Training and Professional Development

10 Training Your Team

Stefanie Buck

Whether you are a one-person OER team or have staff/student workers, you will most likely need to provide some training to those who are involved in building an OER program. Your team may be just you, you and other staff, you and students, you and external partners, you and faculty or any combination of the above. Sometimes, OER will be your main job, other times it will be in addition to your current portfolio. In any case, a good training program will help your team and your projects be more successful.

See Chapter 3, Building Your Team to learn how to gather a strong team to support your OER program.

Training Basics

If your team consists primarily of supportive roles, for example administration, faculty representation or your center for teaching and learning, who are not actively creating OER, then you will want to provide some basic training so that everyone understands the concepts involved and what some of the issues and challenges are (See Chapter 1, Introduction to Open Educational Resources). These people are your campus champions and getting them trained means more recognition for you and your program.

If you and/or your team will be consulting with OER adopters, adaptors or creators, it is best to have a common understanding of the concepts listed below. That way, you can assist the OER adopter or creator in making informed decisions at the beginning of the project, saving both time and resources. For example, if your authors or adopters are unclear about the different Creative Commons licenses and how they work, you may end up in a situation where content is being reused in an inappropriate way (e.g., not providing proper attribution when remixing texts).

Open Educational Resources

There are many definitions of Open Educational Resources. The most commonly used definitions include:

Table 9.1: Common definitions of Open Educational Resources​
Definition Creator
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. (UNESCO 2002)
Open educational resources (OER) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes (Creative Commons “Open Education,” n.d.)
Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions (Hewlett Foundation 2013)
The foundation of Open Education is Open Educational Resources (OER), which are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere. “Open” permissions are typically defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials (SPARC, n.d.)

In addition there may be federal, state or local definitions. All of these definitions are valid and it may be helpful to choose one as your program definition. This will ensure consistency in your message. See Chapter 1, Introduction to Open Educational Resources for a more thorough discussion on the definition of OER.

There are also many misconceptions about what the “O” in “OER” actually means, e.g. “online” rather than “open,” In addition, the concept of “open” is also not clear to everyone. Some think that open and free are synonymous, which they are not. A work may be open and then is, by definition, free but a free work may still have all rights reserved and therefore cannot be altered or remixed and is therefore not considered “open.” A common understanding of the term “open”, is essential to a successful program.

The 5Rs

You will also want to make sure that you and your team are familiar with the 5Rs. The 5Rs are the cornerstone of OER use, reuse and creation. The 5Rs (reuse, remix, retain, redistribute, revise) were coined by Wiley and are widely understood to be the most basic definition of “what is open” (Wiley 2014). Without meeting these criteria, a resource cannot be considered open (again, not to be confused with free). The flexibility which the 5Rs afford open educational resources is one of the benefits and your team should be able to explain both the positive and potentially negative aspects of open educational resources to faculty and administrators (depending on who makes up your team). See Chapter 1, Introduction to Open Educational Resources for more about the 5Rs.

Why OER?

Training your team on why OER is important is one of your first steps. Everyone on the team should be familiar with the benefits (and drawbacks) of open educational resources. Benefits include

“Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education. The price of textbooks has skyrocketed more than three times the rate of inflation for decades. College students face steep price tags that can top $200 per book, and K-12 schools use books many years out of date because they are too expensive to replace. Using OER solves this problem because the material is free online, affordable in print, and can be saved forever. Resources that would otherwise go to purchasing textbooks can be redirected toward technology, improving instruction, or reducing debt.

Students learn more when they have access to quality materials. The rapidly rising cost of textbooks in higher education has left many students without access to the materials they need to succeed. Studies show that 93% of students who use OER do as well or better than those using traditional materials since they have easy access to the content starting day one of the course.

Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning. Open Education ensures that teachers, learners and institutions can fully explore this potential. Imagine a biology textbook that incorporates COVID-19 in the chapter about viruses, or a math tutorial that incorporates local landmarks into word problems. Imagine a lecture attended by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, or a peer-to-peer exchange between Canadian students learning Mandarin with Chinese students learning English or French. All of this and more is possible when the pathways for technology in education are fully open.

Better education means a better future. Education is the key to advancing society’s greatest goals, from building a strong economy to leading healthy lives. By increasing access to education and creating a platform for more effective teaching and learning, Open Education benefits us all.” (SPARC n.d.)

