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Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials—text, audio, video, images, and more—that are in the public domain or shared under an open license, such as a Creative Commons license. Depending on the license, OER can be copied, revised, remixed, adapted, and shared. OER comes in many genres, including syllabi, curricula, lecture notes, quizzes and exams, animation, and even entire textbooks.

More information about OER is available in the Albertsons Library LibGuide to OER, which explains what Open Educational Resources are and provides numerous examples, including collections and open textbooks, image and video resources, and library resources and services. Also included in the LibGuide is an introduction to Creative Commons, which offers “free, easy-to-use copyright licenses [that] provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. Creative Commons licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of ‘all rights reserved’ to ‘some rights reserved.’”

If you’re interested in research about OER, visit the website of the Open Education Group, 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.”

In a hurry? Read “7 Things You Should Know About Open Educational Resources,” part of the 7 Things Series from EDUCAUSE.

OER: What does the research say?

OER Research

“In the fall of 2012, 695 students utilized OER in Mercy’s basic math course, their pass rates were compared with those of the fall of 2011, in which no OER were utilized. Researchers found that the pass rates increased from 63.6% in fall 2011 to 68.9% in fall 2012 when all courses were taught with OER. Similarly, students who were enrolled in OER versions of a reading course performed better than their peers who enrolled in the same course using non-OER materials.”

“Hilton and Laman (2012) reported on Houston Community College’s adoption of an open textbook for a psychology class. During the fall semester of 2011, 690 students used this open textbook. They stated that “Compared with students using a traditional text in the spring of 2011, students who used the free online textbook scored higher on departmental final examinations, had higher grade point averages in the class and had higher retention rates” (p. 265).”

“In Phase I, Mercy’s retention and success rates increased and textbook costs savings in math were $125,000 in the first year alone. Also, consistent with results from all seven partner institutions, courses showed improved student success in KOCI’s first year compared with the prior year’s course records.”

In the Results section:
“In the case of Business 110, the differences in withdrawal rates were quite clear; 21 % of students in the commercial textbook condition withdrew from the course while only 6 % of students in the OER condition withdrew from the course.” 

Here is one that is frequently referenced.  It creates a new metric “Course throughput rate” which is a combination of pass rate, withdrawal rate, and drop rates:

“While additional methodological rigor will be required in future studies before OER can be said to cause improvements in course throughput rates, the current study demonstrates that OER adoption by faculty is associated with improvements in course throughput rates. This finding merits further exploration.” 

Check out this resource from the OpenEd group.  They have a section of studies that look at OER and efficacy:

IDEA Shop OER Programs

Workshop -- Intermediate OER: Creating and compiling OER for my course, next steps (ONLINE)

This is an online opportunity available through Blackboard, thru 5/19. It could take up to 5 hours to complete but can be done in stages.

The use of Open Educational Resources (OER) is a great way to reduce textbook costs for students and to increase flexibility in the texts used in a course. This is an online, open-access, self-paced workshop, built to demonstrate how to find, adapt, and develop OER in a step-by-step manner. OER elements are openly licensed for reuse, usually through a Creative Commons license, which allows them to be integrated into most instruction. The course is organized into five areas, each of which represents one facet of the world of OER. Participants are encouraged to complete all areas of the workshop by following the suggested course progression, but each area can also be completed individually. This workshop will be offered from mid-October to early-December, so as to allow a community around this workshop’s OER concepts to develop.
Join us
Facilitated by Bob Casper, OER Faculty Mentors, and other campus stakeholders. For more information, see the registration form for this course in Orgsync.
2019 Spring Semester • IDEA Shop (ONLINE)
Application deadline • currently open

Workshop -- Introduction to OER: Where to begin with Open Educational Resources (ONLINE)

This is an online opportunity available through Blackboard, thru 5/19. It could take up to 5 hours to complete but can be done in stages.

