Open Educational Resources (OER) Guide

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What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

UNESCO describes OER as “any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license” (2016). OER come in many shapes and forms. For instance, they might come as a full course with lesson plans, lecture notes, readings, assignments, videos, and tests, or they might be a single module, textbook, or syllabus. Regardless of the format of your OER, accessibility and open licensing are crucial.

While there is no definitive definition of open educational resources (OER), OER Commons’ definition is widely accepted,

Open Access

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. Unlike fixed, copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared. (2015)

"Open Books Image" by Sami Kerzel is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.

Learn More at Open Oregon
Open Oregon OER FAQ
Your librarians have collaborated with others throughout the state to create this guide for faculty on all things OER!
OER Basics
OER Savings Calculator

Curious about how much you could save by switching to OER? Use the calculator above, courtesy of Ecampus Ontario.


Content for this guide was developed by Sami Kerzel and Michaela Willi Hooper

Finding OER
Below are some of the main places to find OER. An LBCC librarian can help you find the best resources to meet your learning objectives.

Top picks
  • Open Textbook Library
    A collection of openly licensed full textbooks, many of which are peer reviewed.
  • OER Commons
    A repository for open content in many different formats - whole courses, textbooks, videos, handouts, modules, and more. You can filter your search results by educational level and subject. Some of these materials have been reviewed.
  • Open Oregon Educational Resources
    Use the search box to see OER that other instructors in the state are using in similar courses to yours. A name/email on the right means you have permission to contact the instructor for more information.
  • LibreTexts
    Initially focused on the sciences, LibreTexts is rapidly expanding as they received a $5 million dollar federal grant. You can use their Remixer Tool to easily combine OER they have pulled in from other publishers.
  • SkillsCommons
    Open digital library of workforce training materials (great for CTE!).
Repositories from specific states and institutions
    The California State System hosts many free and open online materials.
  • BC Campus Open Textbooks
    In addition to textbooks authored by faculty in British Columbia, this site also provides ancillaries and alternative formats of OER from other publishers.
  • Oregon State University Open Textbooks
    Textbooks authored by OSU faculty.
    GALILEO Open Learning Materials brings together open educational resources throughout the University System of Georgia, including open textbooks and ancillary materials.
  • Portland State University OER
    PSU faculty-authored OER published by the PSU librray.
Search across many collections
  • Mason OER MetaFinder
    A federated search (when you enter a search, it looks at other sites that collectively host 30 million+ items). It pulls in a lot of public domain (usually older) resources, so it may be particularly useful for history and other humanities.
  • OASIS from SUNY Genesco
    A cross-repository OER search that breaks resources down into formats (textbooks, simulations, etc.).
Subject Specific OER Sites

The following resources are a small selection of subject specific OER repositories, search engines and materials. Instructors are responsible for reviewing materials before adopting. See the "Review" tab for rubrics and criteria for selecting and adopting OER.

