Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. 

Source: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Important Features
  1. OER can either be in the public domain, or under a more lax intellectual property license.
  2. OER can be revised, remixed, added upon, translated, and then shared again to meet different needs.
  3. OER can take many forms, such as: syllabi, lesson plans, videos, software, tests, teaching techniques, group activities, writing prompts, textbooks, learning modules, experiments, simulations, and course designs. There are no platform restraints.

Source: The Review Project

Why Use OER?

There are many reasons instructors might want to use OER: 

Free and Legal to Use, Improve and Share

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been created
  • Tailor educational resources to the specific content for your course
  • Expand opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and learning by allowing you to integrate and revise multiple educational resources
  • Redefine "traditional" learning by incorporating multi-media or scenario-based education
  • Go beyond the confines of "teaching to the book"

Network and Collaborate with Peers 

  • Access educational resources that have already been "peer reviewed" by other experts in your field
  • Review or annotation features and texts so other instructors have more in-depth knowledge of the resource and its quality quickly
  • Make learning and teaching a team project using collaborative platforms

Lower Educational Cost and Improve Access to Information

  • Reduce the cost of course materials, particularly textbooks so that all students have access and aren't as financially burdened
  • Find and access information instantly on virtually any topic, on various devices.
  • Give learners the option of looking at course content openly before enrolling.
  • Reduce the load students bear, possibly increasing graduation and retention rates

Hoping to learn more? There have been multiple studies on faculty implementations, misunderstandings, acceptance of, and evaluation of OER. The Review Project has curated a number of empirical studies published in scholarly journals on the topic. Their general conclusion is: 

Once adopted, OER provide the permissions necessary for faculty to engage in a wide range of pedagogical innovations. In each of the studies reported above, OER were used in manner very similar to the traditional textbooks they replaced. We look forward to reviewing empirical articles describing the learning impacts of open pedagogies.
OER Websites and Search Tips

Tips for Searching OER:

  1. Use the advanced searching feature if there is one. This will save you some time and limit your search.
  2. Start with broad terms (ex. disease instead of cancer) and then narrow.
  3. As you narrow, think about disciplinary language. Is there something else this topic might be referred to as?
  4. If you still aren't getting good results, try to start with the browsing feature (even if it's very broad). Sometimes the term your searching isn't used but you still know it would be under a broad subject like "humanities" or "writing".

Also, see below for an infograpic which visualize the process of searching for OER.
*Note: this infographic was adapted and modified from the University of Texas at Austin's original infographic. For more information, see their Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning website.

General Resources
Instructors can find OER in a variety of resources. Most OER organizations or collaborations have a database or central list of resources that faculty have added. Some databases also feature annotations or faculty feedback. Additionally, many disciplines have their own OER websites. The list below is not comprehensive but can instead be used as a starting point for faculty doing interdisciplinary work or work in any discipline. Remember that not all of the learning materials in these repositories and sources are OER for modifying but most of the content is freely available under Fair Use and/or with attribution.

Recorded Lectures & Video Tutorials Search

Open Textbooks

Modular Course Components

Complete Courses

OER and OCW Search Engines

Discipline-Specific Resources



Language Learning



Social Sciences

Nursing and Allied Health

Evaluation Process

Evaluation Process

Here are a few steps you might take in the evaluation process. If this process seems lengthy, think about the process you follow to review textbooks and other materials for your course. You can use a similar or modified evaluation process.

  1. Does this OER cover the content you'd like your students to learn in this course or module?
  2. How accessible is this content? Will it be accessible for your students, or is it too technical? Or is it robust and challenging enough for your students?
  3. How can you use the content? Verify the license that the resource is under. Can you remix or revise the OER as long as it isn't for commercial purposes? Who do you have to recognize if you use it? Will you be able to do so? For more help with this, please contact the library.
  4. Once you determine how you can use the OER, what would you like to do with it? Does only a portion of it apply to your class? Would you possibly want to combine this OER with another OER or resource? Does the library have access to articles that could act as supplemental readings? 
  5. As you collect more OER and other resources, save them in a central location. Take note of how you envision using them. Align these resources with the learning objectives and weekly lessons on your syllabus in order to identify gaps. 
Evaluation Rubrics, Checklist and Tool

ote: Some of these evaluation tools align with the Common Core, which might not be important for classes in academia. Please investigate them to see if they fit your needs.


Massoud AlShareef

Nizar Souda

OER Adoption Tools and Resources


Make sure to make your OER accessible to your potential audiences. There are many different ways to go about this, including offering different formats and using clear organization. Check out the BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit as a guide during this process. Look into this as early as possible during the creation or adaptation of OER because the changes are easy to implement at the beginning, but become more difficult as the project moves forward. 

