Open Educational Resources

What is OER?

Creative Commons provides this excellent definition: “Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities–Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute.”

Why OER?

Because OER are free and accessible, all students have access to their textbooks on the day the course begins. Research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.

OER can provide significant cost savings to students, but its impact goes even further. When textbooks are a financial burden, a student may delay the purchase of a textbook or never purchase a textbook. Without access to a textbook, a student’s academic success can be impacted by earning a poor or failing grade. The cost of textbooks may also impact enrollment and completion rates.


Florida Virtual Campus. (2019). 2019 Florida Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey. Tallahassee, FL. CC-BY 4.0


A textbook becomes “open” when its copyright holder grants usage rights to the public through an open license, which typically includes the right to access, reformat, and customize it at no additional cost.

Are open textbooks high quality?

Many open textbooks are developed through traditional peer review; others are vetted by experts. As with any textbook, you are the final judge of whether an open textbook meets the needs of your course.

Open textbooks are similar to traditional texts but much more flexible. If desired, you may create a custom version by editing it yourself to match your classroom instruction.


Open textbooks are available in both digital and print formats:

  • Online
  • Downloadable PDF/ePub
  • Print-on-demand

Many open textbooks contain a variety of supplemental materials (e.g., test banks, quizzes, and/or PowerPoints).


Find the right textbook
Search the repositories listed below. Use subject headings to narrow results.  Or ask a librarian for help by completing and emailing the OER Research Request Worksheet (DocX).

Review and evaluate
Decide if the book matches your needs for content, presentation, online accessibility, production options, platform compatibility, delivery options, interactivity, consistency between online and printed versions, and available support material.

Decide if you want to use “as is” or edit
One of the benefits of open textbooks is flexibility to modify and customize them for specific courses as much or as little as you desire. If you want to make edits or add content, make sure the licensing allows that. Different repositories will have different options for editing and publishing revised copies.

Distribute it to your students
Select the best format to distribute to your class: online, downloadable PDF, ePub, or print-on-demand via either your campus bookstore or from the online repository.

The OER Starter Kit by Abby Elder This starter kit has been created to provide instructors with an introduction to the use and creation of open educational resources (OER).  Published by Iowa State University Digital Press


BCcampus  A repository of open textbooks peer reviewed and adapted by faculty in British Columbia, Canada.

Galileo Open Learning Materials  University System of Georgia open textbook publishing initiative repository.

LibreTexts  An open textbook organization initiated at the University of California, Davis, that contains OER in twelve widely used college-level disciplines.

Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)  Metasearch engine searches across many OER repositories.  Use the limiters to focus results.

MERLOT  A repository of free and open online teaching materials with peer reviews.

Milne Open Textbooks  Milne Library Publishing at SUNY Geneseo manages and maintains this catalog of open textbooks authored and peer-reviewed by SUNY faculty and staff.

MIT Open Courseware Online Textbooks  MIT’s library of online textbooks has OER for aeronautics, civil engineering and material science, among many other disciplines.

NSDL National Science Digital Library   “Serving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education”

OASIS  Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool created by SUNY Geneseo that searches several sources.

OER Commons  Free, adaptable, openly licensed textbooks and supplemental resources.

OpenStaxCollege  Open textbook publisher of high-quality print and mobile platform texts for general education courses.

Open Textbook Library High quality open textbooks with faculty peer reviews.

Saylor Foundation “Titles published through Saylor Academy’s Open Textbook Challenge and a collection of titles re-published by Saylor Academy”

Adapted from Erik Christensen (2010) CC-BY


For a textbook to be open, it should be in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license. Learn more about Creative Commons from the resources listed below:

Licensing with Creative Commons – A fact sheet from Creative Commons USA.

Creative Commons – Frequently Asked Questions



We have several collections of eBooks, including Ebsco-eBooks Academic Collection and ProQuest eBook Central, that are licensed for use by BHC faculty, students and staff.  They are available both on and off campus, and a link for any of these can be added to your Canvas course page. See our eBooks Catalog here.

Streaming Videos

We also have several collections of Streaming Videos which are licensed for use by BHC faculty, students and staff, are available on and off campus, and can be linked to your Canvas course page. See our Streaming Video Collection here.

In addition, we have access to Kanopy for class use.  It can be embedded in a Canvas course page.  For more information on this collection contact Ashtin Trimble or Barbara Bolser.


We are part of a consortium of 89 college and university libraries in Illinois.  Requesting books through the I-Share catalog is easy and fast.  If you are assigning a popular or classic book, your students may be able to borrow a copy through I-Share. See the I-Share catalog here.

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