Subject Website Resource Type Description
  Encyclopedia of Life Mixed EOL is an online encyclopedia which provides content freely to the public for reuse and linking.
CTE WISC-Online Mixed OER from Wisconsin's technical colleges. Extensive content in manufacturing, welding, and automation.
​Chemistry ChemCollective Mixed ChemCollective provides a collection of course materials (virtual labs, tests, etc.), under a creative commons license, created by faculty and staff at Carnegie Mellon.
  OpenChemistry Lecture Videos Videos OpenChemistry Lecture Videos provides lectures created and taught by UC Irvine instructors, which covers a wide range of topics and levels.
​Computer Science Green Tea Press Textbooks Green Tea Press books, covering a variety of computer science topics, are created under an open license which allows users to download, use and modify content freely.
Economics The Economics Network Mixed This guide put together by the University of Bristol links to numerous textbooks, lectures, etc. which cover economics topics.
  Open Data Institute Mixed The Open Data Institute provides loads of open data focusing on five main sectors: agriculture and nutrition, data infrastructure, finance, global development, and open cities.
​Geology GES DISC Mixed The NASA Goddard Earth Sciences (GES) Data and Information Services Center (DISC) provides Earth science data, information, and services to researchers and students.
​Health JHSPH Open   JSPH provides health and medical courses, including full course materials for instructors. Courses are often paired with free or affordable textbooks.
​History Smart History Mixed Smart History provides online materials for the study of art and cultural heritage. Content is created by art historians, archeologists, curators and other specialists.
​Humanities American Memory Mixed The Library of Congress' American Memory project provides free access to mixed material types which document the American experience.
  LibriVox Audiobooks LibriVox provides free, public domain audiobooks read by volunteers from around the world.
​Language Center for Open Education and Language Learning - University of Texas at Austin Course Materials Center for Open Education and Language Learning produces and links to resources for the teaching and learning of foreign languages.
  Open Culture Mixed Open Culture brings free online cultural & educational media content together in one location.
​Mathematics American Institute of Mathematics Textbooks The American Institute of Mathematics has produces a list of approved open textbook which cover all types of mathematics.
  GeoGebra Mixed According to their website, "GeoGebra is dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that brings together geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package." They use an open source software and have interactive authoring features.
  MyOpenMath Course Materials MyOpenMath provides everything an instructor may need to teaching mathematics, and can act as a central location for assignments, discussion, etc. MyOpenMath is partnered with the OpenTextBookStore and uses those online textbooks.
  Online Statistics: An Interactive Multimedia Course of Study Course Materials Online Statistics: An Interactive Multimedia Course of Study provides resources for teaching introductory statistics at the college level.
  OpenTextBookStore Textbooks The OpenTextBookStore has created a catalog of online open math textbooks. They provide a description of the book, table of contents, supplemental materials, licensing information, a review and link to the content.
  SageMath Mixed SageMath is a free open-source mathematics software system available online or for download.
Psychology Noba Textbooks Noba has textbook modules that you can compile into your own course textbook. Print books are available.
Sociology​ The Society Pages Mixed The Society Pages (TSP) is an open-access social science project which provides articles, blogs, and podcasts.
  The Sociological Cinema Videos The Sociological Cinema provides videos for sociology instructors to include in their courses.
​STEM OU Engineering Media Lab Course Materials The eCourses portal contains course material, including textbooks and interactive illustrations. Material is only available through course sites, which instructors can access after creating an account.
  PhET Interactive Simulations The PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder creates and provides free interactive math and science simulations. Simulations are available in a range of subjects at varying levels up to university.


Writing Commons Course Materials Writing Commons provides open-education materials for the instruction of writing and information literacy.
What do Open Educational Resources (OER) Look Like?

OER come in all shapes, and sizes - or rather all topics and formats. Reviewing other OER is a great way to start understanding what your OER could or should look like. Getting a general idea of what is out there will help you feel more confident about creating, developing, remixing or adopting OER for your courses. Remember, you don't need to start from scratch, and you can adopt someone else's OER.
Examples from around Oregon:

Examples from around the world:
Reviewing OER

When choosing materials for your course, quality and relevance are essential. The rubrics below may help you evaluate the OER that you find to choose the highest quality and most relevant materials for your students. 


While there are several types of open licenses, Creative Commons (CC) licenses are widely used to give permission to reuse educational materials. Creative Commons licenses are typically used when creators want to give others the right to share, use, build upon or adapt their work. A CC license protects the creator's copyright while providing greater flexibility to those who wish to use the work.

There are six types of Creative Commons licenses which provide different levels of protection and reuse:

File:CC License Requirements.png

"Creative Commons: Free Photos For Bloggers" by Foter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Choose a License

Creative Commons has a unique tool to help people wanting to license their own materials under Creative Commons. The Choose a License tool will help you decide which license is best for your wants and needs.

For more information...

Review the following resources:

All Creative Commons licenses require that reusers give credit to the original--specifically noting Title, Author, Source (link), and License. Even though attributions are not required for public domain materials, acknowledging the original source is not only standard academic practice (we want to model citing sources for students!), but also enables you to find the content again if needed. 
An example of a proper attribution that includes three elements.  The first element is the title, with a link to the original work.  The second is the author's name or username, with a link to the author's Web site, channel, photostream, or otherwise.  The final element is a link to the relevant license.

"Creative Commons: Free Photos For Bloggers" by Foter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Use the following spreadsheets to keep track of your attributions:
Getting Permissions

While all Creative Commons-licensed resources allow sharing of content (with attribution!) without permission, some license elements restrict some uses. If you want to use a CC-licensed resource in a way not permitted by its license, you will need to ask for permission, just as you would with an "all rights reserved" resource.  For example, works with a No Derivatives license may not be modified and shared without additional permission. 

If you find content online that is free but not openly licensed or in the public domain, you can link out to it, but will need permission to modify or redistribute (beyond fair use). You can ask the author for permission for your own use, or better yet, request that they put an open license on their page so that others can make the same use without seeking permission in the future.

