9 Searching for OER

Recognising the different types of OER

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 licence fees.

Materials that are under full copyright, or which are not accompanied by a specific licence allowing anyone to copy, adapt and share them, are not Open Educational Resources. You can use these materials only within educational provisions or copyright exceptions.

According to the OLCOS Roadmap (2012, p. 20) [1], the core attributes of OER are:

  • Open resources are provided free of charge for educational institutions, content services, and users such as teachers, students and lifelong learners.
  • Open resources are liberally licensed to enable re-use, including modifying, combining and re-purposing of content.
  • Open resources are produced using open formats and standards that allow for easy re-use.
  • Open systems and tools are produced with open-source software, using open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

To simplify things, you can think of OER falling into the category of either content or tools. Review the table below:



*full courses *simulations *readings *study guides
*rubrics *videos *images *worksheets *games
*quizzes *assignments *syllabi *textbooks

Software and services that can be used in the creation, development, collaborations, delivery, search and use of open learning content.

(Adapted from: “Identifying, finding and adopting OER “, by SUNY OER Services is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Where to look for OER and Search tools

The Creative Commons organisation estimates over 2 billion works are now licenced worldwide across many content types.[2] For example, Wikimedia, whose most well-known project is the free online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, uses a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike for its online content.[3]

But with over two billion openly licensed materials available on the internet, how do you go about finding the right ones for your needs?

As a starting point, use the RMIT University library guide that lists OER discovery sites, plus resources for specific subject areas.

In this video, Abbey Elder highlights repositories to search for OER, then provides techniques for locating the OER resources within them, and then provides rubrics for evaluating the resources found.

How to Find and Evaluate OER (6:05 min)

(“How to find and evaluate OER” by Abbey Elder is licensed under CC BY 4.0 )

  1. Open eLearning Content Observatory Services. (2012). Open educational practices and resources: OLCOS roadmap 2012. https://www.olcos.org/cms/upload/docs/olcos_roadmap.pdf is licensed under CC BY NC SA
  2. Creative Commons. (n.d.). Creative Commons homepage. https://creativecommons.org/ is licensed under CC BY 4.0
  3. Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. (n.d.) Find OER. https://www.cccoer.org/using-oer/find-oer/ is licensed under CC BY 4.0


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OER Capability Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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