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Adaptation and OER: Part 1, ‘The Process’

Routines in teaching and learning require a different kind of focus this year.


Adaptation has truly become a way of life. Over these past few months, Manitoba has come together as a community and confronted new work challenges, to ensure that the fall semester is a go. Every year, part of the teaching process is selecting learning materials for students. With widespread transitioning to online instruction in Manitoba, you may not be able to rely on your typical methods for ordering and distributing resources.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) make it immediately easier to find useful resources for your classroom, with considerable benefits to both instructors and students. Earlier this year, we took a look at OER reviews and adoptions. In this two-part series, we examine the OER adaptation process and its benefits: a way to keep teaching and learning strong in the age of COVID-19.

The Need for (Even More) Flexibility

Conversations about OERs were happening well before the pandemic. As indicated in the 2019 National Survey of Online and Digital Learning, OER engagement is happening at many Canadian post-secondary institutions. Some are also prioritizing a strategic approach to OER implementation. Institutions recognize that today’s teaching-learning dynamic needs a refresh to ensure student fulfillment. This is largely based on the needs of learners. Today’s students require more flexible learning options (blended/hybrid learning) than ever before, as they balance school and life. That said, learners still need their information to be relevant and their education to be meaningful.

Because OERs are free to use and digitally accessible, students can engage with their learning materials from anywhere, any time. They are customizable, and thus ensure relevancy of information across subject areas. Uptake across the province has grown exponentially, with engagement among student bodies and faculty OER achievements among the highlights.

Then came COVID-19.

With instructors teaching from their living rooms and students balancing at-home learning with life responsibilities, OERs have taken on new relevance. Open education has become even more necessary with institutions transitioning to heavy online instruction. Teachers and learners across the province need good information – accurate and relevant – fast, and from a distance.

OER adaptation is one way to ensure that students get the specific information they need, regardless of how classes are delivered. We’ve talked in the past about open licences that allow for the freedom to change an OER to suit the learning needs of your students.

student in library reading a book
This fall, students are not able to rely on traditional means for accessing information (Unsplash).

But, what does that process look like?

The Process

The customization of an OER will take some time. Once you select an OER that you feel could be a good fit for your course, the process is best broken down into ‘before, during, and after’ steps.


Check the License: to make sure you have the permission to modify the contents. As long as the Creative Commons license does not have a No Derivative (ND) attribute, you can change the contents of the book.

Check the file format: to ensure files are editable. These can include Pressbooks or WordPress files (.xml or .wxr), HTML files (webpages), Word documents (.docx), OpenDocument Texts (.odt), Simple text files (.txt), EPUB, or LaTeX files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations). If you need access to a particular file type that you don’t see right away, let us know.

Choose an editing tool: which will depend on the source file of the original textbook, and how comfortable you feel working with the format and tool. Pressbooks is an editing tool into which you can import a wide variety of workable file types, and a very popular editing tool for OERs.

Conduct a style assessment: to ensure that any new citations, references, or footnotes are stylistically aligned with standards in your field of study and/or the pre-existing style of the OER. This is an area where we can lend support, or perhaps you want to touch base with a librarian at your institution.


This is where you have the most freedom, but also where you will invest the most time. You will know best how to enhance your resource, but some general things to consider include:

  • student learning preferences and personalities
  • regional, national, or standardized requirements for particular careers (eg. electrical codes)
  • respect for accessibility and diversity
  • opportunities for incorporating learner perspectives and experiences
  • evolving/new practices in the field
  • new teaching, learning, or technological frameworks at your institution

The Editor/Subject Expert Options: the editor looks at your work with fresh eyes and can provide stylistic feedback. A subject matter expert—a colleague or other individual who is an expert on the topic you are writing about — can provide suggestions, an alternate perspective, on the content. A final step is to have an editor proofread the final draft.

a well-decorated living room


Across Manitoba, living rooms have become work spaces (Unsplash).

Consider contacting a copyright librarian at your institution – they are also a good support for this part of the process.


Once you change an OER:

Write Attribution Statement(s): to credit the original author(s) for all portions of the OER where you have layered your adaptations on someone else’s work. Remember: all Creative Commons licenses require attribution, so you MUST do this. These statements often fit into the natural ‘stopping places’ in the OER, like the ends of chapters or sections. An attribution statement contains the following elements:

  • title of the work (if you have changed the title, reference the old one)
  • prior author(s)
  • license type

Here is an example of an attribution statement:

This chapter is an adaptation of Natural Disasters and Human Impacts by R. Adam Dastrup and Maura Hahnenberger, and is used under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Select a License: for the material you have added to the OER. Your work can be released with whatever open license you choose, unless the original text was released under a license with a ‘Share-Alike’ condition. Under this condition, you will always receive credit for your adaptations, and any adjustments to the OER will have the same license as the original. If the OER you have adapted does not have a Share-Alike condition, pick the license that best suits your wishes. Regardless of which license you choose, you will always receive attribution for your work. The license choice helps dictate how future users of your work in the OER, treat that information. A copyright librarian at your institution can provide further guidance.

Write an Adaptation Statement: this statement appears at the beginning of a text and declares that you have adapted another version of an OER. An adaptation statement should contain:

  • the work’s new title;
  • the adapting author’s name;
  • the work’s previous title(s);
  • the work’s previous author(s), and;
  • a reference to the copyright statement

Here is an example of an adaptation statement:

Introductory Business Statistics with Interactive Spreadsheets – 1st Canadian Edition was adapted by Mohammed Mahbobi from Thomas K. Tiemann’s textbook, Introductory Business Statistics. For information about what was changed in this adaptation, refer to the copyright statement.

The copyright statement rounds out the must-haves as part of OER customization. It comes at the end of a text, and encompasses the following information:

  • the license under which the entire (adapted) text is released
  • a short description of the permissions granted under the license
  • who owns the copyright, when it began, and for which parts of the book

Think of the copyright statement as the all-knowing reference: it realizes the work you have done on the text as a whole, gives it ‘forward projection’—others can now work on it and credit you for your work—and recognizes the history of perspectives and efforts given to ensuring its quality. For example:

Unless otherwise noted, Introductory Business Statistics with Interactive Spreadsheets – 1st Canadian Edition is (c) 2010 by Thomas K. Tiemann. The textbook content was produced by Thomas K. Tiemann and is licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution (CC-BY) license, except for changes and additions, which are (c) 2015 by Mohammad Mahbobi, and are licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution (CC-BY) license.

Once your OER adaptations are complete, you are free to publish and share your work. Add it to your institution’s Learning Management System (LMS), your faculty website, or share links with students digitally. You will be able to link your work out of whichever publishing software you used. You might also consider adding your work to one of many open textbook repositories to allow others to build on it going forward, and share your knowledge with future groups of teachers and learners.

Food for Thought

Whether you make a small change or a full overhaul, digging into an OER is a time-consuming, but worthwhile effort. Adaptation is an important aspect of open education. It is a sure-fire way to share your expertise, and enhance the experiences of learners in your subject area in the near future, and for many years to come.

For a more comprehensive look at adaptations, we recommend that you consult Lauri Aesoph’s Adaptation Guide for OERs.

You can also contact us for support if you wish to undertake an adaptation.

Next week we’ll close our two-part series by hearing from a Manitoba faculty member currently completing an adaptation. We’ll also walk through some general benefits of customized OERs to teaching and learning.


Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public universities and colleges. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to, our websites include,, and

Published On: July 10, 2020|Categories: Open Education|Tags: |

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