Discover, Implement & Assess

There are many different places to host OER, from institutional repositories to grant-funded websites.
Consequently, not all OER are easy to find. 


The Search Process

There are four easy steps anyone can take when looking for open content:

  1. Identify keywords related to your course and its learning objectives.
  2. Search OER repositories and aggregators for any relevant resources.
  3. Review the resources you’ve located for fit, currency, accessibility, and any other rubric you deem necessary when judging teaching materials.
  4. Reflect on the materials you have located.

Searching for OER can be difficult when you’re starting from a narrow perspective. For the most results, start with a broad search focused on your discipline. Once you’ve brought together a large collection of resources, then you can begin to refine your results.

Filter by Usage Rights in Google

Google is a familiar resource for many of us, and it is also useful for finding openly licensed content. The Advanced Search feature in Google allows you to filter results by Usage rights. Filtering by usage rights will limit your results to works with certain licenses listed on the webpage, usually Creative Commons licenses. There are a few options to choose from in the Usage Rights list, but we recommend starting with “free to use or share” to retrieve the broadest set of results.

Remember when using this method that Google trusts what users tell it about an item’s copyright status. Although a resource may be labeled CC BY or even CC 0, you should trust your instincts if you aren’t sure whether the item you are reviewing is actually under copyright. Contact a librarian or a university lawyer if you have questions.

Reach out to your subject librarian or an OER expert near you if you need help finding OER. Visit our Contact Us page.

Keep an Open Mind

You don’t have to jump into a fully open course right away. Start small by adding OER lesson plans to your coursework, posting supplementary OER on your learning management system, or waiting to see what OER are published the following semester. The number and breadth of OER available are changing every day. Although there might not be resources available for your course right now, that may not be the case next year or even next month. Including OER in your regular assessment of the materials you use in your course is a great first step for finding new resources you can adopt in the future.


Work with your library for available e-books. 

Evaluating and Implementing OER

Because OERs may vary in quality, it is important for instructors to carefully evaluate them before utilizing them in their classroom.  Although there is not yet a standard checklist that’s been developed for this purpose, many of the criteria listed in this checklist can also be used to evaluate OER. Some of the evaluation criteria listed below are universal, and others are specific to OER. The criteria for evaluation has been adapted from Achieve’s Rubrics for Evaluating OER Objects. The criteria include: 

  • Authority:  Is it clear who developed and wrote the material? Are their qualifications for creating the material clearly stated?
  • Accuracy:  Are there errors or omissions visible?
  • Objectivity:  Is any type of bias present?
  • Currency:  Is the resource up-to-date?
  • Coverage:  Does it address the topic at hand sufficiently to add value to the class?

In order to successfully search for OER, you must have a clear and detailed list of course objectives that you are hoping to meet with OER. While you may have to do some remixing of different OER in order to meet specific objectives, it is important to consider how closely OER may align with your course content. The subject matter can be addressed through multiple means (i.e. text, images, videos, audio). Instructors should also consider if the OER is comprehensive enough to stand alone, or whether it must be augmented with additional materials.

The ideal OER should be easy and straightforward to use in multiple contexts. So how they are meant to be implemented is an important factor to think about. Are the OER you are looking for meant for in-class use, outside of class for projects, supplementary understanding, or something else? Comprehensive OER may include instructions on intended use for students and instructors alike. This category also encompasses any software considerations that may need to be made.

This topic may apply to the assessment of OER; they are intended to assess student understanding before, during, or after learning course content. Using new course material may require updating former assessments to better align with OER that have been brought in. 

No matter what resources you plan to adopt, accessibility should always be a part of your assessment process. Many published-provided homework products are not accessible to students and can cause unexpected issues. Similarly, some OER may not be optimized for students who are in the disability community. 

Consider taking these steps to evaluate OER, or follow the process you typically use to evaluate textbooks and other course materials.

  • Does the Open Educational Resource cover the content you’d like to present to your students for this course or module?
  • Is the content appropriate for your students? Is it too challenging? Not challenging enough?
  • How can you use the content? What are the restrictions and requirements outlined in the license the resource is under?
  • Based on what’s permissible, how do you plan to use the content? Can portions be remixed with other content, or enhanced with supplemental material?
  • How do the Open Resources you are collecting align with learning objectives and lessons?

Assessing OER

Free access to materials is not the only benefit provided by using OER. Another aspect of OER that is commonly commended by instructors is the academic freedom that using openly-licensed content affords them in taking control of their classroom and engaging students in learning. 

The open licenses on OER allow instructors to adapt and integrate materials into their classes in new ways, incorporating topics of local interest or translating content into another language.

Assessment can occur at any time during or after a course. It is recommended that instructors assess their course regularly, but especially when incorporating new techniques or course materials for the first time. 

Types of Assessment

The point of assessment is to ensure that learning objectives are being met and that your teaching is helping students develop the skills they ought to be achieving throughout your course. The assessment techniques you implement will depend on your preference and the standards in your field, but to help you get started, we’ve listed a few standard assessment types below:

  • Formative Assessment: An ongoing process with a wide variety of formats, formative assessment can include quizzes, papers, projects, and any other formal or informal tests provided to gauge your students’ understanding of course content.
  • Summative Assessment: The final assessment of student learning after a course has completed, summative assessment can include final papers, projects, or exams. Summative assessment should be used to assess both standard teaching procedures and the effectiveness of any changes made following the formative assessments provided throughout your course.
  • Student Self-Assessment: Methods for allowing your students to rate their own confidence in their work and their understanding of course content; examples include writing discussion board posts, drafting exam questions, and filling out confidence rating scales on exams.
  • Student Peer-Assessment: The process by which students evaluate the work of their peers within a course, peer assessment is often used as a learning tool to help students reconsider their own understanding of course content as they evaluate the work of their peers.
  • Student Assessment of Teaching (SATs): The manner in which students report on the effectiveness of an instructor’s teaching on their learning, often given at the end of a course but sometimes handled as an ongoing process. The most ubiquitous SATs are student surveys given at the end of a course.

Additional Resources: Evaluation Rubrics & Checklists

Eight rubrics that serve as an evaluation tool for alignment with the Common Core State Standards

Checklist from BCOER Librarians, British Columbia Open Education.

Developed by Sarah Morehouse with help from Mark McBride, Kathleen Stone, and Beth Burns.

Material on this page was adapted from Iowa State University’s OER Starter Kit website under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License. Additional material was adapted from David Wiley and John Hilton’s Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy page and University of Oklahoma’s Open Educational Resources page.