Search and Find OER

Modules 1-3 provided a solid introduction to various aspects of open educational resources such as the benefits to using Open Educational Resources (OER), the 5R Framework, and open licensing. This module will outline some approaches to searching for and finding OER.

OER vs. Library Materials

OER refer to educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share. In its simplest form, the term open educational resources describes any educational resource (including curriculum maps, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, multimedia applications, podcasts, and any other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that is openly available for use by educators and students, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or license fees.

Materials that are under full copyright, or which are not accompanied by a specific license allowing anyone to copy, adapt and share them, are not open educational resources. An example of this would be resources only available through institutional library subscriptions such as ebooks, online articles, and streaming media. Linking to library materials in your LMS course site is not the same thing as using OER content. However, you can use these materials within fair use and institutional licensing provisions.

What are you looking for?

A good first step in searching for OER is to identify the type and format of the resources needed. For example, a video lecture about Microeconomics? A Psychology textbook? Having a clear idea simplifies the search. Use an OER Search Strategy Template or ask yourself some of the following questions.

  • What type of OER are you looking for? A textbook? A video? A set of lesson plans?

  • Identify Course Objectives, Topics, & Outcomes the OER will need to cover.

  • List what you like (or love) about your current course materials.

  • List what you don’t like about your current course material.

  • List what you would be willing to realign or let go of to use an OER textbook.

  • Think about the effectiveness of your current textbooks and course materials.

  • Rank your top 5 elements (Are they current? Accurate? Cover course outcomes? Professionalism?)

Where do you look for OER?

There is an abundance of openly licensed resources out there; it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to find useful and relevant resources.

Searching OER Repositories

OER repositories are curated collections organized into various categories including discipline, format, and open license. Many repositories have either peer reviews or a rating scale where users have shared their perception or experience with the resource. Start by trying these well-known and user-friendly repositories:

  • OER Commons - the go-to repository if you are looking for all types of resources from lesson plans to full courses. Due to the amount of material in OER Commons, there are many options for limiting and filtering your searches such as by discipline, material type of OER, format, education level and more.

  • MERLOT - repository of all types of online learning and support materials - many of which are peer reviewed, as well as content creation tools and hosting, and access to academic discipline and academic support communities.

  • SkillsCommons - a comprehensive collection of workforce-related OER created by over 700 community colleges across the US. Created by the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. SkillsCommons contains free and open learning materials and program support materials for job-driven workforce development.

  • Mason OER Metafinder (MOM) This utility from George Mason University Libraries searches 16 OER repositories at once. You can add or remove sources to modify your search targets.

  • OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search) is a search tool developed at SUNY Geneseo that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. This tool will simultaneously search 44 different open content sources.

Searching for Open Textbooks

If you are looking for an open textbook to replace your current, commercial textbook, start by visiting the two resources listed below.

  • Open Textbook Library - supported by the Open Education Network at the University of Minnesota, available resources include mainly college-level open textbooks. The repository includes faculty peer reviews, licensing information, a summary of content, format availability, and direct links to resources. It can be searched by keyword or by browsing discipline areas.

  • OpenStax - a non-profit out of Rice University, OpenStax offers peer-reviewed open textbooks in a variety of subject areas. Their focus is on high enrollment lower-level undergraduate textbooks. Student and instructor resources are available along with multiple digital formats for download. Students also can purchase print copies typically for less than $65 if they prefer a print version. Work with your institution's bookstore to arrange for print copies for purchase on campus.

OER Repositories at a Glance

This spreadsheet offers a comparison of popular OER repositories and textbook libraries.

1. OER Repositories at a Glance