The use of Open Educational Resources (OER) is a great way to reduce textbook costs for students and to increase flexibility in the texts used in a course. This workshop will introduce OER and best practices for searching, compiling and using its concepts to better sync with your course objectives. During the workshop participants will be given a base level understanding of what OER is, including David Wiley’s 5 ‘R’: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute. Those attending will be pointed towards documents and links that are used to find OER and encourage exploration of Creative Commons, to find out more about how its licenses make educational materials freely accessible for use.
Join us
Facilitated by Bob Casper, OER Faculty Mentors, and other campus stakeholders. For more information, see the registration form in Orgsync.
2019 Spring Semester • IDEA Shop (ONLINE)
Application deadline • currently open

OER Institute

Faculty can reduce student textbook costs, increase course enrollment, and improve student learning by adopting OER —freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media useful for teaching and learning. The IDEA Shop will soon be calling for applications from Boise State faculty interested in exploring and implementing OER by participating  in the one day 2019 OER Institute to — gain a better understanding of how OER can increase student success, including OER to better meet course objectives, and even begin to curate (create and compile) their own OER.
Upon successful completion, participants will have created one or more ancillary course learning materials (an assignment, exercise, assessment, lecture, etc.) based on previously Instructor selected OER and open pedagogy principles. These learning materials are a required deliverable of the institute. In addition, those completing the required deliverable will also receive a stipend of $150, payable as supplemental salary (some professional ranks do not qualify for supplemental pay, it is the applicants’ responsibility to check on this prior to attending). Meals will be provided (light breakfast and full lunch with afternoon snack).
Join us
For more information and to apply, please go to  Call for Applications: OER Institute.
May 13th, 2019  •  Multi-Purposes Classroom Building, room 101  •   2110 W University Dr, Boise, ID 83725

UPCOMING Application deadline  •  April, 20th, 2019

OER Faculty Learning Community

Through the Faculty Learning Community, eight faculty participants will work as a cohort to explore the use of OER as a pedagogic tool. Faculty will use Creative Commons-licensed materials, public domain resources, and other established free or extremely low-cost options. Other existing and emerging platforms will also be explored.  The IDEA Shop is now calling for applications from Boise State faculty interested in exploring and implementing OER by participating OER FLC, and begin to curate (create and compile) their own OER.
Join us
For more information and to apply, please go to  Call for Applications: OER FLC.
Spring Semester, 2019• IDEA Shop (RFH301)
UPCOMING Application deadline  •  02/19/2019

OER Community of Practice

The IDEA Shop is offering an ongoing opportunity for faculty to gather and share their experiences with OER in a Community of Practice (CoP). The OER CoP will meet several times each semester and also has an online presence. Faculty who are using, plan to use or are just interested in OER may attend. We will talk about best practices, where to find, and how to use OER for our courses.

This group will support the idea of OER and discuss opportunities and challenges that come up over the course of a particular semester. If you are interested, please see the application form, linked below.

Join us
To apply, please go to the application: OER CoP.
Every Semester • IDEA Shop (RFH301)


Where can I find OER?

There are many ways to find OER to use in your courses.

  • You can go directly to one of the OER repositories listed below. Here you’ll find all kinds of materials created with university students and instructors in mind.
  • You can use the Creative Commons search engine to locate materials that have been licensed for revision, remix, and/or reuse.
  • You can find additional materials online that may be in the public domain. For example, most of the content and multimedia created by the U.S. government is in the public domain (though some materials on government websites may be licensed from elsewhere); so are materials published in the U.S. prior to 1923.

The resources listed below are repositories (or databases) of OER which are available online. Some of the OER is peer-reviewed and available to use in educational settings, free of charge. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of repositories. There may be other such repositories available in your discipline, so consider asking your colleagues or your instructional design consultant in the IDEA Shop if they can point you to discipline-specific repositories.

Open Textbook Network:

Open Textbook Network
The Open Textbook Network (OTN) promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks.

