the focus of Day 10 - Adopt, Adapt, or Create?


The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • The differences between and considerations for adopting, adapting, and creating an open educational resource (OER)
  • Engaging in an analysis of your teaching context to determine an adopt, adapt, or create approach to OER engagement

Who’s “Creating” Today’s Module?

Hi! I’m Lauren Anstey, an eLearning and Curriculum Specialist (aka Educational Developer with eLearning and Curricular strengths) at Western University’s Teaching Support Centre. Since becoming an Open Ranger my open educational practice has expanded beyond a sideline interest, to a place of exploration and advocacy. I’m working on ‘opening up’ my own course, The Theory and Practice of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and co-chair Western University’s Open Education Working @ansteypants

Exploring Terms: Adopt, Adapt, Create

Watch the following 2 minute video Adoption, Adaptation, & Creation each play an important role in teaching.

Day 10 Activity

Use the survey below to answer the following question. Once you've responded, check out trends by clicking, see previous responses (opens new window.).

The Influence of CC licenses

All openly licensed resources can be adopted, but not all can be adapted. The open licence and the terms of that licence have influence on how others can use the resource in question. Let's explore the licensing terms that have the greatest influence on decisions for adopting and adapting:

No Derivatives (ND)

The No Derivatives (ND) term of a CC licence indicates that if you remix, transform, or build upon the material (i.e. adapt), you may not distribute the modified material. While this means there are restrictions to adapting the work for any use beyond personal, the work can still be adopted and shared with others as a whole.

Share-Alike (SA)

A Share Alike (SA) term of a CC licence stipulates that if you remix, transform, or build upon the material (i.e. adapt), you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. This means that any adaptations made must be shared back to the community under the same open/CC licence.

Non-Commercial (NC)

The Non-Commercial term of a CC licence indicates that you may not use the material for commercial purposes (defined as commercial advantage or monetary compensation). While the NC term doesn’t prevent adaptation, it limits the use of materials to non-commercial contexts.

It’s important to note that:

  • Terms can be combined, for example, an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) 
  • The more terms placed on a licence, the less open it is. This is why Creative Commons flags the CC BY-NC-SA, and other similarly restrictive licenses, as “not a free culture licence”. For more, see Creative Commons page on Understanding Free Cultural Works.

It’s important to consider the CC licence under which a creative work has been shared with you before adopting or adapting as your decisions and use are ultimately influenced by the licence the creator has selected.

Choosing the Best Fit for your Teaching

One of the greatest benefits of open resources is the flexibility to modify and customize. Ultimately, the ways you choose to engage with OERs for teaching will be heavily context-specific. 

This section takes on a course design perspective to inform an approach to OER adoption and decision-making, particularly around the decision to adopt, adapt, or create.. From this lens, it is your teaching context and your goals for students learning, that guides a needs analysis.

Your Teaching Context

illustration of teaching context, level is indicated by stairs, students is indicated by a graduation cap, feedback is indicated by a speech balloon, mode is indicated by a computer monitor and supports is indicated by a search pinDeepening your engagement as an open educator comes by reflecting on how OER can address your particular needs and manifest within your teaching practice (WIld, 2012). Explore the following sections to scan your teaching context and identify opportunities your OER engagement.

Level of Instruction  

What level of instruction you’re planning for? Do you teach introductory understandings or advanced practices? Do students learn foundational or highly specialized knowledge? Reflecting on these questions, you might consider:

  • Adopting one of many OER previously developed for large enrolment, introductory subjects. These high quality and readily-available resources lend themselves  nicely for adoption as they often address those concepts largely agreed upon as foundational to the  disciplinary community
  • Adapting or creating OERs for more advanced levels of instruction in order to better contextualize the resource to specialized content
Student Demographics

Who are your students? What background and past experiences do they bring to the classroom? How are their diverse voices represented (or not) in current course materials? Who your students are and how they engage with the course should inform your use of course materials. You might consider:

  • Adopting a resource that resonates with students interests, identities, and background knowledge
  • Adapting resources into other formats to meet students needs, such as access
  • Adapting resources to include more diverse student perspectives. For example, case studies that take on particular perspectives, roles, or identities
  • Creating resources when student voices are found to be underrepresented in currently available materials
Past Feedback

