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Open Educational Resources: OER: Overview

Resources for faculty looking for open access textbooks and other free educational resources in support of courses and curriculum.

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. ~As defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO

Why OER?

The cost of college is going up every year, and it's not just tuition that weighs on student's minds and bank accounts. According to the College Board, undergraduates spend an average of $1200 on textbooks annually. Faced with these costs, the academic impact is seen in classrooms across the country--many students choose to not buy a required text, take fewer courses, and some even drop or fail a course completely.

The ultimate purpose of Xavier University of Louisiana is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society.  Providing education to all young adults and adults is a social justice issue.  Open Textbooks are one part of the solution!

OER Search Engines

Given the proliferation of OER in the last decade, finding OER is not the problem. Finding the right OER for purpose is the issue. Several organizations are busy developing and refining search engines to cope with sorting through the enormous amounts of material available. 

  • ►OER Metafinder debuted in 2018. This search engine from George Mason uses multiple sources like the NY Digital Public Library and the American Memory collections to add to the more usual sources of OER for a broader richer search. Highly recommended for multiple types of OER.
  • ​​►OASIS can search 52 different sources for OER; developed at SUNY Geneseo's Milne Library. Highly recommended for open textbooks.

OER Repositories

MERLOT ​is a program of the University of California. One of the earliest efforts at collecting open education resources,  it is a curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community.

OER Commons is a digital public library and collaboration platform, informed by ISKME's pioneering efforts in knowledge management and educational innovation. OER Commons offers a comprehensive infrastructure for curriculum experts and instructors at all levels to identify high-quality OER and collaborate around their adaptation, evaluation, and use to address the needs of teachers and learners.

New! LOUIS OER Commons is a project to gather OER found in OER Commons and other sources and select items that can be aligned to the Louisiana Common Course Catalog. Primarily for Gen Ed and lower-division courses. As of May 2019, the STEM section is complete and the HSS section should be complete by July 2019. All items are available for immediate use.

Open Stax is a nonprofit based at Rice University whose mission is to improve student access to education. Their first openly licensed college textbook was published in 2012.  Their adaptive learning technology, designed to improve learning outcomes through personalized educational paths, is being piloted in college courses across the country. Through their partnerships with philanthropic foundations and their alliance with other educational resource companies, OpenStax is breaking down the most common barriers to learning and empowering students and instructors to succeed.

Open Textbook Library promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks. Open textbooks not only contributes to student academic success, but also offers faculty the chance to reclaim their courses based on their expertise.

UC Davis STEMWiki Hyperlibrary consists of seven interconnected “STEMWikis,” focused on augmenting post-secondary education in multiple STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.  The STEMWikis are developed by a multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students representing Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Geology, Statistics, Engineering, Molecular and Cell Biology; and Evolution and Ecology that build and connect individual STEMWikis as “Hubs” in the developing Hyperlibrary network.

LOUIS Open Textbook Library was created by LOUIS and uses the Louisiana Statewide Common Course Catalog to maintain a list of potential open texts that faculty may choose to adopt in their courses. 

University of South Florida Textbooks Collection helps counter the rising cost of an education by connecting students and faculty with alternatives to full-price textbooks.

Open Tools

In order to  create a truly open resource, the usual tools of the digital world--MS Office and the like cannot be used. The idea is that for any learner who wishes to use the materials we create can do so with the use of proprietary or paid software. It is a bonus if the OER created can easily be edited and re-shared. 

Open tools that will help make your OER truly live up to the 5 Rs

Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. You can create assignments, books, even grocery lists with Markdown. Its design allows it to be converted to many output formats--EPUB, PDF, and HTML.  The University of Oklahoma libraries have created this handy converter

Open Simon--a suite of tools from Carnegie Mellon that handle various tasks from creating a book or a MOOC and accommodating data sets. Requires free login. 

OER Commons Module Builder--allows the import and editing of materials from the OER Commons and serves as a platform for the new OER. Requires free login. Be sure to look for content that is aligned with Louisiana's Core Course Curriculum--great for Gen Ed courses!

MERLOT Content Builder-- similar to the OER Commons Module Builder, the MERLOT Content Builder allows you to edit an OER or remix several to create a resource that suits. Requires free login from 

Your Librarian

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Hannah White

OER in Other Languages

Although English dominates the current OER landscape, there are OER in other languages. Try these sources: 

Ceibal (Uruguay) 

REA (Brazil)

OpenEducationEuropa (Spain)

ProComún (Spain)

OER for Language Learning (University of Kansas) 

Open Pedagogy

OER are often referred to as the gateway to open pedagogy. For instructors who feel constrained by the pedagogy imposed by  traditionally copyrighted materials (TCM), the liberation offered by the use of openly licensed materials free to be re-used, revised, re-mixed, re-distributed, and ultimately, retained--aka the 5 Rs. The real power of using OER lies in the freedoms they allow instructors and students. For example, designing assignments that interact with and improve an OER used in class pave the way for more student engagement and more peer to peer learning opportunities, both of which are correlated to persistence in a course. And of course, OER-enabled pedagogy supports instructors  in having  more choice and control in the design of course outcomes, and  here at Xavier, the chance to put representational social justice in action through creating OER that speak to communities of learners of color. 

Recommended Readings

Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students  Ed. Elizabeth Mays

Iterating Towards Openness--a blog from thought leader David Wiley of Lumen Learning 

Open Pedagogy Notebook (Rajiv Jhangiani and Robin DeRosa) A community of practice with examples of OE in action and the chance to network with other instructors discovering new ways to be effective in the classroom 

Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science by Rajiv Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener 


Hodgkinson-Williams, C. A., & Trotter, H. (2018). A Social Justice Framework for Understanding Open Educational Resources and Practices in the Global South. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3).

Lambert, Sarah R. (2018). Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open EducationJournal of Learning for Development, 5(3).