“Open education is a learning environment accessible to anyone” (Moore & Butcher, 2016)



In response to strong membership interest in OER, OCUL formed an OER Working Group in the Fall of 2016. The group was tasked with developing a white paper, providing an environmental scan of current activities across OCUL institutions, as well as a list of recommendations for the consortium and member libraries. A final version of the white paper was distributed in October 2017.


Working group members included:


Katya Pereyaslavska, Online Learning & Accessibility Librarian, Scholars Portal (Project Lead)

Scott Cowan, Librarian, Information Services, University of Windsor Library

Catherine Davidson, Associate University Librarian for Collections & Research, York University Libraries

Anika Ervin-Ward, Administration and Communications Coordinator, OCUL

Amy Greenberg, Assistant Director, Scholars Portal

Ann Ludbrook, Copyright & Scholarly Engagement Librarian, Ryerson University Library

Heather Martin, Copyright Officer & Manager, E-Learning & Reserves, University of Guelph Library

Carole Moore, Chief Librarian (retired), University of Toronto Libraries

Lillian Rigling, Research & Instructional Services Librarian, Western University Libraries


The working group focused on the following topics:


  1. Overview of the current teaching and learning environment
  1. faculty perspective
  2. student perspective
  1. Environmental scan of national and international OER initiatives across libraries
  2. Legal considerations and licensing for producing and repurposing existing works (especially the CC BY license)
  3. Accessibility implications
  4. Technology and tools in use
  5. Current opportunities and the next frontier



Throughout Fall 2016 and Winter 2017, the working group consulted with staff at OCUL institutions, reached out to the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), Ontario Colleges Heads of Libraries and Learning Resources (HLLR), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Orbis Cascade Alliance, BCcampus and eCampus Ontario. Information was also gathered via literature review, group discussions and presentations, a webinar, and a formal survey distributed via OCUL Directors. This information is presented below together with a series of recommendations around opportunities for libraries.



Faculty Perspective

The rise of the open education movement is creating new opportunities as educators and trainers exploit open educational resources (OER), ranging from simple digital teaching assets to full courses, and related practices to secure the effective utilization of these resources (Tuomi, 2013). Among these opportunities are: greater autonomy brought by the ability to select from more diverse resources; fostering a culture of critiquing, and thereby improving, pedagogical practice; and increasing overall engagement with educational materials by both learners and educators (Farrow, 2017).


While these pedagogical opportunities may not be fully realized at present, Hilton (2016) found in a literature review of 16 different surveys, that faculty do have a generally positive attitude to OER. This is often for the very practical reason of enabling more of their students to access course materials by lowering or eliminating the cost.


These positive attitudes and opportunities, however, have not yet resulted in widespread adoption and reuse. “The fundamental problem is that OER, after ten years of advocacy work by stakeholders worldwide, still needs to be mainstreamed more integrally into educational policies and practices” (UNESCO, 2016, p.3).


When it comes to faculty creating OER, frequently perceived challenges include the time needed to develop resources, technology issues and concerns about licensing and copyright (Delimonta, Turtleb, Bennett, Adhikarid, & Lindshield, 2016). While OER are becoming more readily available, the perceived suitability of these resources and their challenging discoverability may also present barriers to use, as may be a perceived lack of institutional support and incentives for creating and using OER.


In their 2015-16 survey of over 2000 U.S. faculty, Allen and Seaman (2016) noted that introductory courses were more likely to use OER than later year courses, and common driving factors for faculty choosing OER included the cost to students, the comprehensiveness of the resource and ease of discovery. However, there remains ongoing confusion or lack of clarity amongst faculty about what OER actually are.


According to Allen and Seaman’s study (2016, p.11) the biggest barrier to adoption or selection of OER for course materials is “the effort required to find and evaluate such materials”. This is consistent with the biggest reported barrier in earlier studies conducted in 2013-14 and in 2011-2012. Interestingly, the authors suggested that libraries may be in a unique position to support faculty discovery and selection of OER because:


“There is no corresponding support network for open textbooks that can mirror the extensive network provided by commercial publishers. It requires much more faculty effort to search out open textbooks, especially since many faculty are unaware of the very existence of such alternatives” (Allen & Seaman, 2012, p. 41).


While these findings describe the U.S. context, a similar situation can be found in Canada. The 2014 Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) working paper, Open Textbooks: opportunities for research libraries cites challenges to open textbooks which include “quality control and content vetting; IT infrastructure; intellectual property; business models and interoperability” (p.3).  Institutional faculty incentives to create open resources are still minimal with the notable exception of the University of British Columbia’s new faculty guidelines for tenure, promotion and reappointment which explicitly incorporate OER as examples of contributions in the area of educational leadership:


Evidence of educational leadership is required for tenure/promotion in the Educational Leadership stream… It can include, but is not limited to… Contributions to the practice and theory of teaching and learning literature, including publications in peer-reviewed and professional journals, conference publications, book chapters, textbooks and open education repositories / resources (p. 16).

The issue of quality as it pertains to open resources is cited repeatedly across the literature on OER. According to to Allen and Seaman (2016) Educators who use OER generally rate their quality as equal to or higher than proprietary resources. However, UNESCO (2016) notes that “OER do not automatically lead to quality…; much depends on the procedures put in place.” For this reason UNESCO recommends “improving the quality of learning materials through peer review processes” (p. 4).


While some materials created openly might not have the aesthetic appeal of their commercially produced cousins, a more important consideration is student learning and academic success. If a given material provides the type of learning support a student needs then it should be considered a high quality resource.

Faculty Incentive Programs

Programs offering incentives to faculty – such as financial support, honoraria, or technical support – have been a widely-adopted strategy to stimulate creation and adoption of OER, in addition to financial incentives such as institutional grants through organizations such as eCampus Ontario. However, many institutions lack formalized policies to create greater and longer-lasting incentives in this area. There is also little knowledge about how many OER resources are being adopted in classrooms, and how they are used and evaluated. Evaluations are frequently related to textbook cost savings for the students as well as use.


Additionally, to promote both the adoption and creation of OER, educators can be encouraged to consider:

  • learning how to locate and identify licensed materials online to use in teaching and presentations,
  • identifying potential sources of OER suited to their curriculum,
  • finding, reusing and sharing open content,
  • ensuring that they use openly licensed materials
  • providing correct attribution when putting teaching and learning materials into an open environment, and
  • practicing creating OER by posting educational media and assigning Creative Commons licensing.


Institutions at the local or provincial level can assist faculty in other ways as well. For example, BCOER has written the Faculty Guide for Evaluating Open Educational Resources – a one-page checklist which faculty can use to evaluate the quality of the resources they are producing.


Further discussion of the faculty perspective as it pertains specifically to OCUL institutions, can be found in The OCUL context section of this white paper.

Student Perspective

Benefits of OER


In Canada, an increasing number of student groups have been promoting the cost-saving value of open access textbooks as part of #TextbookBroke campaigns that draw attention to the impact of high-priced textbooks. Inspired by the B.C. Open Textbook Project, the Canadian social media campaign was started by students at the University of Victoria (ebeattie, 2016). In Ontario, the Brock University Student Union has been active in the advocacy for OER on campus and the Western University Student Council has developed a Standing Policy on OER (Benac & Chang, 2016).


Accessible OER have an additional advantage of removing barriers for students with print disabilities. These students are often required to purchase print copies of textbooks which university libraries might already own, for the purpose of conversion to a readable DRM-free digital format.


Cost savings are not the only way students benefit from OER. Fischer, Hilton, Robinson and Wiley (2015) investigated several courses using OER in 10 American colleges and found that those students received equal or better grades than students taking comparable courses using traditional textbooks. Also significant was the finding that students using OER enrolled in a higher number of courses in the next semester, which is indicative of progress towards graduation. These conclusions support correlations between use of OER and higher grades, and use of OER and lower course withdrawal rates, seen in a pilot study at the Virginia State University School of Business (Feldstein et al., 2012).


