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Open Educational Resources (OER): Modifying & Creating OER

OVERVIEW: This page is meant to help you get quickly started on editing an open textbook or creating your own open textbook. The information below is taken from the Open Textbook Network (OTN) publications "Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know" and "Authoring Open Textbooks."  Links to these resources can be found in the Resources box located to the left of this section.


Step 1: Check license to confirm that the open textbook you want to adapt has a license that allows modification and redistribution on the scale you need.

Step 2: Identify the format  of the open textbook you’d like to modify. Formats include PDF, EPUB, MOBI and more. 

Step 3: Assess the editability of the format you are choosing. For example, textbooks containing mathematical or scientific notation, non-roman alphabets, or diacritic language characters may require specific editing software.

Step 4: Determine access - you’ll want to decide where and in what format students can access your revised open textbook. Some students prefer reading a printed version; others prefer reading online or using an e-reader. Also, you will need a stable place to keep your textbook so that students can access it. Options include distributing the open textbook via your: institutional repository, learning management system (LMS), personal website and campus bookstore.

Step 5: Publish your textbook - remember to give proper attribution and choose an open license based on how the textbook you adapted was licensed. Solicit feedback as a way to identify errors and fix them.

Note: if you decide to publish your new textbook with an open license, you must ensure that all of the material within it is openly licensed. Also, to make your new textbook is findable, you may want to add your new textbook files to a well-known textbook repository such as the OTN Digital Library and/or NJIT's institutional repository


  1. Acquaint yourself with open licenses and select the one which will allow you to incorporate openly licensed materials into your own work.
  2. Learn where to find openly licensed materials - involve your librarian in finding open resources.
  3. Decide where to store and share your published work (e.g. institutional repository, Moodle, OTN Digital Library).
  4. Ask for help from instructional designers, accessibility resources,  and librarians if you need assistance.
  5. If collaborating with others, take the time to meet and clarify expectations and roles. Draft and sign a contract or MOU.
  6. Develop a timeline for textbook production. Include writing time as well as editing, proofreading and peer review time 
  7. Develop a plan for your textbook’s design, including how you want to define the content and element structure. Each chapter needs to be consistent with the next so that students know what to expect. 
  8. Decide which style guide you’d like to use for your textbook and use it as a reference. 
  9. Commit to making your textbook accessible for a range of students. 
  10. Make a plan for how you’re going to handle updates and revisions so that your textbook stays up-to-date.
  11. Create a list of peers who are willing to review your textbook and offer constructive feedback. 
  12. Decide which tool or tools may be helpful for writing your textbook. This may differ depending on whether you’re writing solo or with others. 
  13. Survey which publishing tools look like a good fit for your textbook. Consider their capabilities related to your planned textbook content and elements. 

Scalar is an open source scholarly writing and publishing platform used to create and annotate digital media-rich content.  It is developed and supported by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC) and hosted by the University of Southern California.  It is a popular tool in humanities scholarship for digital writing and publishing. 

The Scalar Research Guide will introduce some of the basic set up tasks, functions, and features of Scalar.  To learn more,register for an account or sign in to your existing account to get started.

For inspiration, take a look at some of the projects created with Scalar:

New Jersey Institute of TechnologyDigital Commons @ New Jersey Institute of Technology 

The repository is a service of the New Jersey Institute of Technology libraries. Research and scholarly output included in the repository has been selected and submitted by the individual university departments and centers, and deposited by the libraries staff. Contact us at to learn more about including your work in the repository.


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