OER Adoption Ressources

Below are some resources for adapting, creating, and sharing your own OER:

*note: this was reused and adapted from Kirkwood Community College Library's guide on open textbooks

Open Textbook Adoption Worksheet

Sharing Existing Learning Objects

You probably have already created potential OER and just haven't thought about them as resources you might be able to share! OER take the shape of different resources, including (but not limited to):

  • Syllabi and courses created (for example, if you created a class on WWI Literature, it might be useful for others to see your assigned readings and activities) 
  • Videos/tutorials on a specific topic
  • Worksheets
  • Group activities
  • Writing prompts
  • Tests, quizzes, and other assessments
  • Lesson plans
  • Research assignments and activities

If you'd like to share one of your learning objects as an OER, think about the following:

  1. Decide where they might go (general or disciplinary repository)
  2. Find out what the requirements are for them to go there. Do they need to be in a specific format? What metadata is required?
  3. Rank/evaluate your OER. What level is it intended for? What’s the language use (very technical or introductory)? Can you add instructions/tips on how you used it?
  4. Craft metadata for the object. What terms can you use to make your OER more discoverable?
  5. Licensing! Look at the CC website to decide what’s right for you. What are your intentions for the object?
  6. If you are remixing several OER which were published under different licences, use the Creative Commons License Compatibility Chart to help you determine whether there will be compatibility issues.
  7. Refer to CC attribution guide and write apporpriate citations for resources you used. The suggested citation format is: [Title] by [Author], used under [CC BY Licence]

Massoud AlShareef

Nizar Souda

Appeal to Administration

Appeal to Administration

Below are the most important resources you can use when helping administrators understand the value of OER:
Getting Support Checklist

Getting Support Checklist

Possible Stakeholders to Discuss OER with:

  • Department Head: What will support within the department be?
  • Dean: Will there be administrative support? Can the school collaborate with other schools?
  • Bookstore How should they be notified? How will this affect them? Could they play a role in printing or other distribution? Could students order OER directly from them? 
  • Director of College LMS/ educational technology: What are the considerations in loading and accessing content?
  • ADA expert: How will these materials be accessible?

Massoud AlShareef

Nizar Souda

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses have been sprinkled throughout this guide. There are a few different kinds of CC licenses, but it is extremely important to know the differences between them when working with OER that you did not create. It is also important to know the differences so that you can slap the appropriate license onto your own work so that people know how to use it correctly. Creative Commons explains it best, so go ahead and check out their website on the licenses and see some examples



The following organizations are dedicating to supporting OER and facilitating their use in academia. If you'd like to further support open learning, please visit their websites. Some resources also go beyond this guide to give more extensive information on OER.

Information Sheets

Traditional Textbooks vs. OER: What's the same and What's different   

  Traditional Textbook Open Textbook Open Educational Resource (OER)

What is its purpose?

Provides basic course content for student reading and reference Provides basic course content for student reading and reference Provides basic course content for student reading and reference
What does it look like? A single one-size fits all book (or e-book)

A) A single book (or e-book) adopted as-is

B) A single book (or e-book) adopted with customization by the instructor

A) An online collection of resources curated, remixed and customized by the instructor

B) The same as (A) above, in printable format for those students who prefer print

How does an instructor choose it?

A) Through evaluation of sample copy provided by the publisher, in print or online

B) Peer review by publisher often assumed by not shared.

A) Through evaluation of free online copy. In some cases a print sample copy is available

B) Peer reviews often available.

A) Through searching and evaluating component resources found in OER repositories. Search is based on specific learning outcomes and content needs defined by the instructor

B) Peer reviews are often available

How is it adopted by an instructor? Selection is made and approved by colleagues, department head and/or dean, depending on the policies of the college. The bookstore is also included and notified of the changes to text selection Selection is made and approved by colleagues, department head and/or dean, depending on the policies of the college. The bookstore is also included and notified of the changes to text selection Selection is made and approved by colleagues, department head and/or dean, depending on the policies of the college. The bookstore is also included and notified of the changes to text selection
How do students use it?

A) Students bring the text (or e-book equivalent) to class and back as needed

B) Students may choose to read and annotate in print or with a mobile device

A) Students bring the text (or e-book equivalent) to class and back as needed

B) Students may choose to read and annotate in print or with a mobile device

C) Customization ensures that the book is only as big as it needs to be

A) Students print those portions that are needed for the class

B) Students may choose to read and annotate in print or with a mobile device

C) Customization ensures that the resources shared are relevant to the course

How much do students pay? The average cost of a college textbook is around $175 per course

A) Free for online access

B) Around $30-$60 for printed and bound copies, or cost of printing PDF

A) Free for online access

B) Cost of printing PDF

Note: This comparison chart was adapted from the guide on open textbooks by Kate Hess from Kirkwood Community College Library

Copyright Considerations

Massoud AlShareef

Nizar Souda