Revising and Remixing OER
Revising and remixing learning resources are core to excellent teaching, and you can do so freely with OER. OER materials are open for you to edit, adapt, modify (revise) or combine (remix) with other sources.
Revising and remixing go hand in hand. Even if these two concepts look and sound similar, their meaning with OERs is different. Revising is the ability for a person to edit, adapt, and modify a copy of the resource, and remixing is the ability to combine the resource with other existing materials to create a new resource. Thus, they enable us to improve textbooks with new knowledge or different perspectives, and develop them for specific contexts or purposes.
This chapter provides some tools that professors can use to help them in their revising and remixing process, including practical steps to go through, and a sample list of formats with some factors by which to evaluate them.
How to revise and/or remix?
Revising and remixing can include adding interactive materials to a textbook, changing images and/or text, and mixing texts from different sources. These tasks can be easy but, depending on how much you want to do, they can get a little bit more complicated.
As the Open Education Network recommends in Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know, if you are a first-timer revising and remixing an OER, it is better to make changes gradually. Although it can be tempting to make as many changes as possible when you work with an OER, don’t forget it is a “living resource” and can be revisited as many times as you need.
Try these steps for a smooth revising and remixing process:
- Check the License
- This advice already appears in the Evaluating OER chapter, and it is essential: please check if the material that you want to edit has an open license. If you are unsure whether the material is openly licensed, please feel free to contact the NYU Libraries Scholarly Communications Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Identify Format
- To assess what types of changes are possible or easily made, it's important to verify the format of the material you will work on. Textbook files are commonly found in PDF, EPUB, MOBI, or HTML.
- Assess Editability
- After confirming the file format, you can assess the editability of that material. Each format requires different software to be edited. Please take a look at the table below for more information.
- If you want to add images (photos, drawings, maps, diagrams, charts, etc.), consider their suitability (resolution, size) and try to use the original files as they can be easily edited. By original files we mean the documents you worked with in the first instance, whether they were made in Word or Google Docs, or in video or image editing programs.
- Mathematical or scientific notation, non-roman alphabets, or diacritic language characters will probably require specific software, like TeXnicCenter (Windows), SageMath (open source), ShareLaTeX (online), or Overleaf (online). If you plan to use non-Latin characters and characters with diacritical marks, consider setting the character encoding for your file to a Unicode encoding, such as UTF-8.
- Determine Access
- Choose the format in which you will share your revised and/or remixed text. As you already know, some are more difficult to edit and read, so please always remember to thoughtfully consider the members of your community and which format(s) will be more accessible for them.
- Redistribute Your New Textbook
- Give attribution (learn how to do it in Creative Common’s How to give attribution) and share your textbook!
|File Type||How Do I Read It?||How Editable?||Recommendation||Software/Expertise|
|Adobe Reader.||Minor changes are effortless. Easy to move sections and pages. Impossible to repaginate or make significant changes.||Make only minor changes, obtain native files, use Microsoft Word, or copy/paste into another format.||Moving pages around requires Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.|
|Markdown (.MD)||Any internet browser.||Highly editable. Requires access to and comfort with Manifold platform.||Obtain .MD file. Edit in Markdown softwares. It is possible to work with Markdown coding and HTML.||The NYU Community has access to Manifold. Please contact us if you need any assistance.|
|HTML||Any internet browser.||Highly editable. Requires comfort with software tools and markup language.||Requires HTML expertise and/or software.||Requires coding expertise or website design software.|
|EPUB||eBook readers (except Kindle), iPhone and Android apps, Firefox and Chrome add-ons, Google Playbooks.||Highly editable. Requires comfort with software tools.||Edit as EPUB.||Calibre (no cost), Sigil (no charge). XML-based format.|
|MOBI (.AZW3)||Kindle eBook.||Requires conversion to another format. Highly editable. Requires comfort with software. (See EPUB).||Convert into EPUB to edit.||See EPUB.|
Why is revising/remixing important?
Revising and remixing OERs is an opportunity to expand the scope of an instructor’s teachings. It can be used to bring knowledge from other countries and adapt it for your students. As the article Examples of OER in Health Remixes from the African Health OER Network points out, some professors in Ethiopia revised OERs from the University of Ghana and the University of Michigan to create a learning module on Caesarean section to train Obstetrics and Gynecology students. As some procedures are different in Ghana, the professors addressed the similarities and complemented the materials pointing at the differences.
Revising and remixing also helps to keep course materials updated. NYU professor Daniel Shiffman has created over 200 open-access videos that offer students around the world guidance on coding topics (see his textbook The Nature of Code). He found that the traditional publishing process prevented quick and easy updating, as well as multi-format presentation. Thus, OER materials have let him work with a more flexible textbook.
The fact that OERs can be freely revised and remixed allows the professor to involve the students in the process of creating knowledge. Breaking up a textbook in order to revise and remix it could engage the students in doing deep research in a topic and in questioning ways of learning about their own field of study. Commonly, this way of teaching is called Open Pedagogy.