Pedagogically, the trend towards openness benefits students by reframing their role from consumers to producers of educational resources.  Replacing “disposable assignments” with “renewable assignments” also means that students entering a course have an opportunity to learn from the previous cohort (Jhangiani, 2017; Wiley, 2013).


Impacts of Textbook Costs


As mentioned above, student advocacy has primarily focused on the escalating cost of traditional textbooks, but it has also called attention to related practices in the textbook publishing industry such as the bundling of content, the use of access codes to control access to ancillary materials and eliminate no-cost options for learning materials, and the elimination of the used textbook market by frequently updating editions (Student Public Interest Research Groups [PIRGs], 2016).


The U.S. PIRG Fund and Student PIRGs (2014, p. 7) reported that in the past decade, “textbook prices have increased by 82%” and that “…textbooks remain one of the largest out of pocket expenses for students and families – meaning that high price tags are yet another threat to affordability and accessibility of education in the United States”. Surveys conducted in 2010, 2012 and 2016 by the Florida Virtual Campus found that “the high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access, success and completion” (Florida Virtual Campus, 2016, p. 10).


A number of studies have explored the link between rising textbook prices and the impact on students.  Those impacts range from financial hardship to academic challenges to social and mental health consequences. While the majority of studies have been US-based, a University of Guelph survey conducted in the Fall of 2016 seemed to indicate that the same issues exist for post-secondary students in Canada. Detailed survey findings are available in the The OCUL context section of the white paper.

Academic Libraries & OER

Academic libraries across North America and Europe are already playing a role in the promotion and support of OER for the higher education community. Some consideration of collaborative approaches to OER support is also underway.

Textbook Affordability Projects

Textbook Affordability Projects (TAP) and #textbookbroke social media campaigns meant to raise awareness of the exorbitant cost of textbooks have been implemented across universities and colleges across North America, in some instances spearheaded by libraries in partnerships with bookstores. “Academic libraries are eager to demonstrate their leadership in the textbook affordability movement, and there is great enthusiasm for initiating local projects” (Bell, 2017, p. 375).


In a recent survey, Bell (2017) found that approximately 90% of both libraries and campus bookstores were supportive of TAPs, though it was unclear whether these referred to collaborative projects or independent efforts. Nevertheless, there seems to be common groundwork for bookstores and libraries to collaborate in the future:


Here are some of the key takeaways that refute…common misperceptions about the relationship [between libraries and bookstores]:

  • Evidence of distrust or enmity between academic libraries and campus bookstores is unsupported in the survey results.
  • Both librarians and bookstore personnel express a desire to work together to advance textbook affordability on campus.
  • Bookstores are open to conversations about textbook affordability but would expect the library to initiate.
  • Neither librarians nor bookstore personnel see the other as their competition on campus. (p. 376)


ARL Spec Kit

In July 2016, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published Spec Kit 351: Affordable Course Content and Open Educational Resources, which reviewed the implementation, governance and funding of Affordable Course Content (ACC) and OER materials across the ARL membership. Other areas of focus included: current practice, faculty incentive programs and other engagement strategies, and library expertise in the areas of ACC and OER.


Results indicate that these areas are highly collaborative, involving multiple stakeholders – libraries, instructional design units, student organizations, bookstores, central IT and even local or regional consortia (Walz, Jensen & Salem, 2016, p.3).  Libraries were found leading these initiatives more frequently than other units on campus, with senior university administrators (president, provost, vice-provost) leading in the next highest frequency.


Why are libraries so well situated to play such a central role?  Advocacy work around OER/ACC can build on existing foundations of librarian expertise (copyright, content, etc.) in parallel with established channels of outreach to faculty and other campus partners. In other words, libraries can play a vital role in helping faculty find and identify open content, and connect them with additional services (Walz, Jensen, & Salem, 2016, p.4).