What feedback have you previously received from students, particularly in regards to the materials they utilized for learning? Have they suggested areas for course improvement? Student feedback offers a valuable perspective into possibilities for curricular change. You might consider:

  • Adopting OER that can easily replace supplementary or recommended course materials, with the added benefit that students will no longer be required to purchase materials intended to be accessory
  • Adapting to create a ‘custom fit’ resource to your teaching. For example, rather than requiring the purchase of a whole textbook, individual chapters of an open text can be selected and curated
  • Creating resources that can uniquely address your instructional needs and/or the needs of your students. For example, custom learning activities, ancillary resources, cases, scenarios, or problems.    
Mode of Delivery

Is your course offered face-to-face, blended, or online? How do you deliver course resources to students? How do students prefer to access/use materials? In terms of flexibility, the benefits of OER are not just limited to customizing content, flexibility also means the ability to increase accessibility. Resources can be accessed in a range of modalities (e,g, print, digital) and formats (e.g. pdf, epub). As a result, you might consider:

  • Adopting a resource by providing a link, integrating it into your learning management system (LMS), and/or arranging printing options with your local institutional bookstore or print shop.  
  • Adapting a resource by adding to its accessibility, for example, adding closed captions to a video or translating from one language to another.
Available Supports

Research shows that using OERs is strongly influenced by instructor capacity to exercise the technical skills and digital literacies necessary for adoption, adaptation, or creation (Cox & Trotter, 2017; Cronin, 2017). 

The word Kapow! is in red atop a blue and yellow starWhile you’re awesome, you’re likely not a superhero with all the powers. Supports on campus from technical to educational development expertise can be valuable additions to your ‘toolkit’ for OER engagement. Your decision to adopt, adapt, or create might very well be informed by the availability of localized supports that can help you make your vision a reality. For example:

Librarians & Library Resources might provide...

  • Licensing and copyright supports
  • Resources for searching for and identifying OER
  • Knowledge of public access repositories

Information Technologies (IT) specialists might provide:

  • Supports to upload your OER for public access
  • Expertise on the technical parameters for providing users with appropriate access
  • Instructional design resources for creating or adapting OER

Educational Developers might provide:

  • consultation on open educational practices  
  • curriculum and design support
  • resources for evaluating your course resources 

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements referring to the knowledge, skills, or values that instructors expect students to develop, learn, or master by the end of their learning (Suskie, 2009).

  • Statements are student-centred. They describe what the student will be able to do, know, or value by engaging in learning rather than what they will be taught or shown by the instructor.
  • Effective learning outcomes use action verbs to adequately reflect the nature of student engagement. These action verbs typically help distinguish the expected level of complexity expected of learning. 

If you already have learning outcomes written, take a moment to review and circle the action verbs. New to learning outcomes? Try jotting down a few ideas - what do you expect learners to be able to know, value, or do?  


A pyramid with colourful, horizontal layers Levels

Listed below are common categories of verbs organized by introductory to complex (as based on Bloom’s Taxonomy). Depending on the category, different OER possibilities for adoption, adaptation, and creation are proposed.

Remember, Understand

Common Verbs: define, describe, list, recognize, identify, distinguish, discuss, select

At this level of learning, students are focused mainly on comprehension. Often this requires understanding introductory content or concepts. Instructors can model effective approaches for seeing the interconnectivity between concepts (i.e. seeing the “big picture”) by supporting students in the rehearsal and use of learned knowledge. When it comes to OER, consider:

  • Adopting open textbooks and other OER that serve as the readings or initial learning activities for comprehension
  • Adapting to create a ‘custom fit’ resource that addresses the specific concepts
  • Creating an open pedagogy assignment, for example, where students produce a diagram, infographic, or poster summarizing their learning that can be shared with the open community
Apply, Analyze

Common Verbs: choose, illustrate, practice, compare/contrast, differentiate, relate

At this level of learning, students are expected to make connections. Often this requires new contexts - examples, cases, scenarios, stories - for applying or analyzing what has been learned. Instructors can model analysis by engaging in the process themselves and by asking students to practice themselves through learning activities that replicate the same cognitive processes. When it comes to OER, consider:

  • Adopting OER that can provide you and your students with those new contexts for application - examples, cases, scenarios, stories, etc.
  • Adapting openly shared teaching resources, such as detailed learning activities, that support the types of practice activities required of student learning
  • Adapting cases, examples, or scenarios to suit the type of application activities students need to practice
  • Creating an open pedagogy assignment, for example, where students author examples or cases that can be shared with the open community  
Evaluate, Create

Common Verbs: formulate, compose, appraise, judge, justify, estimate, hypothesize

At this level of learning, students are extending their knowledge from what was taught to new contexts and understandings. Students require guidance to see how they can logically move beyond comprehension and application to create something new. When it comes to OER, consider:

  • Adopting OER content that models the learning outcome. For example, open textbooks that include case studies and examples demonstrating evaluative thinking
  • Adapting OER content to add the supplementary content required for adequate modelling of the learning outcome
  • Creating an open pedagogy assignment, for example, student writing that articulates evaluation/critique (e.g. blog posts, essays, articles, or materials) that can be shared with the open community


This lesson has focused on distinguishing between adoption, adaptation, and creation approaches to engaging with OER. Since the best decisions for your own engagement will arise from your teaching context, this lesson has aimed to guide you in an analysis of such contexts to suggest adoption, adaptation, and creation possibilities.  

In sum, you might consider…

Adopting when:

  • A CC ND licence prevents sharing your adaptation of the work
  • You teach introductory concepts
  • The resource resonates with students interests, identities, and background knowledge
  • The resource can easily replace supplementary or recommended course materials
  • There are already a variety of ways in which students can access and make use of a resource (e.g. print and digital formats)
  • You have access to localized institutional expertise (instructional and technical) for locating, evaluating, and adopting a resource
  • The resource currently aligns with your learning outcomes

Adapting when:

  • The CC licence does not include terms that restrict adaptations
  • You teach advanced knowledge or skills
  • Opportunity exists to expand the diversity of perspectives and/or accessibility of a resource
  • Creating a custom resource allows you to select and curate
  • You have access to localized institutional expertise (instructional and technical) for locating, evaluating and adapting a resource
  • The resource can be adjusted to aligns with your learning outcomes
Creating when:

  • Student voices are found to be underrepresented in currently available materials
  • There is a unique need to address instructional needs such as custom content, activities, cases, or problems
  • You have access to localized institutional expertise (instructional and technical) for designing, developing, and sharing your created resource
  • There is opportunity to develop open educational practices that serve as new opportunities to meet your course learning outcomes

Explore More

BC Open Textbook Adoption Guide a web-based guide by BCcampus.

Guidebook to Research on Open Educational Resources Adoption, an open text by John Hilton III, David Wiley, Lane Fischer, & Rob Nyland

Adopting Open Educational Resources in the Classroom, a course by Lumen Learning


Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know, an open textbook by Cheryl Ciuller and colleagues

BC Open Textbook Adaptation Guide, a web-based guide by BCcampus


Authoring Open Textbooks, an open textbook by Melissa Falldin & Karen Lauritsen

Creating and Modifying Open Educational Resources, a tutorial by Affordable Learning Georgia


Creative Commons (2017). State of the Commons

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(5),

Cox, G. & Trotter, H. (2017). Factors shaping lecturers' adoption of OER at three South African universities. In C. Hodgkinson-Williams & P. B. Arinto (Eds.), Adoption and impact of OER in the Global South (pp. 287–347). Retrieved from

Littlejohn, A. & Hood, N. (2017). How educators build knowledge and expand their practice. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(2),  499-510. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12438

Pegler, C. (2012). Herzberg, hygiene and the motivation to reuse: Towards a three-factor theory to explain motivation to share and use OER. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1(4), doi: 10.5334/2012-04

Pirkkalainen, H., Jokinen, J. P., & Pawlowski, J. M. (2014). Understanding social OER environments - A quantitative study on factors influencing motivation to share and collaborate. IEEE Transations of Learning Technologies, 7(4), 1939-1392. doi: 10.1109/TLT.2014.2323970

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Image Credits

Teaching Contexts by Lauren Anstey is licensed with a CC BY NC 4.0 International license

Learning Outcomes by Lauren Anstey is licensed with a CC BY NC 4.0 International license


All content for Making Sense of Open Education Day 10 (Adopt, Adapt, or Create?) by Lauren Anstey is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation and/or attribution).

Last modified: Saturday, 2 June 2018, 6:56 PM