An Overview of OER

3 Evaluating OER

In this chapter, you will learn how to evaluate OER for your use.[1] Some of the evaluation criteria listed below apply to all instructional materials, and others (such as Adaptability and Modularity) are specific to OER.

Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability

First, ask if the material you are considering can be read and understood by your students.

  • Is the content, including any instructions and exercises, clear and comprehensible to the students you teach?
  • Is the content consistent in its language and formatting (e.g., key terms consistently appear in boldface when they are introduced)?
  • Is the content well organized in terms of sequencing and flow?

Content and Technical Accuracy

The accuracy of the content you use is also a major component of its usability in the classroom. Additionally, be sure to check for technical errors such as broken links or typos. In most cases, content accuracy will not be an issue, but some older resources may require updates.

  • Is the content accurate based on your expertise?
  • Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  • Is the interface navigable for students?

Adaptability and Modularity

Because of their open licenses, OER permit a wider range of (re)use than most traditional educational content; therefore, it is important to keep in mind how your chosen OER can be adapted. Modularity, or the ability to be broken up into smaller pieces easily, is one feature of an OER that should be preferred when possible. When creating OER, using clear chapter and unit breaks can help other instructors adopting or adapting your resource for their own courses.

  • 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 be used or rearranged out of their original order?
  • Is the content available under a license which allows for modifications?

Appropriateness and Fit

Although there may be OER available in your field, some resources may require minor edits or additions. Keep in mind that the open licenses of OER mean that they can be edited or even combined with other resources. This can be particularly useful if you would like to adopt a chapter from one OER for the first unit of your course but prefer other resources for other units.

  • Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for your students?
  • How does the content align with your course learning objectives?
  • Is the content level appropriate for use in your course?


No matter what resources you plan to adopt, accessibility should always be a part of your assessment process. Many publisher-provided homework products, for example, are not accessible to students and can cause unexpected issues. Similarly, some OER may not be optimized for students with visual or auditory impairments.

  • Is the content accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications?
  • For online resources, does each image have alt text that can be read? Do videos have accurate closed-captioning?
  • Are students able to access the materials in a quick, nonrestrictive manner?

If you would like a personal copy of these criteria, visit or download them through the Evaluating OER Checklist in Google Docs.

For more information on making your OER accessible, see the chapter Accessibility in this guide.

  1. This chapter is based on the chapter Evaluating OER in The OER Starter Kit by Abbey Elder, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Additionally, the evaluation criteria were adapted from criteria from Affordable Learning Georgia and were used with permission from the creator. The chapter has been revised in accord with the style, structure, and audience of this guide.


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CUNY Pressbooks Guide Copyright © 2022 by Andrew McKinney; Rachael Nevins; and Elizabeth Arestyl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.