To learn more about the pros and cons of OER, see Open Educational Resources; Pros and Cons by the University of Maryland Global Campus (2020). See also Chapter 4: Talking About OER.

The Efficacy of OER

While they don’t necessarily need to be experts in the field of efficacy studies for OER, your team should be able to respond to the question “are OER any good?” with some confidence. Here, you should ground your answers in the research literature. Keeping up with the literature is an important part of being a program manager. For your team, it is sufficient that you share major findings that can help them formulate what the benefits of OER really are, based on research studies and not just hearsay.

Some recent important articles on efficacy include:

  • Clinton, Virginia and Shafiq Khan, 2019. Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis AERA Open 5 (3): 1-20.
  • Colvard, Nicholas B., C. Edward Watson, and Hyojin Park. 2018. “The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 30 (2): 262–76.
  • Hilton III, John. 2016. Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices: A Review of Research on Efficacy and Perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development 64 (4): 573–90.
  • Hilton III, John. 2019. Open Educational Resources, Student Efficacy, and User Perceptions: A Synthesis of Research Published Between 2015 and 2018. Educational Technology Research and Development 68 (3): 853-76.

Where and How to Find OER

You may want your team to be knowledgeable about how and where to find OER. Since it is a common complaint among faculty that OER are hard to find, having a team of people who understand the nuances of searching for and locating OER and what kinds of tools are at their disposal can help spread the word about OER among their colleagues (Cuillier 2018). Again, they don’t necessarily need to be experts in finding OER, just be informed enough to encourage others to reach out and get assistance with finding OER. See Chapter 12, Managing OER Consultations for more information.

Copyright and Fair Use

While not everyone on your team needs to have expertise in copyright, all of your team members should understand the basics of copyright guidelines and the limitations of use that copyright places on an item. There are many good sites where you can educate yourself and your authors about copyright and fair use.

Similarly, your team needs to understand how fair use works in OER. Some team members may feel that everything they do is Fair Use because they are educators. Unfortunately, that is not entirely true. Copying an entire text that has all rights reserved most likely does not fall under fair use. For questions about Fair Use, you may wish to consult the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OER Guidelines (Jacob, Jaszi, Adlter and Cross, 2021) and the 4 factors checklist (Columbia University, n.d.). Fair Use is rarely a straight yes or no type question. Actions may either weigh more in favor of fair use or weigh against fair use. No one but a court of law can actually determine if the use was “fair.” Be careful here to not give any legal advice.

Creative Commons (CC) Licenses

Creative Commons (CC) licenses are the cornerstone of OER. Authors/adopters will have many questions about what licensing their work under a CC license means for them. They will want to know the consequences of each type of license combination and will probably request your help in making that decision. They will also have questions about how they can use the CC-licensed works of others. The license authors or adopters choose affects the ability of someone else to use the work downstream is a major consideration. It will also affect whether they can or cannot use CC-licensed materials in their own works.

Authors or adapters may lean towards more restrictive licenses but need to be aware that this may prevent others from using their work downstream. Mixing licenses is challenging but extremely important. While your team may not need to know all the details, they should know that you cannot mix all the CC licenses together at will, as some are not compatible with each other.

You may also need to decide early on if you will allow for certain license types in your program. Consider for example, the ND (No Derivatives) part of a license. ND technically makes your work available for free (a good thing) but will not allow for others to adapt your work. Many choose to classify works with an ND license as not truly ‘Open” and therefore don’t support the license when assisting authors in selecting a license for their work. You should also be able to defend your decision, either for, or against the allowance of ND.

You should give equal consideration to the ShareAlike (SA) part of the Creative Commons license. Your author/adaptor/team may be limiting the reach of the content and others’ ability to reuse or remix the material because there are limited licenses that can be remixed with work that is licensed under CC BY-SA (Bissell 2009).

CC Licenses and mixing licenses is a complex topic. Here are some additional resources to help you:

Creating or Adding a Proper Attribution

Providing a proper attribution when you use an OER is not only ethical, it is a legal requirement for anyone using an OER for any purpose. There are no “rules” (style manuals) about how to do this, just some best practices by the Creative Commons (2018) for you and your team to follow. You want to set an example about how to do attribution properly and encourage your authors/adopters/adopters to do the same. It is also a good idea to train your authors and adapters to keep track of the sources they used (open or not) for referencing in their OER.

