Open Educational Resources (OER)


Open educational resources (OER) are materials available at little or often no cost and can be used for teaching, learning, or research. These resources may include: textbooks, readings, videos, simulations, games, and course content such as quizzes/exams, assignments, and assessment tools (EDUCAUSE, 2010). OER materials are often digital and available to faculty under a Creative Commons or similar usage license. OERs are part of the Open Solutions movement that seeks to ensure that information is freely and fairly available for everyone (UNESCO, 2022).

OER offer an alternative to expensive course materials for students and provide instructors materials that they can tailor to their own needs.

This library resource guide is intended to be resource for faculty members interested in learning more about OER and to help them find materials that might be used in their courses.

The 5 Rs of Open Education Resources

OER materials are released under an open license granting permission for everyone to do the 5Rs (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute).

Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)


Why Choose OER?

OERs are part of the Open Solutions movement that seeks to ensure that information is freely and fairly available for everyone (UNESCO, 2022). Adopting OER has benefits for both faculty and students:

Benefits for Faculty: 

Increases student retention and improves student performance by reducing costs
Promotes academic freedom to modify or add content to your course
Provides more and more engaging resources for your students

Benefits for Students:

Materials are free to access and can be purchased in print at a low cost
Materials are free to access, before AND after your course
OER are free self-study and review materials for brushing up on material
Resources are customizable and can be aligned with only what you need to know - no more skipping around chapters you don't read!

OER Adoption Impact Calculator

The OER Adoption Impact Calculator helps you understand many of the potential impacts of adopting OER instead of traditionally copyrighted learning materials. 


Where to Start

The OER Starter Kit

Learn more about OER with the OER Starter Kit (Elder and Katz, 2020)! This publication has been created to provide instructors with the basics ideas behind the use and creation of open education resources (OER). 

Modifying an Open Textbook: What you Need to Know

This is a five-step guide for faculty who want to modify an open textbook. Step-by-step instructions for importing and editing common open textbook file and platform types are included.

OER Options

One of the benefits of using OER is that you have options: you can choose to adopt materials as-is, adapt materials to better meet your needs, or create new materials to share openly with other instructors. 


If there are high-quality, peer-reviewed Open Educational Resources available on your course topic, and you do not feel the need to edit or otherwise alter them for use in your course, you might consider adopting them for use "as is." Adopting is the simplest way or including OER in your course, and the least time-intensive. This is most similar to a traditional textbook adoption.


If there are OER available on the topic your course covers, but they are out-of-date or are too broad, you may want to consider adapting the materials. After checking that the Creative Commons license attached to the materials allows for adaptation, you may choose to edit the materials to tailor them to your course.

If there are existing OER available on the topic your course covers, but no single resource that covers all the needs of your course, you may want to consider building an "OER course pack," a selection of various OER, free online materials, and websites which make up the resources for use in a course. Like traditional course packs, these sets of materials can be extremely versatile and adaptable for different uses.


If there are no high-quality OER available on your topic or if you have course materials that you believe are superior to the OER available to you online, you may want to consider creating or licensing your own OER course materials. This can be as simple as openly licensing and sharing a syllabus you currently use or sharing lesson plans on OER repositories like OER Commons. Other OER creation processes, such as publishing open textbooks, can be more complex. 

Open Textbook Collections

Open textbooks are free, online learning materials with Creative Commons licenses. Many of the collections will have links to the same books, but each will have a particular focus, and items you can't find in other collections.

Open Michigan

As a partnership of the University Library and Health Information Technology and Services, it is the home for all things open at the University of Michigan—including expertise and services for open educational resources, open data, and open publications.


OpenStax is a nonprofit educational initiative based at Rice University that publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks that are absolutely free online and low cost in print.

Open Textbook Library

Collection of openly-licensed textbooks that been reviewed by faculty from a variety of colleges and universities to assess their quality. The Open Textbook Library is supported by the University of Minnesota Center for Open Education and the Open Education Network.


A non-commercial open textbook organization initiated at the University of California, Davis. Their collection is used across the nation as primary course textbooks and as supplemental learning resources.

Milne Open Textbooks

An open-access textbook publishing initiative established by State University of New York libraries and supported by SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grants. They publish high-quality, cost-effective course resources by engaging faculty as authors and peer-reviewers, and libraries as publishing service and infrastructure.

B.C. Open Textbook

Collection of open textbooks for a variety of subjects and specialties from the B.C. Campus OpenEd. The open textbooks have been reviewed by faculty, meet accessibility requirements, and/or include ancillary materials (quizzes, test banks, slides, videos, etc.).

OER Repositories

OER repositories contain more than just open textbooks. Learning materials in these collections include full courses, syllabi, images, presentations, videos, simulations, and many more.