Orbis Cascade Survey: Role of library consortia

In December 2016, the OER Working Group of the Orbis Cascade Alliance (OCA) distributed a survey intended to gather information about the activities of library consortia across North America in supporting their membership in the area of open education. A copy of the survey is provided as Appendix A of this document.


Out of 18 responses (which included OCUL), 5 consortia indicated they had no current role in providing support for OER, and 13 indicated that their main roles were providing education and/or facilitating discovery. Three respondents indicated a role in securing funds towards the development or maintenance of OER resources (OCA OER Working Group, 2017, p.3).


Consortia were also asked what future roles they were expected to play in this area. Responses included:


  • creating, storing/managing, and ensuring access to OER;
  • centralizing access, hosting, curation and preservation of OER;
  • enhancing OER metadata;
  • expanding and solidifying agreements among members and partnerships with other consortia;
  • funding creation of OER and research projects such as an OER toolkit (information, resources, and best practices) ;
  • providing access to training and education about OER;
  • facilitating advocacy and awareness;
  • delivering educational programming to faculty and educational technology professionals on scholarly licensing, including Creative Commons principles;
  • developing professional competencies for new roles as advocates for affordability and leaders on their campuses;
  • advocating for institutional policies that support Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data; and
  • providing access to existing networks such as the Open Textbooks Network and Affordable Learning Georgia (OCA OER Working Group, personal communication to the OCUL OER Working Group, March 7, 2017; OCA OER Working Group, 2017, p.4-5).



JISC is a UK-based non profit membership-driven organization providing access to shared digital infrastructure and services. JISC’s guide to Open Educational Resources includes a section on “Technical & data management considerations” exploring consortial roles for storage and dissemination of open resources, support for description and metadata, distribution across the web, and usage tracking (McGill, 2010).


The OER IPR Support Project, a joint effort involving JISC and Creative Commons UK, has developed a suite of tools to assist users with intellectual property rights (IPR) issues involving OER. The online toolkit consists of multiple modules and includes general copyright and licensing information, as well as workflow documents, a license compatibility wizard, and templates for requesting permission.

SUNY OER service

Open SUNY Textbooks provides its members with access to a collection of open texts. This service provides support for the development of new learning materials for students and access to a common platform to “remix, reuse, revise, redistribute and retain” open materials (Open SUNY Textbooks OER Services, n.d). SUNY will also be investing $4 million dollars they received from the state of New York to implement OER in high-enrollment, general education courses, making access to this fund available to member institutions that can demonstrate commitment to inducing classes to use OER materials, developing sustainability models for OER on campuses, and collecting enrollment and savings data with regard to OER courses.


SUNY is currently developing a plan for how to use the funds. Campuses receive $20,000 plus $8 per student in an OER course or $15 per student for courses in which all sections use OER.

SPARC LibOER and Connect OER

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an organization of 200+ academic and research libraries in Canada and the United States actively promoting Open Access. SPARC also works with authors, publishers, libraries, students, funders, policymakers and the public.


The SPARC Libraries & OER Forum (LibOER) is a public Google discussion list for academic and research librarians with an interest in OER. Its focus is on sharing ideas, resources and best practices around OER; providing librarians with an extra channel of communication around upcoming events and educational opportunities; and disseminating updates about research and policy projects.


Connect OER is a searchable directory of academic institutions across North America currently engaged in OER activities on their campus. In its pilot first year, 65 SPARC institutions, including 7 Canadian institutions, created profiles using this platform (Yano, 2017). The platform provides a description of OER activities and contact information for these campuses. Additionally, SPARC produces an annual report based on the data in this platform on the state of OER in North America.

OER Authoring Platforms and Tools

While an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of this paper, a few of the most popular tools and platforms are described briefly below.


Due to its growing prevalence, the current authoring tool of choice when creating Canadian open textbooks is Pressbooks, which is used by BCCampus’ Open Textbook collection as well as eCampus Ontario’s Open Textbook Library. The interface is fairly intuitive and has a relatively small learning curve.