Basic Accessibility

Equity is an essential component of OER and therefore accessibility must be part of the resource creation process. There are numerous guides on creating accessible texts and images (See Chapter 18, Universal Design, Accessibility, and Usability for OER). Apprise your faculty authors of your accessibility policies early on so they can create their content appropriately. If you are working with adopters or adapters of OER, help them understand if the resource they have selected is accessible or not. For example, a series of YouTube videos licensed under a Creative Commons license may not have closed captioning. An open textbook presented only in the PDF format is more difficult to remix than one created in Google Docs.

Program Manager Tips: Competencies

While not a universal standard, you may want to consult the Open Educational Resources Competency Framework as a tool to help you set learning outcomes for your training program. Competencies include: Becoming Familiar with OER, Searching for OER, Using OER, Creating OER, and Sharing OER (International Organization of La Francophonie 2016).

Advanced Training

In this section, we will cover some of the more advanced topics on which you and your team may need some training. This will vary depending on if you are working with faculty authors or adaptors or if you are dealing primarily with adopters. An adopter may not need to have much information about publishing workflows but an author will need it.

Publishing Basics

Publishing is a process that requires a defined workflow. You may be guiding the author/adopter step-by-step through that workflow or need to provide them with tools to help them manage their workflow. There are a number of excellent guides on publishing an OER, using Pressbooks, improving accessibility, and managing workflows available online from organizations who have a lot of experience with OER. Don’t reinvent the wheel; see what others have done and what works for them. All of these tools are open so you can feel free to customize them for your institution’s training needs.

Publishing Platform

Depending on your program, you may use one or more publishing platforms, such as Pressbooks, Manifold or simply an accessible Adobe PDF or Google Doc. If you are using a platform, your authors/adaptors may be doing work in the editing platform or you may choose to hand that work over to your team and not allow the faculty authors/adaptors into the platform. If they are creating their OER in a Google Doc or PDF or using some other tool to create their OER, you may or may not have access to the content. If you have assistance or staff, your OER team should be trained to use the platform and be ready to offer training to adopters and creators. There are useful resources here to help you understand the pros and cons of the different file types.

In any case, it is important to share with authors/adopters and your team the pros and cons of each platform you support, as well as the features and functionality you can support so author/adopter expectations are managed.

Publishing Formats and File Types (ePub, PDF, etc.)

For text-based OER, the output may be in a variety of formats. You will need to decide which formats you will or will not offer. This may depend on the publishing platform and what you are able to support. For other OER, such as course modules or test banks, you will want to consider how their content will be shared and where and in which formats you will make it available. See Chapter 19, Hosting and Sharing OER for more information.

Multimedia Formats

For OER that contains more multimedia than text, you will also need a basic understanding of the tools and the outputs (MiniTool, n.d.). For example, if your authors or adaptors are creating a module or game, what are the technical requirements of the platform they wish to use? Where will this content be housed and how will it be shared with others? You may need an additional space for hosting multimedia content.

Basic Image Editing

Even if all the images your author is using are openly licensed, you may still need to adjust the images (size or cropping) to make them work in your OER. In some cases, if you have the resources, you may be creating images for faculty who need something that cannot be found in OER or you may need to edit openly licensed images to meet your author’s needs. You will need to decide what level of service you can provide. Expect to make minor adjustments and you or someone on your team should have some capability in this area if you plan to offer this service.

Copy Editing

You probably won’t have an in-house copy editor on hand. Do you want your texts to go through copy editing? If so, how will this be handled? There are options to outsource copy-editing services or you may leave that to the author. Copy editing is a mark of quality in your OER and should not be neglected, However, copy editing may be expensive and you need to plan on how to provide the necessary funding. An example of a copy-editing service is Scribenet which works with the Open Education Network to provide copy editing to its members.

Developmental Editing

Another type of editing that you will need to be familiar with is developmental editing. A developmental editor does the big picture review of the content and looks at the structure and narrative of the work. Developmental editors are not copy-editors as they generally don’t correct your grammar or spelling. They take a step back from that to see if your textbook is well-laid out, has structure and flow, and that the ideas or concepts within it are explained clearly. In most cases, you won’t have access to a professional developmental editor but you could try your institution’s writing program to see if there are any graduate students who could help you.

Advanced CSS and HTML

In some cases, your publishing platform may require an understanding of CSS and HTML (W3C, n.d.) or other markup languages. This will depend on if you want to offer a certain level of customization to the author. You may want to limit the kinds of CSS or customization you can create, depending on your capacity. Is there someone on your campus who can help if you need to do some CSS tweaking? Can you or do you want to build this capacity in-house? Is there someone on campus who can assist you with this? For example, do you have an IT person on your team who may be able to help with some of these questions?

