4 Finding OER

Learning Objectives

This chapter will support learners in being able to: 

  • Recognize the different types of OER
  • Apply effective search strategies when looking for OER
  • Identify several online repositories for OER
  • Utilize other OER search tools available

Recognizing Different Types of OER

Remember, OER refer to educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share. In its simplest form, the term open educational resource describes any educational resource (including curriculum maps, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, multimedia applications, podcasts, and any other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that is openly available for use by educators and students, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or license fees.

Materials that are under full copyright, or which are not accompanied by a specific license allowing anyone to copy, adapt and share them, are not open educational resources. An example of this would be resources only available through institutional library subscriptions such as ebooks, online articles, and streaming media. You can use these materials only within fair use provisions or copyright exceptions.

What are You Looking For?

Perhaps the most useful first step when searching for OER is knowing what you are looking for. Are you seeking OER video lectures that discuss Microeconomics? Alternatively, are you looking for a full OER course on Psychology? If you can narrow your search to a particular discipline and have an idea of the types of OER content you are seeking, your search will be much easier.

As you begin your search for relevant open educational resources, take a few pre-planning steps before diving into the various search tools available. For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of your students when they are asked to research a topic for a paper. They identify a topic, outline keywords, plan their search strategy, compile relevant resources, and evaluate their results. Your search for OER won’t be very different from this approach. Below is a great list of questions to ask yourself BEFORE you begin your search.


  • What sparked your interest in OER?
  • What type of OER are you looking for? A textbook? A video? A set of lesson plans?
  • Identify Course Objectives, Topics, & Outcomes the OER will need to cover.
  • List what you like (or love) about your current course materials.
  • List what you don’t like about your current course material.
  • Think about the effectiveness of the textbooks and course materials.
    • Rank your top 5 elements (Are they current? Accurate? Cover course outcomes? Professionalism?)
  • Have you used any open educational resources before? If yes, make a list.

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’ll have a better sense of where to start your search for OER.

Where Do You Look for OER?

There are billions of openly licensed resources out there; it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to find relevant resources. This video provides a nice overview of some of the more common search repositories and tools for finding OER.


Searching OER Repositories

Searching an OER Repository can result in a faster and more productive search experience since the resources have been curated and organized into various categories including discipline, format, and open license. Many repositories have either peer reviews or a rating scale where users have shared their perception or experience with the resource. Start by trying these well-known and user-friendly repositories:

OER Commons – the go-to repository if you are looking for supplementary resources from lesson plans to full courses. Due to the amount of material in OER Commons, they provide many options for limiting and filtering your searches such as discipline, material type of OER, format, education level and more. Use their Advanced Search features to your advantage to fine-tune your results.

SkillsCommons – a comprehensive collection of workforce-related OER created by over 700 community colleges across the US. Created by the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. SkillsCommons contains free and open learning materials and program support materials for job-driven workforce development.

Searching for Open Textbooks

If you are looking for an open textbook to replace your current, commercial textbook, start by visiting the two resources listed below.

Open Textbook Library – supported by the Open Textbook Network at the University of Minnesota, available resources include mainly college-level open textbooks. The repository includes faculty peer reviews, licensing information, a summary of content, format availability, and direct links to resources. It can be searched by keyword or by browsing discipline areas.

OpenStax – a non-profit out of Rice University, OpenStax offers peer-reviewed open textbooks in a variety of subject areas. Their focus is on high enrollment lower-level undergraduate textbooks. Student and instructor resources are available along with multiple digital formats for download. Students also can purchase print copies typically for less than $65 if they prefer a print version. Work with your institution’s bookstore to arrange for print copies for purchase on campus. OpenStax books also will appear in search results from the Open Textbook Library.

Using Search Tools to Find OER

Google Advanced Search


Google is a popular and common search tool we all use daily, but you may not be aware of its advanced search features. The Google Advanced Search allows you to filter results by usage rights, but it does not offer a list of licenses to search by. Instead, Google gives its own descriptions of the licenses:

not filtered by license (default)

free to use or share (CC BY-NC-ND)

free to use or share, even commercially (CC BY-ND)

free to use, share, or modify (CC BY-NC or CC BY-NC-SA)

free to use, share, or modify, even commercially (CC BY or CC BY-SA)

To find content that you can modify, select one of the two last options in the dropdown menu.

Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)


This utility from George Mason University Libraries searches 16 OER repositories at once. You can add or remove sources to modify your search targets.

OASIS Search


Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool developed at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. OASIS currently searches open content from 117 different sources and contains 388,707 records. This tool will simultaneously search 44 different open content sources. Be aware that these search tools rely on license metadata being detected on the source webpage(s), but it is wise to confirm the CC license on the content you want to reuse before doing so.

Finding More…images, videos, audio

Many academic libraries curate online guides related to OER. Your institution’s library may have curated online tools for finding OER. One example is from Austin Community College’s OER Library Guide.

Check to see if your librarians created one. It can be a nice supplement to your learning in these modules. The guide has extensive lists of additional options for finding OER; look at what also is listed there:


Creative Commons Search



Noun Project (great for icons)

Video (be sure videos include accurate captions or a transcript to allow for full accessibility)

YouTube (use the Creative Commons Filter)

Vimeo (use the Creative Commons Filter)

Audio (be sure audio files include a transcript to allow for full accessibility)


Library Of Congress Audio Files

More Open Textbooks


BCcampus Open Textbook Project

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, ask your campus or subject librarian for help locating relevant OER or other zero cost course materials.


Concept Review

Now it is time for you to find an open educational resource.

Step 1. ORGANIZE YOUR SEARCH – Using the list of pre-planning questions and strategies listed in the “What are you looking for?” section, complete this template to organize your search strategy.

OER Search Strategy Template – Organize – Make a copy and save it locally

Step 2. IDENTIFY – Choose from a repository, open textbook search tool, or other OER search tool listed in this Module. Search and find an open educational resource.

Step 3. COMPILE – Use this template to start your list of relevant OER. Take note of the open license on that resource. You will submit a link to this resource in the OER 101 Quiz for the digital badge.

OER Search Template – Compile – Make a copy and save it locally

Step 4. EVALUATE – we will cover this in Chapters 5 and 9 and will continue with the templates you’ve filled out in this Module.

Save your filled out copies of the templates linked in the Concept Review and continue on to Chapter 5 in the textbook.


Information for this module was consulted and adapted from

“How to Find and Evaluate OER” by Abbey Elder is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“Identifying, Finding, and Adopting OER” by SUNY OER Services is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“Knowing Where to Find OER” by William Meinke is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“Library as Open Education Leader: Searching for Open Materials Template 1 & 2 “ by Quill West is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Open Educational Resources: Basics & Beyond Copyright © 2021 by Oklahoma Council for Online Learning Excellence (COLE) Member Volunteers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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