Authors can collaborate in Google Docs, creating content in a familiar collaborative environment that facilitates a multi-author editing process, and import their final works into Pressbooks in ePub without losing formatting.


Rebus Community

The Rebus Community is a Canada-based non-profit organization that currently provides support for authors and reviewers by means of a forum, creative commons licensing information, and pilot projects for producing open textbooks. Through feedback and experience gained via these methods the community plans to ultimately create tools designed to meet users’ needs and “developing a new, collaborative process for publishing open textbooks, and associated content” (Rebus Community, n.d.).


OER Commons

The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) has created  OER Commons , their “digital public library and collaboration platform” (ISKME, 2017). The commons provides a starting point for searching OER by curating collections of texts, courses, and other OER. Beyond this, OER Commons also offers the Open Author publishing tool  for texts and course modules. Like Pressbooks, allows authors to import documents from Google Docs and to be exported as PDFs.



Products like SCALAR provide a content creation platform similar to the creation of a website through a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal. The advantage of this is that it produces a product that doesn’t have to be consumed in a straightforward linear fashion like a PDF file, chapter to chapter. Readers are able to pull together pages of related content from across the book as long as it has been effectively tagged, and navigate the book by visualizations of its content that map out the connections between its nodes. Books can easily be forked to create alternate versions which might include new chapters for country-specific content and translations, and can be edited down to the sentence level.


Additional tools and platforms in the Canadian context include.


SOL*R is the BC Campus online learning resource repository launched in 2006. It was build to share content developed under the Online Program Development Fund (OPDF) but also contains non-OPDF content.


Post-secondary educators from BC public institutions have access to this platform through BCcampus and are also able to contribute content. The general public can access Creative Commons-licensed resources with a guest account. BCcampus provides technical support for platform users. Features of this platform include: global sharing and local sharing, resources from multiple institutions, interoperable and modular learning resources, resource tagging, advanced and automated search capabilities (including RSS feeds), federated search, CMS integration, support for secure resource sharing with certain groups of faculty or course developers to enable collaboration, usage tracking, and version tracking.

Open Monograph Press

Several OCUL libraries, either individually or through Scholars Portal, use the Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Open Monograph Press (OMP) software. A current list of schools using OJS and OMP is available on the SPOTDocs wiki.


The University of Windsor has been using OMP to publish books in the Windsor Studies in Argumentation Series since 2013. At its core, OMP provides the kind of functionality for book publishing that OJS managers are familiar with for journal publishing. From an administrator’s perspective, the system’s workflow is intended to accept manuscript submissions which can then be piloted through a review and editorial process which ultimately leads to publication. Insofar as the creation and publication of a book is intended to mirror the traditional process for creating and publishing journal articles, OMP does a good job.

The weakness of OMP is due to its close emulation of OJS. The assumption is that the objects to be published are something like PDFs, EPUBs, or MOBI files – they will be created and edited by software platforms outside of OMP, ingested when required, and remain relatively static afterwards. Unlike other products such as SCALAR, there are no authoring tools within OMP.


To summarize, OMP is effective at what it does much like OJS can be. However, it lacks the authoring tools available in other emerging e-book platforms and is limited by the assumption that users will always want their digital book to function like a traditional printed book but in electronic form.

Accessibility Considerations

As faculty at Ontario universities begin to produce OER, they become publishers of educational content and therefore responsible for ensuring that what they produce adheres to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) by meeting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 accessibility criteria. Educational content or learning objects that contain quizzes, audio, video or images need to consider users of all abilities and how they access materials.


The BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit provides tips throughout the authoring process for incorporating universal design and accessibility principles and outlining best practices for incorporating multimedia materials.


An accessibility statement on how to request another format should always be included with each resource on its landing page. Instructors who choose to reuse materials created elsewhere and put them in their own course websites take on the responsibility of making this content accessible to their own users.