Mathematical and Other Markup Languages

Textbooks, especially in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields, may require the use of mathematical equations or formulas. While it is probably best to have the author create this (in LaTeX or other compatible formats), you may need to implement some fixes in house when creating the final product. If you cannot support this, what resources does your author have to learn LaTeX or another math markup? You also may need to consider that your authors may want to use Overleaf or another LaTeX editor. These may not be compatible with your publishing platform.


Metadata is what helps people find your OER. While there is no standard metadata scheme for OER (yet), it is important in that metadata can also help users find more specific items (Santos-Hermosa, Ferran-Ferrer, and Abadal 2017). This will depend on where you store your OER. Will it be in an institutional repository? How much can you or do you want to customize the metadata? What is the minimum metadata you want to apply, who will apply it, and how will you ensure consistency across projects? Each repository will act a little differently.

Instructional Design & Open Pedagogy

Building an OER is only part of the challenge. Once your subject matter expert (author) has selected an OER platform or is in the process of creating one, integrating the OER into the course is the next challenge. Not all OER librarians, even those with teams, have the instructional design background to support faculty in the process of course redesign. However, some understanding of backward design processes, open pedagogy, and universal design can be very beneficial. Your faculty authors will appreciate having a Center for Teaching and Learning or something similar for guidance at hand.

Professional Development

In addition to the above, there are many professional development opportunities available for your team and for yourself. Many of these are freely available online. Some examples are listed in Chapter 10 under the section Training Your Authors and Adopters: Professional Development. While the training opportunities are mainly designed for faculty authors or adopters, they are a great place to get yourself or your team started. Training that is designed specifically for OER leaders include the OER Pub 101 (OEN, “Open Textbook Publishing” 44, n.d.) training by the Open Education Network, which also hosts the OEN Summer Institute, and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)’s Open Education Leadership Program. While you will need to apply, this is a great option for someone who is new to the field and wants to get more involved. It is rather intensive so apply for this fellowship when you know you will be able to dedicate the time to it. Training or professional development is also available for specific aspects of OER. For example, the Creative Commons runs the CC Certificate program designed for OER leaders, librarians and museum professionals. Or, if you are really interested in copyright, the CopyrightX program from Harvard offers a rigorous course on copyright.

Lists and communities are another great source of information and support. There are many regional lists to sign up for so check around for a regional list in your area. For example, Oregon Open Educational Resources or the Maryland Open Source Textbook Initiative are local communities that offer symposiums, workshops, regional conferences, forums, and other professional development opportunities.

A national list that is heavily used by OER leaders is the SPARC lib-oer. It is well worth signing up for this list as it hosts a community of individuals who help each other out with questions related to OER, such as assistance finding an OER for a faculty member. SPARC also produces the OER Digest, which can help you keep up with happenings in the OER world. A similar useful national list is the CCCOER (Community College Consortium for OER) list, mainly for community colleges but useful for anyone seeking OER support. The CCCOER is within the larger Open Education Global organization which also hosts professional and learning opportunities as well as an annual conference.

Other communities that offer support and sometimes professional development include SPARC, the Rebus Community, a nonprofit building a new, collaborative model for publishing open textbooks, and the Open Education Network (OEN). The OEN, as well as many of the organizations mentioned here, also provides regular informal conversations and webinars which may be of interest to you and your team.


Everyone should have some basic understanding of what an OER is and where and how to find it. This will help you get onto the same page and make your message more cohesive. More advanced topics may include copy-editing or metadata. This will depend on the size and scope of your program. While the list may seem daunting at first, you can teach the skills needed to run an effective OER program little by little. Take advantage of professional development opportunities that come your way and share those experiences with your team.

Recommended Resources

Key Takeaways
  1. Provide training to your team. It will help all of you have a common understanding of what OER is and many of the related aspects. A common vocabulary will prevent many misunderstandings.
  2. There are basic things your author and you should know. You can start with these and then work up to the advanced training suggestions.
  3. Take advantage of the many OER communities that offer support, professional development, and conferences. These can be international, national or regional.
  4. This chapter asks many questions. Make a list for yourself about how you want to address each of these issues and update it regularly.


Aesoph, Lauri M. 2018. BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide. Victoria: B.C.: BC campus.

