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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OER) are “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” according to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The term “open content” describes any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Quality OER has been shown to improve learning and instruction in education by helping students achieve their learning goals by providing students with open access to quality course materials and resources.

TED Talk: Daphne Koller explains the value of using open resources.

Financial Savings:  The cost of textbooks can be a financial burden on students and textbooks may not be used in a course even though it is a required textbook. A Florida survey reported that 66% of students did not purchase a required textbook because of the cost which resulted in 37% earned a poor or 19.8% failing the course.

Course Content Access:  OER allows students to have free access to their course materials at the beginning of their courses which can save students money while allowing them access to the materials after the course ending date. SPARC reports that in the last five years (2013 – 2018), free open educational resources have saved students at least $1 billion dollars within the United States and Canada.

Student Success: Open Education Group research has indicated that students generally achieve the same or higher learning outcomes when OER is used as compared to traditional textbooks. OER will impact student enrollment, retention and completion in their courses.

Current Information:  OER provides students with up-to-date information to help them have a better education and effective teaching by instructors. By increasing access to education, OER creates a platform for more effective teaching and learning.

Academic Freedom:  OER helps faculty by providing them with customizable materials or textbook information to strengthen their instructional course designs. Academic freedom can allow faculty to control the quality of content displayed in their class by presenting information in multiple formats to meet diverse student needs, supplement information when there is a deficient of information in the curriculum and provide students with continuously improved resources to enhance student learning. These open resources can provide student alumni to remain connected with these reusable resources for their future and to promote life-long learning.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of educational material that are freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse. OER can include textbooks, courses, or any corresponding instructional materials including images, videos, or documents. You can find OER by using search engines, or by browsing different types of OER repositories. In addition to reviewing the content, evaluate the license information for reuse, modifications or adaptions of the materials you plan to use.

There are several repositories or sites available online with new resources regularly added or modified. To help you begin your OER resource search, you may:

  • Refer the Education/OER Resources information provided by Creative Commons.
  • View this OER Search video by Amy Hofer, Statewide Open Education Library Services Coordinator, Open Oregon.


The Google search engine has an “Advanced Search” that helps you find OER resources according to the license type.

  1. On the Google Advanced Search, scroll to the bottom and look for the "usage rights" field.
  2. In the "usage rights" field, select the appropriate license type you need.
  3. Enter additional key words in the other fields to narrow your search results.
  4. Click on the "Advanced Search" button.
  5. The results page should show only Creative Commons resources. Make sure to verify exact license type and terms of use. 

OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks. Quality assurance is an important concern when evaluating OER in content as well as availability and accessibility. OER publishers work to ensure the quality of their resources by following peer-review guidelines and allowing faculty to review the material.

After selecting the open resources, that you plan to adapt, create, or reuse in your course, it is important that you evaluate these resources. According to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library, quality assurance in OER can be evaluated by asking:

  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. 

The Academy of Teaching Excellence has adapted an Evaluation Tool for Open Educational Resources to assist you in evaluating your educational resources. If you are looking for technical assistance, you may contact an Instructional Designer in the Academy or services available by our Harper College Librarians.

As you evaluate your work, you may also find the following Additional Resources helpful to you:


David Wiley, Open Education Week: Finding Open Educational Resources, Creative Commons Attribution license.

William Meinkey and University of Hawai’i Outreach College, UH OER Training, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 International License.

John Hillton III. (2016, February 19). Open education resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Retrieved from: .

University of Hawaii at Manoa Library (2017, January 5). Retrieved from:


Last Updated: 3/19/24