Please note that on Nov. 8, representatives from the Open Textbook Network and experts from other universities will provide training in the use of open textbooks and related materials. Interested faculty can learn more about this opportunity and register for the workshop on this page.

For further assistance in making effective use of the Open Textbook Network Content, contact Jonathan Lashley ( and/or Bob Casper (

More information is available at the Open Textbook Network home page.

Blackboard Open Content:

Blackboard Open Content 
This feature allows instructors to upload, license, and share course content in a central location through Blackboard. In addition, and maybe more importantly, instructors can browse free, packaged and free-standing peer-reviewed digital materials for most courses in higher education (and k-12).  Not only can these materials be easily found and imported into your Blackboard course site, but, in most cases are simple to use in whole or in part as course objectives direct.

Unlike third-party cloud data storage like Google Drive, Open Content is native to Blackboard and directly integrated at the course level. By hosting and sharing content in Open Content, faculty can manage access to, licenses for, and versions of content without having to leave the Blackboard ecosystem. For instructors who share/update course content across sections or use a variety of learning objects in their courses, Open Content helps streamline processes in course building and updating. Open Content also serves as a great means of getting started with OER.

Turn on Bb Open Content

  1. Access your Blackboard course site
  2. Select “Customization” under the “Control Panel” in the “Course Management” menu
  3. Select “Tool Availability”
  4. Check the box to the far right of “Blackboard Open Content”
  5. Check the box to the immediate right of “Blackboard Open Content (in Course Tools)”
  6. Click Submit

Access Bb Open Content

  1. Access your Bb course site
  2. Select “Course Content”
  3. Under the “Course Content” page title, hover over “Build Content” in the orange horizontal menu
  4. Under “Mashups,” select “Blackboard Open Content”
  5. You will be automatically directed to Blackboard Open Content

For further assistance in making effective use of Blackboard Open Content, contact Jonathan Lashley ( and/or Bob Casper (

More information for the Do-It-Yourselfer is available in the Blackboard documentation for open content.

Multidisciplinary, General Repositories:

Albertsons Library LibGuide to Open Educational Resources
An explanation of OER and numerous examples, including collections, textbooks, and image and video repositories.

Albertsons Library Video Resources
Access to video databases to which Boise State’s library subscribes, as well as other resources for finding free video clips on the web.

Albertsons Library Image Resources
Find still images (pictures, drawings, photographs, etc.). Also includes information about citing still images in scholarly works.

Albertsons Library LibGuides
Guides to a wide variety of resources, cataloged by subject, type, or owner, ranging from LibGuides on 3D Printing to Biomedical Science to Criminal Justice to individual courses at Boise State.

Annenberg Media –
Discovery learning programming, including audio and video clips, for educational use. Free sign-up is required for first-time users.

Boise State Encyclopedia of Rich Media Resources
Initially developed by Boise State faculty participating in the e-Learning Quality Improvement Program (eQIP)–a seminar in course design offered by the IDEA Shop and eCampus–the Encyclopedia consists of individual entries devoted to a single repository of rich media and other learning objects, accompanied by a review of the repository by the faculty member who contributed the entry. Boise State faculty are encouraged to contribute new entries and edit or revise existing ones. NOTE: You must be logged in to your Boise State account to view this site.

Khan Academy
A large and growing collection of free video tutorials, with an emphasis on K-12 math but also offering science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics and topics in the humanities. Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long, and especially purposed for viewing on the computer.

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching)
MERLOT is a free and open resource designed primarily for faculty and students in higher education. With a continually growing collection of online learning materials, assignments and reviews, MERLOT helps faculty enhance instruction.

OpenCourseWare (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
MIT OCW has begun publishing online course materials that are available free of charge. They are aiming to have all of MIT’s course materials available over the web in a “single, searchable” structure. Currently, the course materials are listed by course and are not searchable.

OER Commons
OER Commons helps educators, students, and lifelong learners find Open Educational Resources through a single point of access from which they can search, browse, and evaluate resources in OER Common’s growing collection of 50,000 high-quality OER.

