Evaluating OER

By the end of this module section, you should be able to:

    • Investigate the available reuse options for OER - adopt, adapt, combine and create

    • Identify perspectives on evaluating and defining ‘quality’ as it relates to course materials

    • Utilize relevant rubrics for evaluating OER

In the previous section, Finding OER, you focused on organizing your search and finding relevant OER. This section will focus on elements of evaluating OER.

Watch the last few minutes of this video which focuses on evaluating OER. {view snippet 4:06 -5:52}

First things first: what do you want to do with that OER?

The first part of evaluating an OER is asking yourself what you want to do with that OER. Do you want to adopt and use as is? Or, do you want to adapt and modify the content to meet your needs? If you found an OER that matched your learning outcomes perfectly, but some modification was required, does the license on that resource allow you to modify? Or, is it licensed in a way that does not allow for modifications or derivatives? If modifications are not allowed, you may want to consider another resource. So first, before diving into rubrics, consider the license for the OER and what the permissions allow.

What do I want to do with the OER I found?

black and white icon of a clipboard and pencil, with the word Adopt below the icon.


black and white icon of pencil standing on its tip with the word Adapt below the icon.


black and white icon of a mortar and pestle, with the word Combine below the icon.


black and white icon of a lightbulb, with the word Create below the icon.


Evaluating OER Checklist

The following questions can help guide you when selecting and evaluating OER. The list below is also available in PDF format from Affordable Learning Georgia.

Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability

    • Is the content, including any instructions, exercises, or supplemental material, clear and comprehensible to students?

    • Is the content well-categorized in terms of logic, sequencing, and flow?

    • Is the content consistent with its language and key terms?

Content Accuracy and Technical Accuracy

    • Is the content accurate based on both your expert knowledge and through external sources?

    • Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?

    • Is the interface easy to navigate? Are there broken links or obsolete formats?

Adaptability and Modularity

    • Is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?

    • Is the resource easily divided into modules, or sections, which can then be used or rearranged out of their original order?

    • Is the content licensed in a way which allows for adaptations and modifications?


    • Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for higher education students?

    • How is the content useful for instructors or students?

    • Is the content itself appropriate for higher education?

    • Does the content reflect a variety of perspectives?


    • Is the content accessible to students with disabilities?

    • If you are using Web resources, does each image have alternate text that can be read?

    • Do videos have accurate closed-captioning?

    • Are students able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner?

Supplementary Resources

    • Does the OER contain any supplementary materials, such as homework resources, study guides, tutorials, or assessments?

    • Have you reviewed these supplementary resources in the same manner as the original OER?

Evaluation Rubrics & CheckLists

There are plenty of rubrics and evaluation tools available. Your department already may use one for evaluating other course material or textbooks for adoption. If they do, use that! Outside of considering if you want to exercise the 5Rs and whether the licensing on the resources allows for it, evaluating OER should not be any different than evaluating other course material under consideration for adoption.

Suggestions for easy-to-use and widely-adopted rubrics and checklists for evaluation include:

    • Achieve OER Rubrics

    • DigiTex Checklist for Evaluating OER

    • Peralta Online Equity Rubric - while not specific to OER evaluation, this rubric can be applied to OER evaluation and serve as a holistic evaluation tool to make online course experiences more equitable for all students. It includes addressing technology access, instructor’s commitment to inclusion, common forms of bias, students making connections between course topics/material and their lives, and follows universal design for learning principles. The rubric is also openly licensed allowing for reuse and adaptation.

Getting Organized! Curriculum Mapping

Another successful approach to evaluate an OER is to use a course map template to track course outcomes, activities, and teaching resources. A course map, also known as a curriculum map, is a record of teaching and learning that can provide faculty an opportunity to align OER with course learning outcomes. An added advantage to course mapping is unearthing unintentional gaps or redundancies in your learning outcomes. Additionally, you can use a course map to document the license for the resource, keep track of where the resource lives online, and organize comments as you compile more resources.

As you gather your resources and plan for aspects of course redesign when incorporating your OER, know there are tools available to help you. For example, DigiTex leads the statewide consortium of Quality Matters, a national nonprofit that provides research-based tools for implementation of quality assurance in course design, helping to facilitate the success of online learners. Your institution may be using Quality Matters and/or may be able to provide support for course redesign through an office of Distance Learning or Instructional Designers. If you are redesigning an online or hybrid course, we recommend faculty contact their instructional designers to help set up the course map before you begin. It will save time by organizing your map as you begin to compile OER.

The Texas Learn OER modules were developed by adapting several existing OER, and a course map was used to track, organize, and evaluate content. The Texas Learn OER template is available for use. Retrieve a copy below, as well as a sample course map:

[Image: Colorful gears inside a light bulb]. Gear bulb, by Tom Magliery, CC BY-SA NC 2.0.

Reflection: A Comment On Quality

Often, in conversations surrounding the evaluation of OER, questions emerge relating to quality, such as, "is the quality of the OER as good as commercially produced copyrighted course material?" As you find and evaluate OER, challenge yourself to consider HOW you define and measure quality. Consider instead, the effectiveness of the OER meeting your teaching and learning goals.

Take a minute to read this 2013 blog post from David Wiley, On Quality and OER. After reading and reflecting, do you agree or disagree with this statement:

“For educational materials, the degree to which they support learning is the only meaning of quality we should care about.”

Concept Review Activity:

Remember the OER you found in the last section? Now it is time for you to evaluate what you found.

  1. Choose an OER to evaluate - Using a rubric or checklist evaluate the OER.

  2. Choose your department’s rubric (or use this checklist - Checklist for Evaluating OER)

    • Evaluate your OER using the selected rubric (use sections as appropriate)

  3. Map It - Practice course mapping.

    • Blank Course Map Template

    • Using the same course outcome and identified OER, map it!

    • Align the OER to the specific learning outcome(s), document the license, collect the URL, and add additional comments. Consider sharing the course map with a colleague for further review and discussion.

  4. Decide - Now the choice to use the selected OER is yours. Will you adopt, adapt, combine, or create?


Information for this module was consulted and adapted from

"How to Find and Evaluate OER" by Abbey Elder is licensed under CC BY 4.0

"Identifying, Finding, and Adopting OER" by SUNY OER Services is licensed under CC BY 4.0

"OER Evaluation Criteria" by Affordable Learning Georgia is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Checklist icon by Mada Creative from the Noun Project

Pencil icon by Smalllike from the Noun Project.

mortar icon by The Icon Z from the Noun Project

lightbulb by Zach Bogart from the Noun Project