Adopt, Adapt, or Share OERs

Planning OER use

Before adopting or modifying an existing OER, or creating a new one, it’s important to do some planning.

Cover of The OER Starter Kit by Abbey Elder.
Abbey Elder's OER Starter Kit

Before undertaking an OER project, teachers should ask questions such as these, which have been adapted from Abbey Elder’s OER Starter Kit:

  • Is there an existing OER that can be adapted for use in my subject?
  • Can my teaching materials be used to adapt an existing OER?
  • Will I need to adopt additional materials (e.g. quizzes, images, videos) to remix with my own content?
  • Have I only used openly licensed resources to adapt/remix my teaching materials or content?
  • Have I sought copyright approval to share my teaching materials?
  • What type of licence will I assign for my new resource?
  • How can I share my new resource so that it can be used by others?
  • Where in the institution can I find support for creating an OER?

Ways to use OERs

According to Elder, teachers who want to use OERs in their course have four options:

  • Adopt an existing resource that suits the learning objectives of their course without making any changes to the content.
  • Adapt a resource by customising some of the content, e.g., add local examples.
  • Remix a variety of sources to create a new resource.
  • Create and license a new resource, created from scratch using their own materials.

Each option has different considerations and challenges. These will include the suitability of existing OER content, the time required to adapt or create material, and the format and accessibility features required of the finished product.

Diagram showing adopt, adapt, remix, and create - in that order, from less time intensive to more time intensive.

A study by Jung, Bauer & Heaps (2017) found that 82% of participants spent the same amount of time or less preparing to teach their course using an open textbook. This indicates that adopting an OER does not necessarily lead to an increased workload and may even reduce preparation time. In many cases, however, adopting an OER will require some customisation of content to improve course alignment and overall suitability.

Who holds intellectual property (IP) in University of Melbourne teaching materials?

The University draws a distinction between teaching materials, of which the University holds copyright, and scholarly works, wherein authors hold copyright.

An academic wishing to share or publish their teaching materials must seek approval from the University. To discuss your needs or to discuss the review process, please contact the University Copyright Office at

Copyright Office

For more information about copyright and IP at the University, see the University’s Intellectual Property Policy and the University of Melbourne statute.

What licence should be used when sharing an OER?

When sharing an OER you have created or adapted, the licence used must be compatible with the licences of any third-party material you have incorporated. For example, an author is required to share their OER using a specific licence if it incorporates third-party material with a Share-Alike licence (CC BY-SA or CC BY-NC-SA).

If the intention is to adapt or modify an existing OER, then the licence of the work will need to allow the creation and sharing of derivatives. For this reason, material with No Derivatives licences (CC BY-ND or CC BY-NC-ND) cannot be used in OERs without written permission from their copyright holders.

Finally, the licence selected for a new OER will determine how a resource can be used by others. Again, Creative Commons licences are best suited for this purpose, with the more open CC BY licence being preferred by most OER advocates. The official Creative Commons licence chooser can be used for tailored advice on which licence best suits the creator’s needs.

What about third-party copyright?

Third-party copyright is when someone else owns copyright to material you use.

When adapting, remixing, or creating OERs, it is the author’s responsibility to ensure that third-party copyright is not infringed. This includes copyright held in images, multimedia, data, and text created by other people or organisations.

All third-party material must be checked to ensure their licences allow for reuse, adaptation, and sharing. If materials are copyrighted with all rights reserved, users must seek permission from the copyright holder to adapt or reproduce those materials.

Guidance about seeking permission to avoid third party copyright infringement can be found on the Copyright Office’s website: Requesting permission from a copyright owner to reproduce material.

What are the protocols around Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP)?

Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP) refers to the right of Indigenous Australians to protect their cultural heritage, including all aspects of art, knowledge systems, and culture. When planning to include Indigenous content in an OER, it is crucial that non-Indigenous individuals seek appropriate permissions.

The Australia Council for the Arts’ Protocols for Using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts provides guidance for using ICIP. Also of interest is Terri Janke’s True Tracks: Respecting Indigenous Knowledge and Culture (2021), which explores ICIP and how to engage with Indigenous cultures in respectful and ethical ways.

Indigenous Knowledges Research Guide

Learn more and find University of Melbourne contacts on our Indigenous Knowledges Research Guide. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Policy (MPF1289) also articulates the University's reponsibility for managing ICIP.

Platforms and tools for adapting, creating, or sharing OERs

The following tools can help teachers adapt, create, or share OERs:

  • OER Commons: The Open Author tool in OER Commons offers an easy way to create or share OERs. It supports teachers who want to build OERs such as courses, lessons, activities, presentations, and more. It can also be used to share materials, such as PDFs, graphics, and presentations.
  • MERLOT: In MERLOT, teachers can either “Add a Material” to create a record for an existing OERs (by URL) or use the Content Builder to create an OER within the MERLOT. It can be used to share or create OERs of different kinds.
  • Pressbooks: A commonly used platform for publishing open textbooks, although costs are involved. Most existing Pressbooks books can also be cloned and adapted.

Where possible, aim to upload material to a platform that will create a DOI, then create metadata-only records elsewhere, linking to the DOI. Making files available on multiple platforms can dilute download and view statistics.

Further support

To discuss how OERs can be integrated into your teaching, please contact your Faculty or School Liaison Librarian.

For enquiries relating to copyright, IP, and the sharing of teaching materials, please contact the Copyright Office at