• What is OER?
  • Why OER?
  • Find OER Resources

What is OER?

A common definition of Open Educational Resources (OER) comes from The Hewlett Foundation which states:

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium digital or otherwise - that reside in the public domain, or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaption and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

OER can include textbooks, lesson plans, syllabi, interactive experiences, course assignments, and more, all of which are made freely available under an open license. Sarah Hare explains that while an open license tends to make the material free, free is not the same as open. Hare notes, “If someone shares a lesson plan on their website and doesn't put a Creative Commons license on it, one could argue that it isn't an OER. The same goes for multi-user eBooks through the library that classes might use as textbooks—they save students money but they are missing that license and, thus, are not OER.” While all efforts to reduce student costs should be commended, this guide specifically focuses on Open Educational Resources and is dedicated to helping you find high-quality OER for your teaching, learning, and research. Below are three ways faculty can engage with OER: adopt, adapt or create.


Adopting an existing OER is the simplest and least time consuming option for faculty members. To adopt an OER simply means taking an existing resource and using it in your coursework as is. This is similar to purchasing something such as a textbook for your course and using the book to guide your lessons, homework, etc. The difference is, with OER, the learning materials cost your students nothing. Now more than ever, there are high-quality resources freely available and ready to be put to use in our classrooms. Check the “Find OER” tab to start finding OERs.


Adapting means to take an existing OER and adapting it to fit the scope of your learning object, whatever it may be. With the right Creative Commons License applied to the original OER, such as a CC BY license, faculty members can remix, edit, and tweak the existing OER to fit their own needs. This is a great option for learning objects that are almost right and just need a little work. Perhaps you love the concepts offered in a textbook but the example was a unrelatable to your students. Adapting allows you to find an example from the local news and swap it out. While adapting is more time consuming than adopting, it offers the best opportunity for tailoring content for our students.


Westminster University has unique course offerings with many of our classes being completely different from any other school’s offerings. OER offer faculty members the opportunity to create their own content under a Creative Commons license making it available to users around the world. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Chances are somebody else is looking for the same thing; create your own OER and contribute to academic advancement worldwide. Not only does creating your own OER allow for total control of material content, but it also instantaneously engages you with reviewers, editors, and critical thinkers who can help shape your content.

Suggested Reading for learning more about OER

What is OER?

Creative Commons compiles and compares a list of OER definitions from prominent OER groups and institutions.

Explore OER

The Access Compromise and the 5th R

David Wiley, a prominent leader of OER initiatives, describes the 5R’s of Openness: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute.

Explore The Access Compromise

Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources

Understand what’s meant by “Open” and how to make smart choices with open content.

Explore Open Content

Open Education Intro

In this short 4 minute video, Robin DeRosa, a prominent leader of OER initiatives, gives a great crash course of “Open Education” which includes OER, Open Pedagogy, and Open Access

Explore Open Education

Creative Commons Licenses Explained in Plain English

Copyright? Licensing? These things can be confusing and intimidating. This article explains it in simpler terms.

Explore Creative Commons Licenses

OERs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

While there are many great things about OER, it is important to know some of the criticisms too. This article will allow you to critically think about issues surrounding OER.

Explore OERs

Why OER?

Why Open Education Matters

Why use OER?

  • Get free and legal access to scholarly information with the ability to reuse, revise, or remix the content to match your course and learning needs.
  • Reduce the cost of course materials making college more affordable for students.
  • Contribute to academia by engaging with data, research, and information from all across the world.
  • Benefit from feedback and reviews on your own work from users worldwide.
  • Instant access to information on virtually any topic in almost any discipline.
  • Introduce multimedia into your coursework.

OER benefits for Westminster

  • Wider availability and accessibility of our academic content.
  • Increased ability to support remote students.
  • Increased flexibility and creativity for course materials.
  • Enhanced recognition and reputation as our OERs are shared around the world.
  • Contribute to strategic goal of “Assuring Affordability and Sustainability” by providing students more affordable learning materials.

More information about the benefits of OER

Open Education Fact Sheet

Looking for a quick introduction to OER? Check out this fact sheet which includes data, definitions, and processes of OER creation and use.

Explore the Open Education Fact Sheet

Open Educational Resources: Stakeholders and Benefits

Learn about the stakeholders of OERs and how it benefits different groups.

Explore Open Educational Resources: Stakeholders and Benefits

Alternate Textbooks + Engaged Students = Retention Value

Did you know that two of the top six reasons undergraduates drop out of college are due to a lack of financial resources and poor grades? Read this article to understand how OER can help Westminster’s retention.

Explore Retention Value

Find OER Resources

There are many open source databases and repositories designed to help users locate Open Educational Resources (OER) for all subject areas. As the number of OERs continue to grow, so does the number of resources dedicated to making OERs more discoverable and accessible. Below is a list of OER resources to help you find the right material for your courses.

General OER Search

Utah OER

This site is maintained by the Utah Academic Library Consortium’s (UALC) Open Educational Resources (OER) Committee, which consists of membership from ten of Utah’s colleges and universities. The committee is charged with providing guidance about OER to UALC directors and libraries and with coordinating statewide OER initiatives in higher education.

Explore Utah OER

OER Commons

OER Commons is a public digital library of open educational resources. Explore, create, and collaborate with educators around the world to improve curriculum. Search by subject area, education level, material type and more using the advanced search.

Explore OER Commons


The MERLOT system provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers. Search and browse by subject area, material type, material quality, audience, format and more.

Explore MERLOT

Open Textbooks

BCcampus OpenEd

Access to over 200 open textbooks organized by subject. The majority of textbooks come in each of the following formats: PDF, HTML, or in low-cost print. Many also come with instructor resources and help for adopting or adapting the textbook.

Explore BCcampus OpenEd

OpenSUNY Textbooks

Open SUNY Textbooks is an open access textbook publishing initiative established by State University of New York libraries with 15 published titles with more to follow. These textbooks support faculty adopting, remixing, and creation of OERs. Available via PDF, Ebook, or HTML.

Explore OpenSUNY Textbooks


Producing over 40 textbooks since 2012, OpenStax is dedicated to improving student access to education. Textbooks are available in the following formats: Interactive HTML, PDF, Ebook or low-cost print. OpenStax textbooks undergo a rigorous peer review process and meet standard scope and sequence requirements, making them seamlessly adaptable into existing courses.

Explore OpenStax

Open Textbook Library

The Open Textbook Library provides a growing catalog of free, peer-reviewed, and open-licensed textbooks. Search the collection by keyword or browse by subject. Each textbook comes with reviews from professors who have adopted the textbook for their own coursework. Available in a variety of formats depending on the book.

Explore Open Textbook Library

Open Courses

MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.

Explore MIT OpenCourseWare

Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.

Explore Open Yale Courses

Open Course Library

A collection of high quality, free-to-use courses that you can download and use for teaching. All content is stored in Google docs making it easy to access, browse and download.

Explore Open Course Library

Find Open Media


Ted-Ed is an education initiative that provides short educational videos with suggested follow-up question, resources for taking the topic deeper, and suggestions for guided discussion.

Explore TED-Ed

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons Search is a tool to help you find media with a Creative Commons Attribution to a variety of media resources including images, music, and video.

Explore Creative Commons Search

Get in Touch

Emily Swanson headshot

Emily Swanson

Library Director

Emily is the campus liaison for Open Educational Resources and is happy to answer questions via email, phone, or in-person.

Chat with a Librarian

Chat is available 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. on weekdays during Fall and Spring semesters.

If a library staff member doesn't respond quickly, they may be helping someone else. Leave your question and email address to receive a reply.