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Finding Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide has been created to provide UAA and APU faculty members with assistance in finding OER.

In This Guide

Step-by-Step Search Strategy

Finding the Open Educational Resources (OER) you need for the courses you teach can be as simple as conducting a single search -- or it can be a real adventure in sleuthing. If you experience any trouble or frustration searching for OER on your own, please contact D'Arcy Hutchings (see the "Contact Me" box on this page) for assistance.

Here are some steps for finding OER to incorporate into your classes. You may not need to go through every step and you may want to tackle them in a different order. Before proceeding, be sure you are familiar with the definition of OER and Creative Commons (CC) licenses on the Is it OER? page of this guide.

Step 1: Plan.

Consider your goals.

Are you hoping to move away from students needing to purchase a textbook to be successful your course? Are you just wanting to find materials to supplement your current textbook or readings? Are you wanting to move away from using a textbook altogether? Your strategy for searching may vary accordingly.

Keep a record of your searches.

Because you may end up needing to search several places for OER, it's a good idea to keep a record of where you look, which terms you use (and what categories you browse through), and what you find. Think about a way to keep that record.

Step 2: Brainstorm search terms.

You may think of other terms as you search, but having a good list going before you start may prevent the need to go back and search sources again.

Course Level

Brainstorm and jot down terms that might be used to describe your course as a whole. Pull from the course title but go further. Does your course go by a different name at other colleges and universities? Are there other ways to express your subject? Do any of the terms you identified have spelling variations (example: behavior and behaviour - you may need to search for both)?

Outcome/Unit/Content Level

You may need to search for smaller blocks of content than an entire textbook or course that matches yours. Take a close look at your learning outcomes and your course content to come up with additional keywords you can use as you search. Include common synonyms (other words people in your field use to discuss the concept) and spelling variations as before.

Step 3: Search within specific OER repositories or using OER-specific search engines.

Searching by keyword is just one option. Also use the browsing function within each repository to locate resources your keyword searches may have missed.

Think big: Look for complete open courses.

You can use (and modify!) an entire course, a portion of a course, or just the reading list -- whatever is relevant to your needs. See the Complete Courses section on the "Find OER" page of this guide for places to look. If you don't find your exact course, look for something similar.

Think big: Look for OER Textbooks.

If you are hoping to replace your current textbook with one that is open and free for your students, you may be able to find complete OER textbooks to review and use. See the Open Textbooks or Other Open Books sections on the "Find OER" page. If you don't find one for your exact course, look for something similar that you can pull from.

Think small: Look for smaller chunks of content.

Instead of focusing on the textbook that you would like to replace, focus on your course outcomes: What you would like students to know or be able to do. You may need to use several materials that address different components of your course, especially if yours isn't a high enrollment course nationwide. See the Find OER page of this guide for places to look for various content types.

Step 5: Evaluate the materials, then incorporate selected resources into your course or remix/edit the OER to work for your course.

Consider using a checklist for evaluating course materials (also see this Best Practices guide).

UAA faculty may be able to get assistance incorporating OER through Faculty Development & Instructional Support for assistance. APU faculty should contact the Office of Academic Dean (907.564.8261) to determine options for assistance.

Using Library Resources in Courses

Though the Consortium Library's online resources are typically not OER, UAA and APU students can access them for free. If your goal is to ensure your students access to materials and you can't find what you need in an open format, you may wish to link to a resource available through the library.

Would you like help searching for library materials that fulfill your need? Ask a Librarian.

Found what you need but need some assistance linking it correctly in your course? View the guide on Incorporating Library Content in Courseware & Websites.

Contact Me

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D'Arcy Hutchings
Instructional Design Librarian,
Associate Professor

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This work by D'Arcy Hutchings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

You may reproduce, reuse, or remix any part of it as long as credit is included. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials. Note that linked content is covered by its own licenses.

The format of this page of the guide is based on an OER guide created by Jen Klaudinyi of Portland Community College (CC BY-NC US 3.0 license).