OER Commons

A digital public library and collaboration platform launched by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). OER Commons allows searching by material types, educational or grade levels, and subject disciplines.


The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers.


Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. OASIS currently searches open content from 115 different sources and contains 440,380 records.


The OAPEN Library contains freely accessible academic books, mainly in the area of humanities and social sciences. OAPEN works with publishers to build a quality controlled collection of open access books.

Open Course Library

A collection of expertly developed educational materials – including textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments – for 81 high-enrollment college courses. This collection was developed by the Washington State Colleges.

What are Creative Commons Licenses?

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2001 with support from the Center for the Public Domain. Its goal is to help people take full advantage of the internet's capability for aiding in the dissemination of information, which they have done largely through the provision of open licenses.

In December 2002, the first of these licenses were released, which began providing authors with legal backbone for openly sharing their works. Today, Creative Commons licenses have become perhaps the most widely used open licenses for Open Educational Resources (OER). Under the terms of the licenses, the copyright holders still retain their copyrights. However, with these free tools they are able to grant usage rights to the public. The licenses offer creators an array of choices with regards to the permissions they will grant to others.

Simultaneously, these licenses provide users with legal permission to use the resources, without fear of copyright infringement so long as they abide by the terms set forth. The terms are dictated in easy-to-understand terms, removing much of the ambiguity that can typically accompany such legal notices.


Choosing and Attributing Licenses

Things to Consider Before Licensing Your Work

Outlines things to think about before applying Creative Commons license to your work, or using Creative Commons-licensed materials.

Choosing a License

Learn how to choose the appropriate license for your work.

Marking Your Work with CC License

Learn how to mark your work with a Creative Commons license.

Best Practices for Attribution

Provides some good (and not so good) examples of attribution.

Open Attribution Builder

Allows you to easily cite open materials. Created by Open Washington, this tool will automatically generate the attribution for you.


This course includes eight self-paced online learning modules that serve as an introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education. 

Michigan OER Network

The Michigan OER (MI-OER) Network serves as a collective voice for the community to encourage the development and use of OER for educational, instructional, and public information purposes. 

Open Education Network

NMU is a member of Open Education Network (OEN), which offers many opportunities for those interested in pursing OER, including a Certificate in Open Education Practices, an annual conference, and other professional development opportunities. 


The Open Educational Resources Faculty Learning Community is part of a two year pilot program to increase OER use on NMU’s campus, with the hopes of making NMU more affordable, equitable, and accessible.

Open educational resources (OER) are materials available at little or often no cost and can be used for teaching, learning, or research. These resources may include: textbooks, readings, videos, simulations, games, and course content such as quizzes/exams, assignments, and assessment tools (EDUCAUSE, 2010). OER materials are often digital and available to faculty under a Creative Commons or similar usage license. OERs are part of the Open Solutions movement that seeks to ensure that information is freely and fairly available for everyone (UNESCO, 2022).

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Supporting Values

The OER Faculty Learning Community is premised on the belief that using open educational resources benefits both students and faculty in a number of ways that are consistent with NMU’s mission to be creative, inclusive, and sustainable. 

There has been extensive research that has shown that the use of OER course materials leads to positive outcomes for students. When cost is not a barrier to obtaining course materials, students are more engaged, leading to greater retention and student success. 

In addition to the benefit to students, OER can empower faculty and improve instructional design. The use of OER allows faculty to customize course materials, thereby aligning the course material more closely to desired learning objectives. The ability to customize course materials would facilitate collaborations across disciplines and open up opportunities for curricular synergies.


  • A modest stipend to be dispersed at the end of the learning community period (May 2024).
  • A community to support you throughout the experience.
  • Greater freedom to creatively adopt and adapt course materials that are relevant to you and your students.

Timeline & Deliverables

Each faculty member selected to be part of an OER Faculty Learning Community cohort will be expected to:

  • Adopt OER materials for at least one course, and commit to using OER for that course for the next two times it is offered. 
  • Attend at least one OER professional development activity per semester, either held by NMU or a recommended external virtual event.
  • Give a presentation to share their OER experience by presenting at internal departmental meetings, CTL programs, or regional and/or national conferences. 


March 15Using Open Educational Resources to Level Up Your Teaching & Research, 4 pm, Olson Library Atrium
April 14    Applications for the Inaugural OER Faculty Learning Community Cohort Due
April 17-27 Applications reviewed by selection committee
April 28   Selected Faculty Contacted
Summer/FallMeetings with Librarians and CTL staff as needed to identify, corporate OER resources

 Deadlines for deliverables will vary based on individual faculty's course and goals.

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