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OER Toolkit

Why Collaborate on OER?

Through alternative licensing that encourages peer contributions and sharing, OER invites collaboration among academics, students, library staff, and institutions. This module addresses the benefits and modes of collaboration, and provides examples of collaborative OER efforts to get involved in.

Open Education Matters Short Video

Watch this video explaining how OER enables pathways for collaboration across stakeholders, toward enhanced course materials and more equitable education for all. You can also download the Open Education Matters video transcript.

4 Reasons to Collaborate

  • Quality of Instructional Materials

​​​​​​​Sapire and Reed’s (2001) study showed that academic collaboration on the redesign of open course materials improved the quality of instructional materials--specifically in terms of the materials' ability to scaffold student learning across knowledge domains and to offer enhanced, inquiry-based learning experiences.

  • Student Learning

​​​​​​​Azzam’s (2017) study showed that medical students’ collaborative contribution to Wikipedia articles cultivated core medical competencies, while helping students to build their identities as digital contributors and socially responsible physicians. The study also revealed how students’ engagement with the content led to improvements in the quality of health-related knowledge disseminated in the global public domain.

  • Academic Learning

​​​​​​​Petrides et al. (2011) found that collaboration with peers around the integration of an open textbook into a statistics course led academic participants to increase their collaborative practices in subsequent course planning efforts.

  • Sustainability

​​​​​​​Petrides et al. (2008) found that when academics collaborated in the creation of OER, they were more likely to continue creating and sharing content online on a consistent and ongoing basis--suggesting that communities and collaboration play a role in sustaining OER.

Research Cited:

  • Azzam, A. (2017). Why medical schools should embrace Wikipedia: Final-year medical student contributions to Wikipedia articles for academic credit at one school. Academic Medicine, Vol. 92, No. 2.
  • Petrides, L., Jimes, C., Middleton-Detzner, C., Walling, J. and Weiss, S. (2011). Open textbook adoption and use: Implications for teachers and learners. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, Vol. 26, Issue 1: 39.
  • Petrides, L., Nguyen, L., Jimes, C., and Karaglani, A. (2008). Open educational resources: Inquiring into author use and reuse. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Education, Vol. 1, No. 1-2: 98-117.
  • Sapire, I. and Reed, Y. (2011). Collaborative design and use of open educational resources: A case study of a mathematics teacher education project in South Africa. Distance Learning, Vol 32, No. 2: 195-211.

Tips for Getting Started on Collaborating

  • Consider collaborating.

With the shared aim of meeting student learning outcomes, academics and library staff can work together on constructing searches and evaluating fit of OER.

  • Conduct your searches in recognised repositories.

​​​​​​​Search recognised OER repositories and aggregated content collections to explore what already exists.

  • Become familiar with open licensing and accessibility requirements.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​If you are an academic, remember that Library staff have expertise in digital accessibility and information literacy. They can review and help align your OER to accessibility requirements and information literacy learning outcomes/objectives.

What Students, Academics, and Library Staff Bring to OER

Listed below is the knowledge and expertise that students, academics, and library staff may bring to the development and implementation of OER.

  • Preferences for the types and formats of course materials that work best for them
  • Preferences for how they would like to access course materials
  • Opinions and feedback on the quality or effectiveness of learning materials for their own learning
  • Knowledge of how to contribute to web-based instructional materials with own content or aggregated information
  • Knowledge of course objectives
  • Understanding of student needs and learning styles
  • Expertise in evaluating resources for use and application in a course
  • Experience in constructing and authoring instructional materials
  • Expertise in various pedagogical approaches and curriculum implementation
  • Expertise in accessibility
  • Understanding of copyright and its pitfalls, and of how to select and apply open licences
  • Knowledge of how to find things and to make things discoverable by others
  • Understanding of the best way to share resources for future audiences
  • Expertise in technology for online authoring and publishing
  • Overall information literacy expertise
  • Experience with the content of higher education coursework

Here is an example of an OER development process. The groups (student, library staff, or academic) that are involved in each step are identified with a label at the top of the step. In some cases, they overlap across roles to support the OER process, as depicted in the diagram. Although not listed, other collaborators may also play a role in any OER process, such as curriculum advisors, accessibility services, and the campus bookstore.


How Library Can Help With OER Curation

Library staff bring specific knowledge and skills to the OER curation process, as outlined below.