Keep in mind that authors who share out educational material are already interested in sharing. They are likely to be open to your request!

Attribution Tools
Use an attribution tool!
Why Accessibility?
Due to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), as amended (2008), colleges and universities are obligated to ensure equal access to programs and information, which includes OER. When selecting, adapting, and mixing it is important to review accessible content guidelines to ensure students can access important course materials. 
Accessibility goes further than the previously mentioned Acts. The way in which you are directing students to materials and presenting materials to students can also affect the accessibility. If you are telling students to Google an article title and click on the first one, what happens if the search results change, or that article disappears? If you are giving a print syllabus with long URLs to materials, what happens if students continually mistype it and cannot access the content?
Linn-Benton Community College faculty can contact the Center for Accessibility Resources (CFAR) for help ensuring OER they want to use or create are accessible. Dionna Camp in CFAR has created this helpful Digital Accessibility 101 Guide if you're using Word, PDF, Powepoint, Google Docs, or other common platforms.  For more Oregon-specific perspectives "The Intersection of Accessibility and Open Educational Resources" by Kaela Parks at Portland Community College is an insightful read. Also, watch the webinar "OER Accessibility Training", available through Open Oregon by Kaela Parks and Lisa Brandt from PCC Disability Services, for an hour-long introductory training. 
OER Accessibility Training webinar
What is Open Pedagogy?
Open pedagogy (also called open-enabled pedagogy) occurs when faculty work with students to create or improve openly-licensed content like OER. Rather than creating something only for the eyes of their instructor, students engaged in open pedagogy contribute non-disposable assignments (read more about this term from David Wiley) that benefit the public. Some examples of open pedagogy include:
  • Students edit and create content on Wikipedia (Wikiedu provides support and training for faculty)
  • Students generate ancillaries like quiz questions, slides, or worksheets for future iterations of the course
  • Students work with faculty to create or modify an open textbook
  • Students contribute to a blog or video channel on their topic
Some benefits of open pedagogy include:
  • Bringing more diverse perspectives to course materials
  • Enabling students to practice digital literacy, critical thinking, collaboration, professionalism, and information literacy skills
  • Engaging students in work higher up Bloom's Taxonomy (creating and synthesizing rather than just remembering and recalling).
  • Helping students gain skills and create quality resources they can showcase in job searches
Resources for Open Pedagogy
open pedagogy: respect, reciprocrate, risk, reach, resist
Image source: "5 Rs of open pedagogy" by Rajiv Jhangiani, CC BY SA 4.0
Open Dialogues: Using wiki pages to advance student-created knowledge
OER Grant Proposals
The Textbook Affordability Steering Committee has set aside funds for high-impact adoption projects throughout the year. Contact textbook affordability steering committee co-chairs (Michaela Willi Hooper: or Dionna Camp: for more information about funding. Announcements about open opportunities are sent to faculty email groups.
  • Open Oregon has a call open through October 16, 2020 for proposals related to the state of Oregon's Community College Major Transfer Maps.

Contact a librarian with general questions or for help finding resources and understanding licenses/copyright.

OER & Textbook Affordability Librarian: Michaela Willi Hooper


Contact  Dionna Camp in the Center for Accessibility Resources (CFAR) with questions about accessibility.


Contact Beth Lyons with questions about payments:

Contact the Campus Store with questions about printing and textbook adoptions.

Manager: Nancie Meyer


Contact the Learning Innovation Center to discuss instructional strategies or schedule an SGID (focus group) to get feedback from your students.

