Recognizing Different Types of OER
Remember, OER refer to educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share. In its simplest form, the term OER describes any educational resources (including curriculum maps, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, multimedia applications, podcasts, and any other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that are openly available for use by educators and students, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or license fees.
Materials that are under full copyright, or which are not accompanied by a specific license allowing anyone to copy, adapt and share them, are not Open Educational Resources. You can use these materials only within fair use provisions or copyright exceptions.
According to Schaffert & Geser, 2008 & OLCOS Roadmap, 2012, the core characteristics of OER are:
- Open Access: Content is provided free of charge for educational institutions, content services and users such as teachers, students and lifelong learners.
- Open Format: Content is produced in open format with functionalities that allows for easy re-use.
- Open License: Liberal licenses to enable re-use combine and re-purposing of content.
- Open Software: Produced with open-source software.
To simplify things, you can think of OER falling into the category of either content or tools:
Using OER Search Utilities and Services
There are billions of openly licensed materials available on the web, so how do you go about finding the right OER for your needs?
Watch this video by Amy Hofer, Statewide Open Education Library Services Coordinator, Open Oregon, to learn how to save time searching so you can spend more time designing your course to use open materials. Remember that an open license gives you many possible ways to legally re-purpose the materials you find.
Using Google Advanced Search
The Google search engine has an ‘advanced search’ that lets you search by ‘usage rights’ for content published to the Internet under an open license. The Advanced Search dialogue can be found under the Settings function or can be directly accessed at http://www.google.com/advanced_search
Using OER Repositories
Searching an OER Repository can result in a faster and more productive search experience since the resources have been curated and organized into various categories including discipline, format, and open license. Many repositories have either peer reviews or a rating scale where users have shared their perception or experience with the resource.
You can begin your search for OER at SUNY’s OER website. The SUNY OER Services staff is always available to help you find and integrate OER into your work.
You can also explore a vast list of OER Repositories and other search utilities on the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources site.
Other OER Search Resources
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 90+ different sources and contains over 350,000 records. OASIS is maintained at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library.
Open Educational Resources (OER): Find OER This list of OER Websites and search tips from the University of Illinois includes repositories of recorded lectures, videos, open textbooks, modular components, complete courses, and other OER search engines.
Evaluating the Quality of OER
Once you have found an appropriate OER, take time to evaluate it to see if it meets your criteria based on content, presentation, online accessibility, production options, platform compatibility, delivery options, interactivity, consistency between online and printed versions, and available ancillary material such as test banks or presentations.
These questions can help guide you when evaluating OER:
Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability
- Is the content, including any instructions, exercises, or supplemental material, clear and comprehensible to students?
- Is the content well-categorized in terms of logic, sequencing, and flow?
- Is the content consistent with its language and key terms?
Content Accuracy and Technical Accuracy
- Is the content accurate based on both your expert knowledge and through external sources?
- Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
- Is the interface easy to navigate? Are there broken links or obsolete formats?
Adaptability and Modularity
- Is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?
- Is the resource easily divided into modules, or sections, which can then be used or rearranged out of their original order?
- Is the content licensed in a way which allows for adaptations and modifications?
- Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for higher education students?
- How is the content useful for instructors or students?
- Is the content itself appropriate for higher education?
- Is the content accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications?
- If you are using Web resources, does each image have alternate text that can be read?
- Do videos have accurate closed-captioning?
- Are students able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner?
- Does the OER contain any supplementary materials, such as homework resources, study guides, tutorials, or assessments?
- Have you reviewed these supplementary resources in the same manner as the original OER?
OER Evaluation Rubrics
You can explore these rubrics to guide your evaluation of OER:
OER Assessment Rubric
This rubric is developed by Sarah Morehouse with help from Mark McBride, Kathleen Stone, and Beth Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
[Summarized] Rubrics for Evaluating Open Education Resources Objects
This 2-page rubric is a synthesis version of the eight (8) separate rubrics for the evaluation of OERs created by ACHIEVE.org. It is meant as a ready reference for quick evaluation of an OER. (Credit: Created and shared by Rodney Birch of George Fox University.)
BC Open Textbooks Review Criteria
This guide is specific to the evaluation of open textbooks.
More to Explore
More information about the definitions of Open Educational Resources can be found on the Creative Commons Wiki: and in David Wiley’s post on freedoms in OER.
For a philosophical perspective, read through the article Emotional Ownership as the Key to OER Adoption: From Sharing Products and Resources to Sharing Ideas and Commitment across Borders.
This content is adapted from the following works:
“Find OER” by Open Education Consortium, licensed under CC BY 4.0
“Concepts and Characteristics of OER” by Erasmus+, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
“A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources” by Neil Butcher, UNESCO is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“OER Evaluation Criteria” by Affordable Learning Georgia, a derivative from the review rubric used by College Open Textbooks