What Libraries Can Do

  • Help academics identify existing OER materials, including alternatives to textbooks
  • Use advanced search skills to find exactly what academics need
  • Give options for ways that students can access resources
  • Advise on how to make resources more accessible
  • Advise on issues of copyright and fair dealing
  • Advise on use of Creative Commons licences

What Libraries (Likely) Cannot Do

  • Be completely knowledgeable of your subject area
  • Make the final call on the quality of a resource
  • Choose your textbook or course material
  • Interfere with your academic freedom


Text a derivative of “How Libraries can Help”, in CCCOER: Faculty and Librarians Selecting High Quality OER, by Tina Ulrich, licensed under CC BY 4.0

This webinar discusses the four key roles that libraries play in faculty adoption of OER: Researcher, curator, academic, and content creator. It also addresses the tools that library staff use in their OER-related work. You can also download The Library role in OER CCCOER webinar video transcript.

Video from CCCOER, CC BY 4.0.

Academics, are you ready to FREE the TEXTBOOK?

The flowchart outlines just one set of collaborative opportunities for library staff to support academics as they seek to identify open materials for their courses.

Ways to Collaborate

There are multiple ways to collaborate with colleagues and students on the creation and use of OER. Below are just a few ideas, to get you started.

Wiki Education's Classroom Program is an established program for engaging students in collaborative OER projects. Instructors replace traditional research papers with assignments where students write about course-related topics that are underrepresented in Wikipedia. Students synthesize the available literature, and use tools to add the information to Wikipedia.

Instructors who sign up for the Classroom Program have free access to its tools and to support staff.

Open Textbook Sprints are collaborative writing sessions inspired by code sprints from the software development world. The goal of a book sprint is to create a book from scratch in a very short time frame. The idea is to gather instructors, curriculum advisors, library staff, trained facilitators, and others in a face-to-face environment to write and compile a textbook into an online format.

Reach out to eCampus Ontario to see if there are local book sprints that you can join at your institution. Or see the tools section of this module below for information on setting up your own open textbook sprints.

  • Open Textbook Spring - Checklist (Word download)

  • Attribution:

    Definition of open textbook sprints is a derivative of the definition provided in Roundup of the Geography Open Textbook Sprint, by BCcampus, licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Academics, are you ready to FREE the TEXTBOOK?

    The flowchart outlines just one set of collaborative opportunities for library staff to support academics as they seek to identify open materials for their courses. Reach out to your academic or library staff colleagues to initiate your own collaborative project to find OER or open textbooks for courses at your institution.


    Open Textbook Sprint - Checklist

    Below are tips on how to make open textbook sprints productive. As you set up your sprint, keep in mind that an open textbook is not meant to be just an openly-licensed conventional textbook. It is a living text that people will be able to update and adapt to their specific courses and student needs.

    • Build a Strong Team
      Focus on team composition and team building. Recruit at least six writers for the book sprint team, and a strong, impartial, facilitator who isn’t invested in your project. Ensure that the library is included and present during the sprint sessions.
    • Match Technology to Writers’ Needs
      Select your peer production platform and collaboration tools so that they are in alignment with the writers’ technological skills and practices.
    • Establish an Iterative Workflow Process
      Instill and support an iterative cycle of writing, feedback, and editing, with short feedback cycles integrated throughout.
    • Keep Assignments Small
      Break content assignments into manageable chunks to better assure completion and timeliness.
    • Seed the Sprint
      Before you start, prepare a library of openly-licensed materials that can be of immediate use during the sprint.
    • Promote Self Care
      If you have the resources, hire a massage therapist and/or a yoga instructor to help your team, because being at the keyboard for up to 14 hours a day can put a toll on the body.


    The Open Textbook Sprint Checklist is a mashup of material from How To Turn A Great Idea Into An Open Textbook In Just Four Days, by BCcampus, licensed under CC BY 4.0, and How To Collaboratively Develop Open-Source Textbooks, by Free High School Science Texts, licensed under CC BY.

    How to collaboratively develop open-source textbooks (in hindsight!)

    This guide from South Africa’s Free High School Science Texts provides tips on how to set up a project to produce open textbooks collaboratively.


    © Western Sydney University, unless otherwise attributed.
    Library guide created by Western Sydney University Library staff is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY)