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Open Educational Resources (OER): Open textbooks and other learning materials

This guide offers ideas and resources for faculty interested in locating, adapting, or creating fully open learning materials as well as freely accessible and lower-cost textbooks and learning resources.

What is an OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are no cost materials that support teaching, learning, and research. These include textbooks, interactive learning materials, quizzes, images, media, software, lab manuals, games, online lectures, and more.

But OER is not just free stuff.  The OER gold standard is material that’s free and  allows users the freedom to do the 5 R’s of Open: Retain, Reuse, Redistribute, Revise, and Remix. Items licensed to allow all of the 5 R’s allow maximum educational flexibility.

See the Open Education Group publications page for research and writings on OER effectiveness and related issues.  

One Search Options: OASIS, MOM, and ISBN

One search options search multiple OER repositories at once.  They're handy, but may have content and search limitations, including fewer deep filtering options of found on other sites.   Not successful here? Try one of the larger repositories listed in the column to the right.  

oasis logo
Advanced Search Simultaneously searches more than 50 open material sites and over 155,000 resources. Developed by Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo.
Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)
Advanced Search Developed by George Mason University, this metafinder simultaneously searches 18 OER sites and primary source repositories.

Enter the ISBN of a book below to find related FREE eTextbooks. You may need to try a few, such as ISBN's associated with paperback, hardback, etc.

Find OER on the Web: Strategies

In addition to the major open educational resource collections highlighted in the middle column, locate OER's by using a search engine like Google or Bing.  Just note that pinpointing vetted resources is more random in this method. 

Locating OER on the Web:

  • Combine a word or phrase describing your subject with one of these terms (or others you find)

open textbooks | education resources | simulation | open resources | lessons or lesson plans | courseware | introduction[topic word] | creative commons | games
Example: engineering open textbooks

  • Consider doing a search that will only retrieve educational or government sites by combining subject terms with or  Example: biology education resources
  • Do a Google Advanced Search and limit Usage Rights to locate open textbooks.

Limit the Rights to "free to use, share, or modify, even commercially"

  • Look for options to limit Usage Rights on other websites, as well, such as YouTube

OER Support: Education, Activism, Community

Find OER in Repositories

Large OER repositories can be a great place to start your OER discovery.  The first four below are the largest.   The OER by Disciplines guide may reveal unique options.

  • Free  online books. This link leads to a related Auraria Library guide identifying web collections featuring free ebooks, such as Internet Archive and HathiBooks. Not all are appropriate as classroom learning support materials.

Find Images

Simulations and Experiments

Value-Added Textbook Ancillaries

A major OER concern is the frequent lack of such supplementary materials as assessments, or support tools that assist with such activities as grading. Options to address these concerns include:

Free add-ons.  Many of the OER repositories listed on this page will note if supplementary support materials have been added, and may also include the option to create and add your own for use by all.

Fee-based add-ons.  Some OER suppliers, such as OpenStax, have partnerships, prominently offered, with companies and publishers that supply support tools and resources at reasonable costs.

Open Access? Open Educational Resource?

What's the difference between Open Access (OA) and Open Educational Resources?

  • Open Educational Resources refer to materials specifically created to support teaching and learning with open licensing.  
  • Open Access refers to scholarly materials that are freely available to users and refers to specific OA scholarly publishing models that vary from the traditional journal/scholar model.

Wait.  Sounds like there's cross-over in the two definitions.

  • Yes.  But knowing there is some difference should hopefully alleviate confusion when reading about one or the other!

Below are some large OA journal repositories.  

An Open Access overview: