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Search for Open Educational Resources (OER)

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Guide: Use Creative Commons Licenses

Guide: Use Creative Commons Licenses

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What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

OER are:

  • educational materials that are openly licensed and free to use
  • often licensed via a Creative Commons or similar open license
  • a variety of formats, from traditional textbooks to interactive modules, podcasts, test banks and more.

There are five characteristics of OER that have been proposed which define how the material can be used or reused*. You can:

  • Retain: make, own, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse: use the content in a variety of ways
  • Revise: adapt, modify, and alter content
  • Remix: combine the original or revised content with other content to make something new
  • Redistribute: share copies of the original and any revisions or remixes

This definition is adapted from "Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources" by David Wiley licesnse under CC-BY 4.0 license.


Why use OER?

Textbook affordability has become an increasing issue, and the 2016 Textbookbroke survey shows how these trends have impacted students at the University of Guelph. Fifty seven percent of students who responded to this survey indicated that they had opted not to purchase at least one required textbook at some point in their university career. The survey highlighted the financial, time management, accessibility, and mental wellbeing impacts textbook affordability can have on students.

The benefits of OER go beyond affordability. OER also:


Platforms to search for OER


Since OER can be found all over, it is often a challenge to find new materials. Aggregators allow you to search multiple platforms at the same time and link to content on these other platforms. 

Use when:

  • Starting your search
  • Browsing, but not for a full, in-depth search


Institutional repositories

These are created by higher education institutions as a place to host and share anything that has been created by instructors, staff, and students affiliated with the institution. Institutional repositories host a variety of different learning materials, from textbooks to quiz banks and videos.

Use when:

  • You want to conduct a more in-depth search
  • You want to explore a variety of different materials
  • You want to see what a specific institution has to offer


Open repositories

Open repositories contain learning material in a variety of formats from many different disciplines and institutions globally. You can download content straight from the platform.

Use when:

  • You want to conduct a more in-depth search
  • You want to see a variety of material types
  • You want to see OER from all over and not one specific institution


Open referatories

These are very similar to Open Repositories in scope and function. Rather than hosting content themselves, they curate OER collections and link to the websites where the material can be found.

Use when:

  • You are conducting an in-depth search
  • You want to see a variety of material types
  • You want to see OER from all over and not one specific institution


Subject-specific resources

There are a few platforms that curate discipline-specific materials. Not all materials housed on these platforms are openly licensed, so review the terms and conditions of all search results.

Use when:

  • You have a specific subject-based need


Suggest an edit to this guide

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.