Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are any resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research.

The resources can be virtually any material useful for educational purposes, including:

  • Textbooks
  • Course readings
  • Simulations
  • Games
  • Syllabi
  • Quizzes, and other assessment tools

Each resource is issued under a license that spells out how it can be used. Some materials may only be used in their original form; in other cases, learning resources can be modified, remixed, and redistributed.

Where can I learn more about Open Educational Resources?

You may want to start by checking out the Center for Education Research and Innovation’s publication“Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources.” UMass Amherst also offers a helpful “Quick Guide” to OERs.

Other great resources include “7 Things you should know about Open Educational Resources”and “Models of Open Educational Resources” by EDUCAUSE.

Where can I find examples of Open Educational Resources?

One of the longest-running OER initiatives is the OpenCourseWare ( project from MIT, which began in 2002 and today features all of the course materials from over 2,000 MIT courses. The OpenCourseWare model has been replicated by dozens of colleges and universities around the world, which are putting full course materials online for anyone to use.

Open Digital Libraries

Library of Congress Collections ( Library of Congress digital collections are available for use by the public. The Library provides one of the largest bodies of noncommercial high-quality content on the Internet. By providing these materials online, those who may never come to Washington can gain access to the treasures of the nation’s library.

National Science Digital Libraries (NSDL: for STEM courses:

  • NSDL is the National Science Foundation's online library of resources and collections for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and research.
  • Resources available through NSDL include images, video, audio, animations, software, datasets, and text documents such as lesson plans and journal articles.
  • Use of the website and related search and reference services is completely free, as are the majority of the resources discoverable through NSDL. However, some of the resource providers who make their materials accessible through NSDL do require a login, or a fee-based membership or that users purchase the complete version of a resource.

National Libraries of Virtual Manipulative (NLVM: for Math courses: NLVM is an NSF supported project that developed a library of uniquely interactive, web-based virtual manipulatives or concept tutorials, mostly in the form of Java applets, for mathematics instruction (K-12 emphasis).

Open Multimedia Resources or Resources under Creative Commons

AcademicEarth: The site hosts educational videos and allows anyone to freely access instructions from the scholars and guest lecturers at the leading academic universities. It offers 60 full courses and 2,395 total lectures (almost 1,300 hours of video) from Yale, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Princeton that can be browsed by subject, university, or instructor through a user-friendly interface. For example: the famous lecture series from Dr. Michael Sandel, Harvard University – Justice.

College Open Textbooks (COT): public domain or under a Creative Commons license The COT is a project on the mission of driving awareness, adoptions, and affordability of open textbooks. The focus is on community colleges and lower division of four-year institutions. An open textbook is an integrated course-associated learning tool that is in the public domain or has been open-licensed by the copyright holder to permit re-use without the necessity of asking permission of the copyright holder.

FlatworldKNOWLEDGE: under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) Every Flat World textbook is free to read online—all students have access to the textbook that you assign.

Flickr: is the online photo management and sharing application in the world. Most images could be used under the Creative Commons licenses.

Khan Academy: offers over 3,000 free education video resources for anyone, they cover math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and finance and history. Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long.

MERLOT: offers over 30,000 open multimedia resources designed for faculty and students of higher education for learning and online teaching.

MIT OpenCourseWare ( 2,000 MIT courses are open to public.

TED: brings the inspiring talks available to the world, for free. More than 900 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

WGBH Forum Network: is a public media service of WGBH. The online library contains thousands of video and audio lectures from the world's foremost scholars, authors, artists, scientists, policymakers, and community leaders, available to the public for free.

YouTube, YouTubeEDU: was launched in May 2009. It is an educational hub and is aggregating videos from dozens of colleges and universities (such as MIT and Stanford), ranging from lectures to student films to athletic events.

Creative Commons: enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools, and maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

You may also want to investigate Connexions, a site out of Rice University that makes available modules for free use. The only requirement is that you cite a Creative Commons on the material if you use it. The Connexions, "About Us" page gives a great explanation of the notion of educational modularity.