Coordinator: Jessica Winans


Requirements for Recipients of OER Grants
LBCC faculty who receive OER grants have a great deal of freedom over the content and design of their resources. To achieve our goal of affordable, copyright-compliant, accessible course materials, grant recipients are expected to do the following:
  • Schedule an initial meeting with the OER Librarian and the Center for Accessibility Resources (CFAR) within the first month of the project.
  • Participate in an online (Moodle) Open Practices for LBCC Faculty course.
  • Check in with Dionna Camp or Michaela Willi Hooper mid-way through the project.
  • Track the author, title, license/copyright status, and source URL of all resources being used or remixed to ensure their work is copyright compliant. The OER Librarian is available to consult on copyright and licensing questions.
  • Follow recommendations and implement any changes requested by CFAR to ensure accessibility.
  • Share the materials created (at minimum, a syllabus or reading list with links and/or a citation to the free or open materials) under a CC Attribution (BY) 4.0 license (or other license agreed upon with the OER librarian).
  • Deliver materials to the OER librarian ( and CFAR ( by May 15, 2021 for sharing via Community Archive@LBCC and the Open Oregon Resources page.
  •  Report OER usage to the Campus Store and, when possible, work with the Campus Store to offer print copies to students.
Question: What are the selection criteria for LBCC Textbook Affordability Grants?
Answer: Grant applications will be evaluated by a sub-group of the Textbook Affordability Steering Committee using the following criteria:
  • Student savings and impact (new student savings aren't expected for grants in the update category. Instead, please address impact).
  • Number of students impacted
  • Quality considerations (such as use of peer-reviewed resources, attribution/copyright clearance, and ADA compliance)
  • Department support (for example, entire dept. agrees to redesign all sections of a course; or all courses in a sequence
Question: I’d like to have my OER translated, copyedited, or peer-reviewed. What support is available?
Answer: You can add other LBCC employees to your grant proposal in specific capacities, such as copyeditors, translators, peer-reviewers, etc. If you would like to have your OER copyedited, translated, or peer-reviewed by an individual or organization outside of LBCC, talk to the OER librarian about applying for an Open Oregon grant.

Question: How much time does it take to create, customize, or adopt an OER?
Answer: Time to create an OER varies widely based on discipline, individual work style, and how much content you will need to create or revise. If you’ve never created an OER before, you might talk to other people in your discipline who’ve used OER to get a sense for the time they’ve spent. You might also identify core materials that are necessary for students to achieve their learning goals, versus supplemental materials you will create if you have time. Adopting existing OER is generally less work-intensive than creating resources from scratch.

Question: What other funding opportunities will be available for OER development later in the year?
Answer:  Each biennium Open Oregon puts out a call for proposals, which the OER librarian will forward to the faculty email group. The Open Oregon fund is bigger and you can request more money per grant, so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues or even across institutions.

Question: What is required of all grant recipients?
  • Work with the OER librarian to identify existing resources and ensure copyright compliance.
  • Work with CFAR to ensure materials are accessible.
  • Get your department’s support. The committee will contact your dean to ensure their support before funding is finalized.
  • Distribute any materials you create or remix under a Creative Commons-Attribution (CC BY) license in CommunityArchive@LBCC and Open Oregon. (If you need to use a different license to be compatible with resources you’re remixing, please talk to the OER librarian). If you’re adopting existing OER or library e-textbooks, we ask that you share your syllabus or reading list under a CC BY license. The OER librarian can help you through the sharing process.
  • Faculty doing Create or Remix projects will spend approx. 5 hours completing an online OER training course over the summer. 
Question: What category does my OER work fall into?
  • Adopting work might involve reviewing and selecting an OER or library resource, working with a librarian to ensure copyright compliance,working with CFAR to ensure the resource is accessible, modifying your syllabus to align with an existing OER textbook or library e-book, and/or working with the Campus Store to ensure the link for your OER is in their system and students can purchase a print copy.
  • Revising/remixing work might involve creating a syllabus, Moodle course, or reading list that provides links to open, free, or library-licensed resources; bringing existing open resources together into a new delivery platform (Moodle, Word doc, Pressbook, etc.); making substantial improvements and additions to one or more existing OER; and/or  working with CFAR and the library to ensure copyright compliance and accessibility for resources created or used
  • Creating work might involve creating an entirely new resource to meet course learning outcomes because existing materials in the subject are inadequate or expensive and working with CFAR, the Library, and the Learning Innovation Center to select the best delivery method, ensure copyright compliance, and make the resource accessible
  • Updating or expanding might involve making needed improvements to a course that already uses free/open/library-licensed materials, working with CFAR and the Library to expand available resources or make the resource more accessible, creating additional resources for a course that already uses free/open/library-licensed materials (such as quizzes, worksheets, class activities, audiovisual materials, etc.).
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the quality of open textbooks?

There is essentially no difference in the faculty vetting process carried out for open textbooks, compared to commercially published textbooks. As with all textbooks, open textbooks vary in quality. Faculty selection of open textbooks, (as in the selection of commercial textbooks) is often a collaborative process driven by departmental faculty. Quality of a particular open textbook can be determined in several ways: 1) recommendations by faculty who have used the open textbook, 2) vetting by faculty reviewers, and 3) faculty use of review guidelines created to standardize the open textbook review process. For more information on reviewing open textbooks and other OER, plus a recommended rubric, please visit the Review section of the LBCC OER guide.