Copyright Considerations

Whether adopting and repurposing an existing OER, or creating a new work, copyright and licensing considerations present numerous challenges for instructors. When adopting an existing OER, attention must be paid to the licensing scheme of the original work to ensure that re-use is in keeping with the license terms. When adapting or repurposing a work, care must be taken to ensure that the adapted work is assigned a license that  is compatible with that of the original work. OER licenses must be chosen and assigned in a manner that facilitates use by the anticipated end-user of the work. There are also numerous sensitivities that may arise with respect to faculty’s interest in the control and dissemination of their own intellectual property, which may sometimes be in conflict with the goals of open education.

Choosing a License

Most, but not all, OER works are released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. There are various types of CC licenses, any of which can be assigned to an OER.  Creative Commons license types range from the most open versions (CC BY, CC BY-SA) which allow users to adapt, remix, and even use the content commercially, to the more restrictive licenses (CC BY- ND, CC BY-NC) which permit re-use but prohibit adaptation of the work and/or use for commercial purposes. Increasingly the CC BY license (the most expansive CC license) is becoming the standard recommended by the OER movement, as it allows for the most flexible reuse options and enables all educational institutions, even private colleges and universities, to make use of the content.


Figure 1 (or Table 1, depending on final format in Word)


Table Summarizing Permitted Uses by Different CC Licenses

From “Creative Commons License Quick Selector Tool” by University of Toronto Libraries, 2015 (https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/69997). CC BY 4.0.


Many granting agencies, such as eCampus Ontario, will specify in their contract the type of licenses that they require OER authors to attach to their works. Currently eCampus requires OER authors to use the CC BY license in order to fully enable reuse, adaptation and commercial distribution. This follows the BC Campus commitment, in partnership with Rebus Community, to only publish and support CC BY works going forward (BC Campus, 2016). Other granting agencies may require OER authors to adopt other types of licenses.


If granting agencies are not involved, an OER author is free to decide which type of open license is most appropriate for their work. However, studies show that knowledge of open licenses, license compatibility, and the implications of license choices, is very low among faculty (Allen & Seaman, 2016, p. 14). Failure to understand how specific CC licenses enable the use, reuse and repurposing of content in various contexts can be a serious obstacle to OER creation and dissemination. Authors also need to understand that Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable, meaning that though they can later change their mind and assign a more restrictive license to their work, the earlier license will still apply to anyone who discovered or used the work before the license change. University libraries and copyright offices can provide the necessary expertise to assist faculty with understanding the complexities of open licensing, and in making decisions about license assignment, or combining differently-licensed materials when adapting and remixing content from multiple sources.

Institutional Copyright Policies and Practices

At Ontario universities, most faculty employment contracts specify that faculty retain ownership of copyright in the works they create, rather than assigning it to the university. There may be some exceptions to this practice: a separate agreement might be signed  by both parties indicating otherwise. Faculty unions can also be protective of their members’ right to copyright, and suspicious of copyright transfers. A university’s mandate towards openness may be viewed as in conflict with instructors’ rights to control their own intellectual property, especially in the case of sessional and contract instructors. Similarly, openly licensed content produced by university employees may sometimes be at odds with their own or their university’s desire to monetize certain materials to generate revenue. Further tensions may arise at the departmental level, when faculty who have authored commercial textbooks become concerned about the loss of royalties when another instructor develops an openly licensed textbook in the same subject area.

Third Party Content

Assigning a Creative Commons license to a work does not mean that the OER cannot include third party content. However, when permission is sought to incorporate third party materials, it is important to have a well-crafted agreement that allows for the use of the third party material in keeping with the CC license being assigned to the new work. It can be a challenge to obtain such an agreement from traditional permission sources as they may not wish to assign an open license to their work, nor have it publicly available on the Internet. However, if a permission agreement is successfully negotiated, it is essential that the third party content is marked as such, with attribution clearly indicated, as well as a statement that makes clear that it is not subject to the same license as the rest of the work.


