Open Educational Resources

Adopt OER: Open Textbooks

The information below refers to adopting an open textbook but any OER (assignments, videos, lecture notes, diagrams, et cetera) can be adopted for classroom use (using many of the steps below).

For more complete information about and instruction on how to adopt an open textbook, please visit the BC Open Textbook Adoption Guide by BCcampus.

Adopt an open textbook

If you are an instructor looking for an open textbook to assign to your class, here are some suggested ways to go about using a textbook from the BCcampus Open Textbook collection.

Using an open textbook for your class

  1. Find the right textbook. Use the Search OER list to find appropriate texts.
  2. Review and evaluate to see if it matches your criteria and based on content, presentation, online accessibility, production options, platform compatibility, delivery options, interactivity, consistency between online and printed versions, and available ancillary material (test banks, PowerPoints, etc.) For more information on evaluating an OER, please see the Evaluate OERs page in this guide. 
  3. Decide if you want to use as is or modify it. One of the benefits of open textbooks is flexibility to modify and customize them for specific course designs as much or as little as you desire. If you want to make edits or append content, make sure the Creative Commons license allows for that (every CC license except the non-derivative license allows for modifications). If you are interested in modifying an open textbook, see the Adapt an OER section below.
  4. Distribute to your students. There are a number of ways in which you can do this.
    • Download copies of the book and upload them into Moodle so they are available to your students. Where available, allow students the option to select which file type they would like to download (e.g. PDF, EPUB, etc.).
    • Alternatively, many open textbooks are available to purchase as a low cost printed version (e.g. BC Campus, eCampusOntario, etc) if students would like a print copy.
    • Approach your local institutional bookstore or print shop to see if they can make printed copies of the books available for your students. Many institutional print shops can create low cost printed versions of textbooks and make them available to students. Keep in mind that textbooks that have a specific non-commercial clause (CC-BY-NC) cannot be sold with a markup or at a profit. However, charging a modest cost-recovery fee for physical textbooks is considered reasonable.
  5. Let the creators of the textbook know you've adopted it. Faculty adoption information is important to the long term viability of the open textbook project, and many textbooks have forms or email addresses specifically so the authors can receive feedback and notify users of additional resources created for the text.

Attribution: This content contains material from the B.C. Open Textbook Adoption Guide by BCcampus is used under a CC BY 4.0 International license. Download this book for free from

Adopt OER: H5P content

eCampusOntario has created the H5P Studio, a catalogue of H5P content created by instructors at post-secondary institutions in Ontario. This catalogue is searchable by keyword, subject, and Creative Commons license. You can re-use the H5P content by downloading their files and uploading into your MSVU Moodle course site. For more information on how to do this, please see the video below.

Adapt OER

In addition to cost to students, one of the biggest advantages of choosing an open textbook is it gives faculty the legal right to add to, adapt, or delete the content of the textbook to fit their specific course without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. This is possible because the copyright holder has already granted permission by releasing their work using an open — or Creative Commons — license. This type of license gives users permission to use and reuse, share, copy, retain and modify the textbook without consulting the author.

Reasons to adapt an open textbook

One of the benefits of using an openly licensed textbook or other educational resource is that you are free to adapt it to fit your needs. In other words, you can adjust the educational resources to fit your course curriculum, not the other way around.

Below are 10 more reasons adapting an open textbook might be for you:

  1. Address a particular teaching style or learning style
  2. Adjust for a different grade or course level
  3. Address diversity needs
  4. Meet a cultural, regional, or national preference
  5. Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  6. Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  7. Translate the material into another language
  8. Correct errors or inaccuracies
  9. Update the book with current information
  10. Add more media or links to other resources

Attribution: This section contains material from the B.C. Open Textbook Adaptation Guide by BCcampus is used under a CC BY 4.0 International license. Download this book from free from The “Reasons” above are adapted from fromWikiEducator. “Adapt” in OER Handbook for Educators and Why Remix Open Educational Resources? created by Liam Green-Hughes, both used under a CC BY license.

Copyright & Creative Commons licenses

In Canada, copyright is defined as “sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form” and it “provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer’s performances, sound recordings and communication signals.”

For more information about copyright, please see our Copyright and Fair Dealing Guide.

Copyright and Creative Commons

Using a Creative Commons license does not negate copyright – it modifies the terms of copyright, allowing others to use a work with attribution, that is, while recognizing the intellectual property of the copyright holder(s). As Creative Commons states, “CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights.”

If you are adapting an existing open textbook, the adaptations you make will be released with whatever open license you choose, while the rest of the book will be released under the license of the original book. In other words, you need to respect the license of the original work. You cannot license what you do not create. You can only attach a CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution), or other open license to the parts of the book that you have created and are new.

However, there is a “catch.” If the textbook you are adapting has a Share-Alike condition (CC BY-SA 4.0) stipulated, then you must release the entire book using the same license as the original book.

Below are the definitions of each of the Creative Commons licenses. If you are unsure which CC license you would like to use, you can use the Creative Commons Choose a License tool.

Attribution: CC BY 

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Attribution-ShareAlike: CC BY-SA 

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

Attribution-NoDerivs: CC BY-ND 

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution-NonCommercial: CC BY-NC  

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA 

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: CC BY-NC-ND 

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Attribution: some content is from the Faculty OER Toolkit by Shannon Moist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. The Creative Commons license definitions and images listed on this page have been copied from Creative Commons and are used under a CC BY 4.0 license.


More information about copyright and Creative Commons licenses:

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. Creative Commons License
You may copy the guide as long as credit is included. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials. Please be aware that many of our guides contain links to subscription-based services for which access is restricted, and collections of resources that may have additional rights reserved. Please consult the licenses and terms of use for each resource.