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Open Educational Resources Advocacy Toolkit

Identifying Barriers to OER Adoption

Understanding the potential barriers or challenges to OER adoption can help you develop strategies for specific audiences. Some stakeholders may be resistant to OER so you'll need to prepare responses to common questions and concerns. For example:


Barrier Response Strategy
It’s hard to find OER. It's much easier to find a traditional textbook. It can be hard to find OER due to the variety of ways OER are produced, published and shared. However, OER collections and repositories help bring OER content together to make it easier to locate.

Prepare a guide with links to key collections and strategies to find OER in different discipline areas that you can share with your stakeholders.

Ask for feedback on the suitability of the located resources and use this as an opportunity to deeply engage with a discipline or subject area.

Lastly, consider tailoring a short list of ‘recommended repositories’ that act as a starting point for staff to search unassisted.


Barrier Response Strategy
There are no suitable OER for a specific topic. There is low OER coverage in some subject areas. You may not be able to find an OER for every requirement of a course but you may be able to find OER that the stakeholder could tailor for their course or outline support available for them to create their own OER. They can add or remove content from existing OER or mix multiple resources together to create a resource suitable for their course. New OER are regularly being developed so if nothing is suitable currently there may be an option available in the near future.

Find examples of OER activities that have potential to be tailored or remixed for different subject areas.

Maintain awareness of the development of new OER in particular disciplines. If you can locate an OER in the discipline, ask the staff about its suitability for the curriculum. Should the feedback include actionable statements requiring change to the resource, this could be a catalyst to engaging staff in repurposing or redesigning the OER for local use.


Barrier Response Strategy
OER are freely available so they must not be as good as paid content. OER are often created by discipline experts and undergo a process of peer review to ensure the quality of the resources. Staff should review any OER they plan to adopt as they would any resource they intend to use in their course. If an OER is not perfect, Creative Commons licensing will often allow the staff member to adapt the content to fit their needs. Studies have shown that the use of OER in courses can lead to better student learning outcomes than the use of traditional resources (Fischer et al., 2015; Ross et al., 2018; Zhao et al., 2020).

Show examples of peer reviewed OER and share studies that look at student learning outcomes from the use of OER in courses. If you're starting with a discussion about open textbooks, consider using the Open Textbook Library and show the transparent reviews that accompany over 80 per cent of these texts. Encourage staff to leave reviews if they use OER. This is an effective way to contribute back to the open community.

Time and Technical Knowledge

Barrier Response Strategy
It takes time and technical skills to use OER. It can take time to find, adapt or create an OER. Maintenance and improvement of existing OER will also take time. OER authors may need to learn how to use a particular platform and how to make content accessible. Setting up a grant program or providing support options can help to alleviate this concern.

Establish avenues for OER support within the institution, as open education can be positioned as a natural extension of many existing responsibilities. Librarians can help locate and evaluate OER, learning designers can advise on pedagogically sound ways to integrate OER with learning outcomes and graphic designers can support remixing and repurposing activities. Prepare a guide that explains how to do the technical steps, how to make content accessible and where to get support. Offer workshops that help build skills for adapting or creating OER and communicate ongoing support strategies.


Barrier Response Strategy
Copyright for OER is difficult to understand. OER generally use Creative Commons licensing with ‘plain English’ statements that explain the permissions and conditions of re-use. OER authors can add an attribution statement that indicates which CC licence they have applied to their resource and a link to the specific licence. This allows the author to be correctly attributed whenever their resource is re-used and to set conditions on how it is used.

Clarify support options for open licencing, such as requesting advice from a copyright officer or librarian. Seek ways to integrate open licencing and attribution with existing information sessions (for example, copyright training). Prepare a guide that explains the different CC licences, how to select a CC licence for a work and how to correctly attribute others’ work. Consider too whether CC licences can be incorporated into copyright FAQ webpages and other similar resources.


Adapted from:

The OER Starter Kit for Program Managers by Abbey K. Elder, Stefanie Buck, Jeff Gallant, Marco Seiferle-Valencia and Apurva Ashok, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

OER Mythbusting by SPARC, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.


Fischer, L., Hilton, J., Robinson, T. J., & Wiley, D. A. (2015). A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 27(3), 159–172.

Ross, H. M., Hendricks, C., & Mowat, V. (2018). Open textbooks in an introductory sociology course in Canada: Student views and completion rates. Open Praxis, 10(4), 393–403.

Zhao, Y., Satyanarayana, A., & Cooney, C. (2020, November 7). Impact of open education resources (OER) on student academic performance and retention rates in undergraduate engineering departments [Paper presentation]. 2020 Fall ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Meeting, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ, United States.