Antleaf. Scholarly Communication Technology Catalogue. Accessed November 15, 2021.

Ashok, Apurva, and Zoe Wake Hyde. 2019. The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). Rebus Community.

Bissell, Ahrash N. 2009. “Permission Granted: Open Licensing for Educational Resources.” Open Learning, The Journal of Open and Distance Learning 24 (1): 97-106.

Clinton, Virginia and Shafiq Khan, 2019. “Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis.” AERA Open 5 (3): 1-20.

Columbia University Libraries. n.d. “Fair Use Checklist.” Copyright Advisory Services. Accessed July 9, 2021.

Colvard, Nicholas B., C. Edward Watson, and Hyojin Park. 2018. “The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 30 (2): 262–76.

Coolidge, Amanda, Sue Doner, Tara Robertson, and Josie Gray. 2018. Open Education Accessibility Toolkit—2nd Edition. BCcampus.

Creative Commons. n.d. “Open Education.” Creative Commons. Accessed December 21, 2021.

Creative Commons. n.d. “Frequently Asked Questions: Can I Combine Material Under Different Creative Commons Licenses in My Work?” Creative Commons. Accessed December 21, 2021

Creative Commons. n.d. “Unit 4: Using CC Licenses and CC-Licensed Works.” In Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, Academic Librarians and GLAM. Accessed December 21, 2021.

Creative Commons Wiki. 2013. “Considerations for Licensors and Licensees.” Creative Commons.

Creative Commons Wiki. 2018. “Best Practices for Attribution.” Creative Commons.

Cuillier, Cheryl. 2018. “Overcoming Objections to OER from Faculty and Administrators.” Digital Initiatives Symposium 27.

Falldin, Melissa and Karen Lauritsen. 2017. Authoring Open Textbooks. Open Education Network.

Harvard University. Office of the General Council. 2016. “Copyright and Fair Use.” Harvard University.

Hilton III, John. 2016. “Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices: A Review of Research on Efficacy and Perceptions.” Educational Technology Research and Development 64 (4): 573–90.

Hilton III, John. 2019. “Open Educational Resources, Student Efficacy, and User Perceptions: A Synthesis of Research Published Between 2015 and 2018.” Educational Technology Research and Development 68 (3): 853-76.

International Organization of La Francophonie. 2016. Open Educational Resources Competency Framework.

Jacob, Meredith, Peter Jaszi, Prudence S. Adler, and William Cross. 2021. Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources. American University Washington College of Law.

Maxwell, John W., Erik Hanson, Leena Desai, Carmen Tiampo, Kim O’Donnell, Avvai Ketheeswaran, Melody Sun, Emma Walter and Ellen Michelle. 2019. “Mind the Gap: A Landscape Analysis of Open Source Publishing Tools and Platforms.”

MiniTool. n.d. “What are Media Files and the Main Types of Media Files [MiniTool Wiki].” Accessed June 24, 2021.

OEGlobal. n.d. “Open Education Global 2022.” Community College Consortium for OER. Accessed May 12, 2021.

Open Education Network. n.d. “Our Story.” Open Education Network. Accessed March 12, 2021.

Open Education Network. n.d. “Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101).” Open Education Network. Accessed March 12, 2021.

Rebus Community n.d. “Our Network.” Rebus Community. Accessed June 23, 2021.

Santos-Hermosa, Gema, Ninua Ferran-Ferrer, and Ernest Abadal. 2017. “Repositories of Open Educational Resources: An Assessment of Reuse and Educational Aspects”. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, (5):84–120.

SPARC. n.d. “Open Education.” SPARC. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Stanford Libraries. n.d. “Stanford Copyright and Fair Use.” Stanford. Accessed July 12, 2021.

UNESCO. 2002. “Open Educational Resources (OER).” UNESCO

University of Minnesota Libraries. n.d. “Copyright Basics.” University of Minnesota. Accessed January 12, 2021.

University of Maryland Global Campus. 2020. “Open Educational Resources: Pros and Cons.” Accessed January 21, 2021.

W3Schools. n.d. “HTML Styles-CSS.” Accessed May 12, 2021.

WIkipedia. 2021. “Comparison of book formats.”

Wiley, David. 2014. “The Access Compromise and the 5th R.” Improving Learning (blog). March 5, 2014.

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. 2013. White Paper: Open Educational Resources; Breaking the Lockbox on Education.


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The OER Starter Kit for Program Managers Copyright © 2022 by Stefanie Buck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.