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Make your OER Textbooks more engaging with H5Ps

Recent work with college instructors to enhance their online course Open Educational Resource, or OER, textbooks has me wondering why this is not a more common practice. OERs are an efficient and inexpensive way to provide course content to students. OER texts offer benefits that are not typically possible with purchased online textbooks. Adding H5P activities into OER texts opens a seemingly unlimited potential for media, interactivity and learner engagement for the learners. Our team has been receiving positive comments and requests to see more H5P elements in college materials as some students feel it reduces monotony of online learning.

The basics of integrating H5Ps into OERs are outlined in this post.  Please be aware that some OER textbooks may not yet exist that would match your courses, but you may consider converting your materials into an OER may benefit you, your students and your peers in the future.

OER Texts

An Open Educational Resource online textbook is a resource that instructors can create or in most cases, can be adopted, enhanced and used by instructors without cost for their instructional purposes. OER textbooks are resources that are licensed as open-copyright. An example of open-copyright is the Creative Commons movement which is endeavoring to share educational resources globally. There are many sources of OER texts.  I used Pressbooks, although there may be a more a suitable resource for your requirements or your geographical region.


I used the Pressbooks authoring platform as a tool to customize OER textbooks. Pressbooks can be leveraged by educational institutions and instructors to support blended and online learning to create and remix educational material. Pressbooks is not a free service, but the one-time fee is very reasonable. The text layout and design are the responsibility of the author. Following the provided templates and widgets make creation and manipulation intuitive.


HTML 5 Packager, better known as H5P, is a free tool that allows you to create custom learning objects. Pressbooks includes an H5P editor. Once in the editor, anyone familiar with H5P would feel at home. The authoring experience is the same. The only real difference is a short text code that is generated to link to the H5P learning object. This code is then pasted into the OER textbook editor. Students will see the H5P learning object at the position of the H5P text code. H5P offers dozens of possible enhancements to an OER textbook. In the section below H5P enhancements, I list a few of the H5P features I used in a recent OER textbook.  

H5P Enhancements

Interactive video
Video provides learners with a delivery mode beyond text and images. Contemporary students often prefer to learn though rich media such as video. H5P interactive video ensures that learners demonstrate comprehension the video content through interactive prompts, questions and activities. Instructors can also and to embed relevant hyperlinks to additional resources during video playback.

Check-in questions
Interspersed throughout an OER textbook, quick check in questions can be placed to ensure learners have comprehended the previous section or concept. Some of the question types possible are: true or false, multiple choice, drag-the-words, fill-in-the-blanks and mark-the-words. These check-in questions can display instant feedback with comments and the possibility of a repeat attempt.

Chapter/Unit quizzes
The H5P tool, question set, allows teachers to create short quizzes. These are ideal for unit or chapter check-ins for comprehension. Multiple choice, fill-in-the blanks, drag-the-words, mark-the-words and drag and drop are some of the question types are supported.

H5P interactive timelines can be included in an OER textbook to display information in a chronological sequence so that they can better understand trends, change, recurring events, cause and effect, and important significant events of significance. Interactive timelines allow students to manipulate the timeline to locate details important to their learning.

Interactive H5P flashcards add a set of self assessing images paired with questions and answers flashcards. These are suitable for introducing new vocabulary or technical terminology, review of concepts, or informal formative assessments in OERs.

There are more H5P features available to enhance an online OER. To see the possibilities, go to the H5P Examples and Downloads site at https://h5p.org/content-types-and-applications.


Why would a teacher spend valuable preparation time searching for, remixing and customizing an OER? Several reasons are apparent after working with OER textbooks. They are

  • industry standard materials
  • repurposable through additions and deletions (words, sentences, paragraphs, units, chapters, media, interactive features, presentations)
  • reusable
  • accessible online
  • free
  • shareable through link distribution with peers or a global community
  • intuitive (teacher, developer, student friendly)
  • personal (integrate an institution or teacher’s personality into the resource)

Final thoughts

If you are a college or university educator, consider searching OER repositories to potentially locate an online OER textbook for your course(s). The benefits of acquiring, altering and sharing the textbook will benefit your students, possibly your peers and the quality of your courses.


Pressbooks, https://pressbooks.com
OER Commons Explained, https://www.oercommons.org
OER Commons, Open texts, https://www.oercommons.org/hubs/open-textbooks
Open Ed Explained, BC Campus OpenEd, https://open.bccampus.ca
BC Campus Open Texts, https://open.bccampus.ca/use-open-textbooks

John Allan

John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

One thought on “Make your OER Textbooks more engaging with H5Ps

  • Great post John !
    OER is such a fascinating area.
    I wonder if teachers in general just don’t know where to go to find appropriate content ?
    Something else that oI wonder, is how quickly “content” becomes out of date, and faced with such content teachers might just say to themselves “It’s quicker for me to create my own resources” ?


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