Open Educational Resources


Open Educational Resources (OER) are courses and learning materials at all educational levels that are freely available online for use by educators and learners worldwide. These resources offer access for those not affiliated with formal educational programs plus opportunities for sharing and collaboration among educators. The sites on this page focus on OER materials and issues in higher education.

A slideshow presentation by Sunnie Kim, Michigan State University, introducing the key elements of OER can be found at Another useful overview is available at

The special issue described under Journals below of The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning provides an overview of current issues surrounding OER.

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How Tos

OER Handbook (WikiEducator).
Provides a guide to those just getting started in creating open educational resources: tutorials, examples, resources, a toolkit, and much more.

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Examples of Open Educational Resources

MIT OpenCourseWare, "OCW" (Massachusetts Instituted of Technology).
In April 2001, MIT announced its decision to put the materials used in its campus courses openly online: syllabi, assignments, assessments, and other materials designed by the instructor. At present, several hundred courses from all of MIT’s departments are online and in use by educators and learners around the world. MIT’s visionary initiative presented a model for other universities and educational institutions.

OpenCourseWare at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Courses and materials in all areas of public health are presented here, organized by topic. Links to the OCW Image Library containing hundreds of images from OCW courses.

Open.Michigan at the University of Michigan.
Offers educational modules, courses, and course materials in a variety of disciplines at the University of Michigan. Also provides opportunities for UM faculty to share their own content and connect with others in related areas.

MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching.
(A California State University Program).
A large site in place since 1997 offering peer reviewed open online teaching and learning materials and discipline communities across the higher education curriculum.

This United Kingdom website gives open access to their Open University course materials. Study independently or join a Learning Club. Also offers access to expert blogs, videos, games, and media such as Open University channels on YouTube.

Academic Earth.
Online video lectures, courses, and degree programs from leading U.S. universities. For credit bachelor and master's degrees and online professional certificates offered in over two dozen fields.

10 online social network options for educators” by Brian Warmoth, May 7, 2012 (Education Dive:  The mobile dashboard for educators).
Researchers and educators will find links here to social networks useful in their work and their interactions with colleagues and students.
TED Ed:  Lessons Worth Sharing
Take the three-minute video “TED-Ed Website Tour” (use search box) to understand the potential of the hundreds of engaging videos on this site for teaching, including ways to customize those on the site or design “flipped classes” using any video from YouTube. The site offers a wide range of  videos in which educators and animators collaborate, plus explanations and directions for “flipping” classes.

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OER Publishing Platforms/Repositories of OER Materials

Academic Commons. (Sponsored by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College)
This site is dedicated to developing a comprehensive free web resource for academic professionals focusing on liberal arts education based on digital tools and innovative practices for teaching and learning with technology.

A place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized in many ways. Anyone may view or contribute to the over 17,000 reusable modules on this site, all with Creative Commons licenses.

A site for developing free content for e-learning worldwide at all educational levels.

A Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to creating worldwide open educational resources and collaborative learning communities from pre-school to university. A multi-lingual site.

World Lecture Project (wlp).
Video lectures of faculties from around the world. Searchable database includes country and language. Users can add lectures and participate in a "global network for the interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge."

MERLOT described above also continue to accept new syllabi and course materials.

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OER Image Archives

The Commons on Flickr.
Public photography archives from a large number of participating institutions listed at It is also a publishing platform, a photo sharing site, inviting contributions of photographs free of known copyright restrictions.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Free and open access to over 700,000 digital images from the library’s vast collections.

MorgueFile: Public Image Archive for Creatives by Creatives.
Free images for inspiration or use.

Free stock photo site managed by Getty Images. Browse their gallery of over 350,000 photos, share your photos with fellow designers, or chat with other members in their forum.

Another license-specific photo search engine containing over five million free photos.

Search by Creative Commons.
Despite its name, this site is not a search engine; it provides convenient access to other search services, such as Google Images, that then provide images based on what you type into the search engine.

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OER Science Portals

Science Repositories with Open Licenses. Simulation, Education, and Community for Nanotechnology.
(Created by the NSF-funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology). Open resources for teaching and learning, research and collaboration, plus opportunities for sharing and publishing.

A free peer-reviewed publication service and repository for complete, stand-alone resources in medical and oral health such as teaching materials, assessment tools, and faculty development materials. Follows a peer review policy that mirrors traditional print publications.

Health Education Assets Library.
Free peer reviewed digital materials for health sciences education such as images, videoclips, and audio files. Users can submit new resources and review or add “tags” to existing ones.

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Creative Commons.
CC’s purpose is “to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in ‘the commons’—the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.” Offers six main licenses for publishing under a Creative Commons License, depending on the set of conditions applied to an author’s work. This site addresses intellectual property and copyright issues, provides case studies, blogs, listservs, and materials related to OER.

The Science Commons.
A Creative Commons site dedicated to “making the web work for science.” Explores new models for licensing patents, more open access to research materials, and integration of fragmented information sources.

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International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Special Issue, Vol. 10, No. 5 (2009).
A refereed e-journal for research, theory, and best practice in open and distance learning, this special issue contains articles on the impact of openness, benefits and challenges of OpenCourseWare and open textbooks, and related issues.

Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, Special Issue, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2009): Open Educational Resources.
This international journal offers free access to full text of this special issue on OER. Initiatives, issues, challenges, and reviews of OER worldwide as well as in the U.S.

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OER Reports

Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012
(Open eLearning Content Observatory Services from the European Commission).
An overview of current and potential future developments in OER and recommendations for addressing challenges.

Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources
(Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 2007).
A comprehensive discussion of Open Educational Resources in higher education, including copyright issues, sustainability, and policy implications.

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OER Search Directories

OER Commons (Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, ISKME).
Created by ISKME in February 2007 for open sharing of teaching and learning educational resources from K through college. Links to a wide range of open resources and offers opportunities for adding your own.

OpenCourseWare Consortium.
A collaboration of higher education institutions and associated organizations worldwide creating open educational content using a shared model.

DiscoverEd: Discover the Universe of Open Educational Resources.
About DiscoverEd:

Creative Commons Search.

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OER at Michigan State University

MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, & Social Sciences Online.
Dedicated to the application of new technologies for teaching, research, and outreach, this Center seeks to integrate the humanities with new information technologies. Creates and maintains open online resources; houses major digital repositories.


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