TED (Ideas Worth Sharing)
TED Talk and ED.TED are free, moderated collection of speeches on a variety of topics by notable and unknown speakers. Also includes musical and other performances. TED Talks recordings are owned by TED, provided on and any other site that we manage or license to. Unless otherwise indicated on the website, audio and video files, transcripts and/or information about a speaker, are licensed via Creative Commons license (CC BY — NC — ND 4.0 International), which means that certain TED Content may be used for personal and/or educational purposes as long as the license terms and TED Talks Usage Policy are followed.

User-created video content on every subject known to man. Increasingly, videos useful for education can be found here. You might also check out, although this tends to be mostly appropriate to the K-12 sector.

SoftChalk Media Repositories Directory
A listing of multimedia repositories provided by the SoftChalk company. Although their intent is for media found to be embedded in lessons created with SoftChalk, these media can also be embedded in a Blackboard course site.

University of Minnesota Center for Open Education

Open Stax (Rice University)

Open StaxCNX (Rice University)

State University of New York OER Services

Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

OER Commons

Open Textbook Store

Open Washington

STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education - Discipline-Specific Repositories:

ChemWiki: The Digital Chemistry Hypertext
Directed by Professor Delmar Larsen (University of California, Davis), ChemWiki is a collaborative approach toward chemistry education where an Open Access textbook environment is constantly being written and re-written by students and faculty members resulting in a free Chemistry textbook to supplant conventional paper-based books.

The Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)
DLESE offers easy access to high-quality educational resources about the Earth system. The library is governed and developed by a broad community of Earth science educators, and serves the needs of K-16 learners, in both formal and informal venues.

The National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library (NSDL)
Now under construction with funding from the National Science Foundation. “The NSDL is likely to be the largest and most heterogeneous digital library yet built.”

Health Education Assets Library (HEAL)
Thousands of free, peer-reviewed digital materials for health sciences education.

Public health - Discipline-Specific Repositories:

Open Educational Resources (OER) for Public Health
This web page has aggregated multiple sources of OER for public health in various categories including: General Public Health, Behavioral and Community Health, Environmental Health, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Family Science, Health Services Administration, Kinesiology.

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Open Courseware
A variety of lectures, readings, and other course materials on topics including, but not limited to: Child and Adolescent Health and Development, Managing Health Services Organizations, Urban Food Environments, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Solutions, Bioterrorism, Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology and Pandemic, Family Planning Policies and Programs, Food and Nutrition Policy, Global Tobacco Control, Health Across the Life Span, History of Public Health, Social and Behavioral Theory, Mental Health and Disaster  Preparedness, Pharmaceuticals Management, Infant Mortality, Refugee Health Care, Sexual Health, Urban Health in Developing Countries.

Centers for Disease Control
Because it is a government agency, the vast majority of materials produced by the CDC are in the public domain, which means you can use them however you want, including excerpting sections, revising them, and remixing them with other resources. See especially the publications, CDC Learning Connection, and Public Health Image Library sections of the website.
CDC copyright info:

National Institutes for Health
Because it is a government agency, the vast majority of materials produced by the NIH are in the public domain, which means you can use them however you want, including excerpting sections, revising them, and remixing them with other resources. See especially the Research and Training, Health Information, and Community Resources sections of the website.
NIH copyright info:

  • Most of the information on our site is in the public domain and can be used without charge or restriction. Generally, copyrighted materials will include a copyright statement. If in doubt, please write to the contact point for that site. ( Go to NIH Website → Copyright

Health (Nursing, Medicine, Allied Health): Open Educational Resources for the Health Professions

NYU has compiled this list of resources, including open courses, textbooks, databases, and articles.

Open Michigan Public Health Resources
Resources linked to from this site include course materials, including syllabi, lectures, handouts, and readings from previously created courses in Health Informatics, Measuring Health Disparities, Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and more.  The same site (see the navigation menu at left) includes resources in global health, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public policy, and statistics.