How can my students get a copy of the open textbook that I adopt?

Most open textbooks are available for viewing on a computer via the Internet or as a document that can be downloaded for off line viewing or printing by students. Faculty can provide their students with the webpage address where students can access the open textbook.  Alternatively, several print-on-demand services are available via the Internet that will provide students printed copies for a minimal fee. Additionally, you may be able to work with the LBCC bookstore to provide printed copies of the open textbook for sale.

What will my students think about using an open textbook?

Students traditionally have a fair amount of discretion in using textbooks that are assigned to them by faculty; open textbooks do not change that equation.  Open textbooks can provide the same quality and variety of content as commercially available textbooks, with the additional advantage that open textbooks will be more easily customized by faculty (to meet localized education needs), more accessible to people with disabilities, and available for sale to students for significantly less cost (free, or as low cost print versions) than commercially published textbooks.

Use of an open textbook for course readings may also lead students to think that you are concerned with the financial burden of higher education. 

Will my course transfer to other colleges and universities if I use an open textbook?

Articulation agreements between community colleges and universities generally do not include specific requirements about textbooks except to specify that the title or samples of the textbook should be included in the course outline. 

How will the adoption of open textbooks impact faculty authors of textbooks that are for sale?

Overall, introduction of open textbooks can create more opportunity for faculty who wish to publish commercial material, because faculty who wish to write commercial (for sale) material will be able to leverage open content by providing commercial (for sale) addendums to that open content.

For traditional textbooks sold at a reasonable price, adoption of open textbooks will likely have a limited impact.  However, if you can buy a printed version of an open textbook for $20 when the equivalent commercial version sells for $120, it is more likely that sales of the commercial textbook will be affected.

How will the adoption of open textbooks impact my campus bookstore?

Campus bookstores can profit from obtaining print copies of open textbooks and selling them just as they do for of publishers’ textbooks but only if the open access copyright allows commercialization. 

What are the advantages of using OER?
Some advantages of OER include:

  • Allows instructors to customize materials, incorporating local information, new research, and diverse perspectives.
  • OER are often created by educators and experts in the field
  • Diversifies curriculum
  • Reduces the cost of learning for students
  • Engages a wider community and creates new partnerships
  • Materials can be universally designed for divers learners
  • Supports a learner centered approach. Students can even get involved in creation!
  • Students can prepare for a course ahead of time and continue to access materials after the course is over.

What are the disadvantages of using OER?

Some disadvantages of OER include:

  • Quality of available OER materials is inconsistent. However, this is also true of commercial textbooks, which vary widely in quality. As the number of open textbooks increases, there will be a concomitant increase in overall quality.
  • Materials may not meet Section 508 ADA accessibility requirements and must be modified to bring into compliance. In fact, this is true of many commercial textbooks. Open textbooks will ultimately meet and exceed Section ADA accessibility requirements, as currently fulfilled on commercially available textbooks.
  • Faculty need to check for accuracy of content of open content, just as they do with commercially available content.
  • Customization may be necessary to match departmental and/or college curriculum requirements. However, customization of content will ultimately be more flexible in open content than it currently is in commercially available content.
  • Technical requirements to access the content vary. Interoperability standards that permit transportability across many technology platforms are now in the making.

How can I get help with my OER question that wasn't answered here?

For additional help, contact OER & Textbook Affordability Librarian Michaela Willi Hooper at, or (541) 917-4641

This text is a derivative work of the CCCOER FAQ on Open Textbooks, which is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.

Research on OER

The Open Education Group is "an interdisciplinary research group that (1) conducts original, rigorous, empirical research on the impact of OER adoption on a range of educational outcomes and (2) designs and shares methodological and conceptual frameworks for studying the impact of OER adoption." The Open Ed Group uses the COUP Framework (Cost, Outcomes, Usage, Perceptions) to study the impact of OER. Use the links below to learn more:


OER Case Studies
The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources has many case studies of how other community colleges are leveraging OER to transform their institutions and benefit their students.
OER Mythbusting
SPARC's OER Mythbusting Handout "Debunk[s] the top myths about OER in North American higher education,"
Get Involved
These OER organizations provide listservs, webinars, reports, and more. OER works best when we work together as communities!