10 OER resources every educator should know about

These OER repositories and content creators provide higher-ed faculty and students vetted, free learning materials

openresizedAs textbook prices soar, tuition skyrockets, and educators are more pressured than ever to provide innovative courses and lectures packed with multimedia and current materials, the open education movement and its open education resources (OERs) have never been more critical for success than now.

What began in the ‘90s has now evolved into massive national, state, and university repositories that can be accessed by anyone, anytime…and the best part is, almost all OERs are free. What makes these current repositories worth investing time, however, is that thanks to decades of feedback, many are vetted by educators and are organized into highly-accessible repositories.

Many of these OER resources also provide step-by-step guides and OER tools to make multimedia, such as videos and tutorials.

Know of any OER resources that didn’t make the list? Be sure to leave your comments in the section provided below, email me at, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

Looking for the K-12 version? Click here.

(Next page: OER repositories 1-5)

[Listed alphabetically]


What: The Applied Math and Science Education Repository (AMSER) is a portal of OER built specifically for those in community and technology colleges, but is free for anyone to use.

About: The National Science Digital Library (NSDL)—the parent of AMSER—is an online library which directs users to high-quality STEM resources. NSDL was created by the National Science Foundation in 2000 to provide organized access to resources and tools that support innovations in teaching and learning at all levels of STEM education. NSDL aggregates content from a variety of digital libraries and projects, including Internet Scout and AMSER. NSDL also provides access to services and tools that enhance the use of online resources in a variety of contexts.

How it works:–About

2. Blended Learning Toolkit

What: An OER for building your own online curriculum. Download one of its sample courses and you get a set of web templates you can load onto your own server and use as the basis for an online course.

About: From the University of Central Florida (UCF), the Toolkit is a free, open repository of information, resources, models, and research related to blended learning. Funded by a Next Generation Learning Challenge Wave 1 grant, the Toolkit is a collaboration between UCF and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

How it works:


What: The Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at the University of Texas at Austin focuses on foreign language learning, and provides materials for the study of Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese and Hindi, as well as videos for the study of Spanish and bilingual Spanish-English conversations.

About: Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, COERLL’s mission is to produce and disseminate OERs for the internet public (e.g., online language courses, reference grammars, assessment tools, corpora, etc.). COERLL aims to reframe foreign language education in terms of bilingualism and/or multilingualism. As such, all COERLL resources strive to represent more accurately language development and performance along dialectal and proficiency continua.

How it works:


What: Begun by a consortium of state higher education systems, this massive OER repository offers learning objects, full course curricula, open access journals, assessment tools, open textbooks, discipline-specific pedagogical resources, and more.

About: Material is peer reviewed, and reviewer and user comments are accessible to all. Academic discipline is represented by communities, each with their own editorial board of faculty from disparate institutions. Browsing through users’ “personal collections” can provide insight into how others use the materials.

How it works:

5. MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW)

What: 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.

About: Pioneering the OER movement, MIT OCW offers thousands of full courses that can include lecture notes, online textbook material, assignments and exams with answers, and multimedia. The course content is downloadable through iTunes and YouTube. Like any open educational resource, these materials are freely available for educators to re-use with attribution.

How it works:

(Next page: OER 6-10)

6. OER Commons

What: Full university courses, complete with readings, videos of lectures, homework assignments, and lecture notes; interactive mini-lessons and simulations about a specific topic, such as math or physics; adaptations of existing open work; and electronic textbooks that are peer-reviewed and frequently updated.

About: ISKME created OER Commons, publicly launched in February 2007, to support and build a knowledge base around the use and reuse of open educational resources (OER). As a network for teaching and learning materials, the site offers engagement with resources for curriculum alignment, quality evaluation, social bookmarking, tagging, rating, and reviewing.

OER Commons has forged alliances with over 500 major content partners and users can search across over 42,000 vetted and fully-indexed OER. Since these resources are ‘open,’ they are available for educational use, and many hold Creative Commons licenses that allow them to be repurposed, modified and adapted for a diverse array of local contexts.

How it works:

7. Open Course Library (OCL)

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

About: OCL is a collection of shareable course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts. Some OER are paired with low cost textbooks ($30 or less), but many of the courses can be taught at no cost. Unless otherwise noted, all materials are shared under a Creative Commons (CC BY) license. OCL courses and materials have also undergone testing for accessibility and have been designed using the industry-standard Quality Matters (QM) rubric for assessing the quality of online courses.

How it works:

8. OpenStax CNX

What: View and share free educational material in small modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports or other academic assignments.

About: Frustrated by the limitations of traditional textbooks and courses, Dr. Richard Baraniuk founded OpenStax (then Connexions) in 1999 at Rice University to provide authors and learners with an open space where they can share and freely adapt educational materials such as courses, books, and reports. Today, OpenStax CNX is a non-profit digital ecosystem serving millions of users per month. There are thousands of learning objects, called pages, that are organized into textbook-style books in a host of disciplines, all easily accessible online and downloadable to almost any device, anywhere, anytime. Everything is available for free thanks to support from Rice University and philanthropic organizations.

How it works:

9. Saylor Academy

What: Free online courses and multimedia available to both students and faculty.

About: In 2008, Saylor Academy began exploring OER to develop its catalog of over 300 free, self-paced, online courses. In late 2012, it added the first college credit pathway courses. The Academy hired credentialed educators to design courses and to locate, vet, and organize OER and other materials into a structured and intuitive format. Many courses have additionally undergone a peer review process by panels of consultants. While the Academy does not confer degrees, it offers verifiable certificates and continues to make strides in connecting our courses to college credit.

How it works:

10. The Open Education Consortium

What: Not just a repository of courseware, the Consortium offers its members the tools and resources to develop their own content.

About: The Open Education Consortium is a worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing open education globally. The Open Education Consortium realizes change by leveraging its sources of expert opinion, its global network and its position as the principal voice of open education.

How it works:

Additional resources: The resources, though not specifically repositories, can help you navigate how to access OER, understand the value of OER, connect you to OER communities, present the latest OER news and much more:

The California Network for Higher Education Access

OER Blog

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