National Library of Medicine
A wide variety of free and open resources are available at this site; some are targeted at researchers and others at health care consumers. See especially the resources in the Health Info and Online Exhibitions and Digital Projects, as well as PubMed Central.
NLM copyright info:

  • Government information at NLM Web sites is in the public domain. Public domain information may be freely distributed and copied, but it is requested that in any subsequent use the National Library of Medicine (NLM) be given appropriate acknowledgment. When using NLM Web sites, you may encounter documents, illustrations, photographs, or other information resources contributed or licensed by private individuals, companies, or organizations that may be protected by U.S. and foreign copyright laws. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use as defined in the copyright laws requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Specific NLM Web sites containing protected information provide additional notification of conditions associated with its use.” (

MERLOT II Public Health Resources
Links to nearly 500 public health education resources of all kinds. Many resources include peer reviews and user ratings.

MERLOT II Epidemiology Resources
Linked to nearly 100 epidemiology education resources of all kinds. Many resources include peer reviews and user ratings.

Open Educational Resources (OER) for Medicine and Health Sciences
The University of North Dakota library has compiled this list of textbooks and course modules on a variety of public health topics, including epidemiology, qualitative data analysis, demographics, aging, ethics, and city health planning.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The HHS website offers a variety of introductory, consumer-facing content. See especially the sections on Public Health and Safety, Prevention and Wellness, Image Galleries (includes links to images from the CDC and the NIH as well), and HHS Research. HHS also offers syndication, which allows you to pull updated HHS content directly into your own website.
NLM copyright info:
The Emergence of Public Health Open Educational Resources
“The purpose of this paper is to identify key concepts in the literature relating to the release of open educational resources (OER), with specific reference to the emergence of public health OER.”

Free, but not OER:
Bio Med Central

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts - Discipline-Specific Repositories:

Digital Scriptorium
The Digital Scriptorium is a growing image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. It bridges the gap between a diverse user community and the limited resources of libraries by means of sample imaging and extensive rather than intensive cataloging. Designed for use by paleographers, codicologists, art historians, textual scholars and other researchers.

Commercial Databases and Services

Offers digital course packs, custom textbooks, copyright clearance, content development, and more.

Lumen Learning
Lumen Learning helps institutions transition high-enrollment courses to open educational resources by building and supporting Candela Open Courses, the high-quality open courseware designed collaboratively with partner institutions.


I’ve got OER in my course, now what?

Faculty that are already using OER in their course may find these areas of interest:

Standard OER Course Evaluation Questions

In an effort to bring more standardization to OER research we are suggesting standard OER questions to ask students in the course evaluation at the end of each semester. These questions are intended to measure four indicators of how students regard OER, using the COUP framework. The COUP framework isolates four key considerations about low-/no-cost resources: Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perception. As students typically don’t respond well to open-ended questions. We would suggest the use the standard 5-point Likert scale.

Here are the 4 questions other instructors have used in previous semesters:

  • Cost:
    No-cost, low-cost textbooks (and other instructional materials) contribute to my financial ability to complete my overall academic goals.
  • Outcomes:
    No-cost, low-cost textbooks (and other instructional materials) support my ability to succeed in this course.
  • Use:
    No-cost, low-cost textbooks (and other instructional materials) used in this course helps me to complete more readings, assignments, and other coursework than traditionally purchased textbooks (and other instructional materials).
  • Perception:
    No-cost, low-cost textbooks (and other instructional materials) for this course are just as good or better than traditionally purchased textbooks (and other instructional materials).

You may find instructions on how to add your own questions to your course evaluations, provided from Institutional Research, by going to the Faculty Course Eval page and clicking on Add Your Own Instructor Questions.


Want some help implementing OER in your courses?

Staff in the IDEA Shop and the library can help you find and implement open educational resources in ways that improve student learning outcomes. Feel free to contact any of them: