Open Educational Resources for Faculty

OER tips, supplementary readings, rubrics for evaluation, CTL, how to location, listing of OERs and Learning Portal OER toolkit

Defining OER

Definition of OER:

An OER, according to The Learning Portal (2020), refers to any teaching and learning materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license such as a Creative Commons License which allows no-cost access, use, adaption and redistribution with no limit or limited access.

What Makes a Resource Open?

David Wiley’s 5 R’s of open education provides a good summary of how to answer this question:

  1. Retain – You are welcome to download and keep the materials whether you are an author, an instructor, or a student.
  2. Reuse – You are free to use materials in a wide variety of ways without expressly asking permission of the copyright holder.
  3. Revise – You can adapt, alter, or modify the content to suit specific purposes, such as educators who make the material more relevant to their students. You can also make the resource available in a number of different formats.
  4. Remix – You can pull together a number of different resources to create something new.
  5. Redistribute – You are free to share with others, so they can reuse, remix, improve upon, correct, or review the work.


From: The Learning Portal. (2020). About open educational resources. Retrieved from

From: Brock University. (2020). What makes a resource open? Retrieved from

This video defines what open educational resources (OER) are, provides reasons why they should be used in courses and explains what Creative Commons' Licenses are. One good reason to use OER is that there are often high costs associated with textbooks which has an impact on whether students can purchase them for academic programs.  If freely available OER are successfully used, they can remove the barriers and make textbooks more accessible for students when studying and preparing assignments.  It's important to note that OER can be syllabi, Powerpoint slides, quizzes, videos, textbooks and more. Lastly, OER are effective to use since they can be reused and adapted to suit curriculum.


Open Educational Resources, or OER: what are they, and why should you use them in your courses? Today, we'll answer that question. But first, we have to ask why?

There's a problem in higher education today: the problem of high textbook costs. Students today are having a rough time affording all the costs of higher education, and textbooks are a big part of that.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook costs have risen 88% over the last decade, more than three times the rate of inflation. These high costs can have a huge impact on students, causing them to drop classes and even majors. In fact, some students have reported not buying the textbook they need for a class, just because they know they can't afford it. It's not worth the cost.

So what's the answer to this problem? Well, one answer is Open Educational Resources. Open Educational Resources are educational materials like syllabi, workbooks, textbooks, and videos, that are openly licensed and freely available to use and reuse online.

The open licenses used for OER give users more freedom to work with the resources than copyright law usually allows. The most common open licenses for OER are Creative Common Licenses. These customizable licenses show users what they are allowed to do with your resource. Can they edit, it, sell an adapted version of it, combine it with other materials? These licenses make the answers clear.

Now you might wonder, do OER really help students? Well, having freely available resources removes the roadblock that high textbook costs place on education, and makes the material more accessible for everyone. And classes that use OER aren't too different from traditional classes either. Studies have shown that classes using Open Educational Resources have similar prep times, same or better test scores, and lower drop rates than classes using traditional textbooks.

It just makes sense. If students aren't scared and worried about affording their course materials, they're able to put the time and effort into their classes that they need to succeed.

Now let's look at how you can use these resources. You have four options when you want to use an Open Educational Resources in your class: you can adopt it as-is, adapt it to fit your class better or to update the material, create something new to share with educators around the world, or combine multiple resources into one that really matches the needs of your class.

You can find OER on various online repositories, but one I really recommend is the Open Textbook Library. Here, you can find most of the open textbooks available online, as well as reviews from faculty that have used them in their classes. It's important to remember that you don't have to go into this blind. There is support out there.

Other repositories, like OpenStax, have highly rated materials for introductory or General Education courses, like Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry. And if your students prefer print books, OpenStax offers those too. If you want to find supplementary materials or other resources you can use instead of a textbook in your course, sites like OER Commons provide a wealth of resources you can use and easy to use software for creating your won OER as well.

There are a lot of options out there, so go out and explore. Find OER in your subject area, read reviews, and figure out how you want to use Open Educational Resources in your classroom. If you get stuck contact us, your librarians. We can always help in some way.

That brings us to our final point: library support. On average, Librarians are going to be the most knowledgeable people on your college campus about Open Educational Resources, and the most excited to talk about it. If your subject librarian doesn't know much about them, ask a scholarly communication librarian. Odds are, there is someone in the library who can answer your questions.

Finding OER

There are many ways to find OER including open textbooks, courses, multimedia resources, syllabi, quizzes and more. They can be found by searching Google, but it is often more time efficient to find them through specific and well known OER repositories. Below are examples and recommendations of these repositories.  If you have any questions about locating OER using repositories, don't hesitate to contact Library Commons staff.

Evaluating OER

Not all OER are created equal; therefore, it's very important to evaluate them using criteria such as:

  • Content quality, comprehensiveness and accuracy
  • Format type
  • Alignment with learning objectives & outcomes
  • Currency
  • Authority of subject area
  • Quality of technological interactivity
  • Cultural relevance
  • Quality of instructional exercise
  • Assurance of accessibility standards

See the links below for more more detailed rubrics and accessibility guidelines on how to effectively evaluate OER.

From: The Learning Portal. (2020). Evaluating oer. Retrieved from

Resources for OER

These resources and key organizations such as UNESCO, BCcampus, eCampusontario and the Creative Commons, provide great information about all aspects of OER.  The toolkits and guides are particulary useful for practical and theoretical guidance on how to curate, create, evaluate and adapt OER.

The Relevance of OER

This video makes the important point the world and communication are evolving rapidly and that one new form of effective communication is open educational resources (OER).  OER are well defined as sustainable, relevant and freely available educational resources in the formats of course materials, textbooks, syllabi, videos and more.  OER help educators provide and keep up with rapidly evolving knowledge in the education landscape.


There is no question that our world is evolving. Our tools, our global community and above all, the way that we communicate. It can be argued that the highest form of communication is education, the passing of knowledge through time. New forms of communication are illuminating new opportunity for educators and students alike. This opportunity is why open education resources matter.

Open education resources are teaching, learning and research tools that reside in the public domain. They are completely free for use and repurposing. Let's face it, ideas and knowledge are spreading faster than traditional forms of learning can keep up with. This raises problems like relevance of material and cost-effectiveness for schools. Wouldn't it be revolutionary to have a sustainable form of education that is relevant, constantly updating and completely free.

The revolution is here. Users of open educational resources have absolutely free access to full courses, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, software and other priceless tools. In addition, users have complete permission to revise, reuse, remix, and redistribute all open educational resources.

Imagine the classroom of the future. Biology students in Haiti can wirelessly study tidal patterns of the northern Atlantic Ocean. History students in California can take a Street View tour of historic Gettysburg. Textbooks can wirelessly update with the most recent information free of charge. These aren't educational pipe dreams or fluffy notions. These are very real tools that need to be shared and implemented everywhere.

Experience education the way it is intended with relevance and community. Experience the revolution of open educational resources.

Our License for OER

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