Designing Open Educational Resources (OER) Using a Paid Platform

Chapter image for Designing Open Educational Resources (OER) Using a Paid Platform.
Authored by

Lynn Truong, Helen Lee, Krista Lambert

The development/design of Open Educational Resources (OER) requires an intensive and broad array of support, training, and preparation. In this perspective, we will take a closer look at why we decided on a hybrid approach – design an OER course on a paid web-authoring application in a world of freely licensed materials.

The Problematic Reality

While there are many champions and support for open initiatives, based on our preliminary search in the world of Open, we have yet to encounter sufficient critical review around the landscape of Open Software Tools as defined in Peneder and Walcher (2020). If we apply Clinton’s (2019) COUP framework towards evaluating Open Software Tools, then the same barriers apply given most institutional learning management systems (LMS) and supported platforms are not cost-free and require a paid subscription. In many cases, Open Software Tools may be less accessible due to a lack of knowledge from staff or faculty, and the quality of the artifacts produced run the risk of being perceived as inferior.  

A Hybrid Approach  

The Justice Institute of British Columbia was tasked by BCcampus to produce an open course and make it available across all provincial public post secondaries (BCcampus, 2021). In order to maximize the adaptation of the final course for other partners, our approach was to apply Accessibility Design principles (Coolidge et al., 2018) and develop the project on a paid platform (i.e. Articulate Rise).  

We recognize that LMSs are an integral part of all public post-secondary institutions’ technical infrastructure for tracking and grading. Therefore, the decision to adopt this course on a paid platform includes the following:  

  • Ensuring the final product could be easily adapted in existing LMSs should there be tracking requirements 
  • Empowering continuous improvement of instructional material to maintain the quality of the course beyond adoption (Wiley et al., 2021) 
  • Reducing the time, money, and resources it takes to develop and design a responsive and engaging course in a short timeframe 

By working in a paid platform like Articulate Rise which prioritizes continuous improvement for accessibility design (Articulate 360, 2022), we can ensure the aesthetic quality of the final product, and focus our efforts on applying Accessibility Design principles to develop engaging, interactive courses that are responsive on any device and have a good selection of tools to enhance the learning experience such as knowledge checks, branching scenarios, and interactive graphics. 

Key Considerations 

Some other key considerations while developing an OER course on a paid platform are:

It is important that all the above are considered for course design and development. Learning design and accessibility are integral to one another, and it is important that we are designing our learning activities and developing multimedia components that consider the diverse learning needs of our learners.  

For example, for learners with visual or hearing impairments, the modality in which the learning activity is designed may have a significant impact on their learning.  

To understand more about designing courses that are accessible, visit for more information. 

Adoption and Adaptation Challenges  

Finally, let’s examine the unique challenges in distributing this open resource course to multiple institutions with varying levels of technical infrastructure, resources, and support systems. 

High disparity in resources & levels of support across institutions
Some institutions and their teaching & learning centers have more technical support while others have minimal support. It is important to prioritize these factors in order to ensure a successful implementation for smaller institutions. The unavailability of resources is a key problem and challenge in adopting and adapting OER (Farrow, 2016).  Researchers at Athabasca University found that successful OER implementation includes training and institutional support which positively influenced OER adoption (McKerlich et al., 2013).  

Compatibility to fit existing infrastructure
Institutions that adopt the OER need to do a comprehensive check to see if they have the right technology and support to implement the course in the first place. This is similar to planning for institutional readiness to offer online courses and programs. Pounds and Bostock’s (2019) research also agrees with our findings that technological limitation, institutional support, and technological infrastructure were common barriers to adopting and adapting OER in higher education. 

Hard cost when using a paid platform
Articulate Rise is a proprietary paid e-authoring tool. Even though it allows users to easily create, adapt, and modify the content, it comes with its own hard cost to license the software.  

The Solutions 

With the intent to disseminate this OER to the masses, we offered multiple options to adapt the training along with detailed implementation guides and resources to support end-users. 

Multiple ways to adapt the resource
We addressed multiple adaptation challenges by offering our final product in two main formats: 1) Pre-packaged Articulate Rise Training into a SCORM file or 2) Open Source files. In either case, institutions are free to adapt and adopt the training to fit the specific needs of their target audience.  

Software licensing grant
BCcampus supported post-secondary institutions to adopt this course by offering grants that they can apply for and receive funding to purchase a subscription to Articulate Rise for a year. This supports and reduces financial barriers for post-secondary institutions to adopt a proprietary e-authoring platform while reducing the cost to conduct the training. 

– Implementation guide
We developed a detailed implementation guide in Pressbooks to support users to adopt and adapt the training in the format most suitable for their existing LMS infrastructure.  

Collaborative Efforts
At the institutional level, allow for multiple units to work collaboratively to assist faculty and students such as student services, library, or IT department. Consider doing a review of existing resources to ensure that you are not duplicating efforts and leverage existing expertise that are available (Zhadko & Ko, 2019).  

Furthermore, institutions that adopt this training material can continue to update the original content, and multimedia, modify, adapt it to suit their needs, and export the course to link to their own learning management system if needed. It is important that we put systems and structures in place to support institutions, faculty, and students who use OER to continually support OER initiatives.


Although OER content is free, successful OER initiatives are not without other costs. Peneder and Walcher (2020) highlighted the risks around funding OER projects with continued public funding and grants.  

As learning and teaching professionals, we need to consider what existing support services are in place to ensure that the OER course and materials that we develop become successful for the students, faculty, and the institution that adopts and adapts it.  

In the future, we hope that there would be more synergy between LMS and Open Software Tools when developing OERs. We wish in the future Open Software Tools would be enhanced to be more responsive, adaptable and produce products with consistent aesthetic quality and remain affordable or free to all users. 

Reflective Questions

  • Do you think it is better to develop OER on paid platforms or free platforms? Why or why not? 
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of adopting a paid platform? Make lists. 
  • What are some other learning design solutions and recommendations? 

Project Samples


Using the following framework perspectives to guide your thinking, consider how you might consider your platform’s choice in the design of a course or activity. The framework has four elements that may help you think about design from different perspectives (see each element description when you click on the buttons at the bottom of the page):  


Articulate 360. (2022). Rise 360: Responsive course authoring. Articulate 360.  

Articulate 360. (2022). Rise 360: Our accessibility journey. Articulate 360.  

BCcampus (2021). About the safer campuses for everyone training. BCcampus.

Clinton, V. (2019) Cost, outcomes, use and perceptions of open educational resources in psychology: A narrative review of the literature. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 4-20.  

Coolidge, A., Doner, S., Robertson, T., & Gray, J. (2018).  Accessibility toolkit – 2nd edition. BCcampus.  

Farrow, R. (2016). A framework for the ethics of open education. Open Praxis, 8(2), 93-109.  

McKerlich R., Ives C., & McGreal R. (2013). Measuring use and creation of open educational resources in higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(4), 90–103. 

Peneder, M., & Walcher, F. (2020) Open education resources: Current limitations and challenges and its usage in developing countries. Free and Open Technologies.  

Pounds, A., & Bostock, J. (2019). Open educational resources (OER) in higher education courses in aquaculture and fisheries: opportunities, barriers, and future perspectives. Aquaculture International, 27695–710.

Wiley, D., Bodily, R., &  Strader, R. (2021). Continuous improvement of instructional materials. In Y. Arts, H. Call, M. Cavan, T. P. Holmes, J. Rogers, S. H. Tuiloma, L. (Eds.). An introduction to open education.

Zhadko, O., and & Ko, S. (2019). Best practices in designing courses with open educational resources. Routledge.

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