Third party material may also be used without permission if the amount used is insubstantial, meaning that the portion of the work used is not significant enough to attract copyright protection. Examples might include short quotations from works.  The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act may also permit the reproduction of some content for purposes such as research, private study, education, criticism and review. As with all third party materials, such uses must be clearly marked and attributed,  indicating that it is from a third party work and being used under the fair dealing exception, and not governed by the same license as the entire work. There also can be copyright implications  in using public domain materials in the OER work, as the term of copyright varies by jurisdiction.  For example, materials which are in the public domain in Canada may not be in the United States or Europe. One is always free to link to third party materials; however, it will be necessary to check URLs on a regular basis to ensure that they remain active and try to use stable or persistent URLs where these are available.

Roles for Libraries

There are a number of key areas where faculty producing OER require support. Depending on institutional mandates and capacity, libraries can offer support in some of the following areas.


CC BY or other Creative Commons licenses

  • Do authors understand implications of this kind of license?
  • How do authors verify for originality, ensuring content they adopt is original or properly cited?
  • Do granting agencies have a contract that makes it very clear that 1) the CC BY license allows an author’s work to be modified, and 2) beta testing in classrooms may result in ongoing editing?


Classroom use

  • What education do students require in the area of copyright and licensing to ensure that they understand the implications of contributing to an open publication?


  • Are there opportunities for libraries to support the copy editing or peer reviewing process? This guide from the University of Hawaii could be adopted to another context.
  • If a faculty member wants to collaborate with others, are there groups already working on a book that they can join?
  • How do authors handle graphic design?
  • How do extra resources get integrated as part of publication? (e.g., PPTs, quiz questions, case studies, etc.)
  • Identification of open license materials for reuse or adaptation.  Interpretation of license terms of existing material.

Peer review

  • What peer-review guidelines are in place and how are reviewers sourced?
  • Are there incentives offered to reviewers to provide quality feedback?


  • Facilitating access to and training in the use of authoring tools and platforms such as Pressbooks
  • Workflow support/design support
  • Hosting OER products

The Next Frontier: Sustainability of OER and open pedagogy

To fully understand the current landscape and the level of OER integration into the curriculum, universities need to consider ways in which they could track current practices, focusing on the following:


  • How many OER are being created by faculty at institutions? Unless faculty work directly with campus units, it is a difficult activity to track.
  • How many OER are being adopted for class use across Ontario universities? Instructors select their course materials independently, but in some cases might not even be aware that what they use is an OER, or they simply have no way of sharing this information.
  • There are a number of known barriers to faculty adoption of OER, such as awareness, technical capacity, concerns about quality and maintenance, etc. University focus groups and faculty peer to peer mentorship programs might dispel some of these concerns.


In addition, since OER materials are intended to have a longer shelf life than traditional learning materials, they require maintenance to keep them up to date. Challenges in this area include:


  • the need to document information for each resource about its licensing, source, file types, and short descriptions of the content;
  • developing processes to ensure that books are up to date;
  • recording version revisions and dates;
  • deciding whether a collection will collect and maintain access to older versions and editions of material, or only provide access to the most current version; and
  • identifying gaps in the collection. Targeted outreach to faculty and students can be helpful in this regard, and can inform future grant applications.


As more online courses are being offered across universities in Ontario, some with added incentives from the eCampus 2016-2018 Online Program Development initiative, the move towards open education seems to be the next logical step.


Some instructors who are active in the OER movement promote the value of collaborating with students and inviting them to edit or author portions of their open texts. Given this shift, it is important that libraries which already provide technical, educational and copyright support to faculty authors, also consider providing this support to students. This helps to ensure that they understand the implications of contributing original content to open resources.


OER is a new and emerging area with many diverse stakeholders and many very new issues such as sustainability, adoption and currency. New workflows and processes need to be established for authors who publish openly and for organizations who provide support in this area. The takeaway issue revolves around what is a publishing system that is scaleable and sustainable in the long-term, and what roles can libraries play in this process?


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Ontario Council of University Libraries: Open Educational Resources White Paper by Ontario Council of University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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