If you are considering adapting or creating an open educational resource (OER) for your project? Do you want to find a good starting point for talking about success criteria for your project? Looking at existing OER is a good place to start.

Types of OER


The purpose of this post is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • The variety resources that can be OER
  • Preliminary information on where to find OER
  • File types and tools to edit them


When educators talk about open educational resources, they are talking about a wide spectrum of resources. These might include videos, audio files, open textbooks, articles, open courseware (small or large-scale online course designs), images, illustrations, simulations, assessments of all kinds, formative or summative exam questions, and more, and more. Related to the discussion of the evolution of open education, many of these resources were originally designed as learning objects, with the idea that they might be reused in a variety of remixed contexts.

OER Commons and Merlot are very large repositories that contain a wide variety of smaller OER such as worksheets, quiz questions, simulations, etc. Take some time to explore smaller resources and see the types of file formats available in your discipline.

OER Toolkit

The following content is adapted from the Faculty OER Toolkit by BCcampus published under a CC-BY 4.0 International license.

There are a multitude of OER out there from which to choose, including textbooks, courses, multimedia, and supplementary materials. These can be found searching regular search engines (like Google) by using certain keywords but it is much easier to find them through dedicated OER repositories or websites. The examples below are just a sampling of such repositories and websites.


OER Commons  – A large collection of a variety of types of OER, including textbooks, courses, and ancillary materials.

Creative Commons Search  – A repository of various types of media, including images, music, and videos.

MERLOT  – “A curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community.”

Mason OER Metafinder (MOM) – a multi-repository search engine created by George Mason University Libraries.

OER Handbook for Educators  – “A guide for those who are just getting started in the creation of open educational resources (OER).”

SOL*R (Shareable Online Learning Resources)  – This is BCcampus’s OER respository.


eCampusOntario’s Open Textbook Library page is an excellent place to begin searching for open textbooks to use in a variety of small and large-scale post-secondary courses. Open textbooks can be downloaded, adapted and shared in part (one or more chapters) or in whole.

OpenStax  – Supported by Rice University, OpenStax has a huge collection of open, peer-reviewed textbooks on a large variety of subjects.

Project Gutenberg  – A collection of tens of thousands of digitized books available for download; audiobooks are also available.

AU Press  – Athabasca University’s AU Press publishes open access journals and books with a focus on Canada, the North American West, and the Circumpolar North.

Digital Courses

Saylor Academy  – A non-profit organization committed to providing free and open online courses.

Open Washington (State of Washington in the U.S.) has a great selection of courseware search options.

Khan Academy  –  A collection of instructional videos and practice exercises on topics including math, science, programming, history, English, economics, and standardized test prep.

MIT OpenCourseWare  – Offers free access to almost all MIT course content.


Creative Commons Search  – A repository of various types of media, including images, music, and videos.

Vimeo  –  and YouTube Videos with a CC license can be found through Advanced Search options.

LibraVox – a huge collection of public domain books read aloud by LibraVox community members. Downloadable, public domain.

Flickr: Creative Commons – Flickr is an “online photo management and sharing application” and many photos are available under CC licenses; Flickr allows searching by type of license.

Unsplash – an image website feature high resolution images available with no attribution required (although it is nice to attribute)

Pixabay – a collection of public domain images. You can become a Pixabay member and contribute to the collection.

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental, or ancillary, OER materials can include lecture notes, lesson plans, slideshow presentations, assignments, or activities.

PhET  – Includes interactive math and science simulations with lesson plans and activities.

OER Commons  – A large collection of a variety of types of OER, including textbooks, courses, and ancillary materials.

Other OER lists

Cambrian has this research guide to help you find OER. 

Samuel1983 / Pixabay

You’ve Downloaded some Resources – Now What?

Common File Types and Tools for Editing

One of the course team’s favourite resources is a website called AlternativeTo. The purpose of this website is to provide you with ideas for alternative software to edit and create different types of files. Many of the options in AlternativeTo are open or no-cost solutions. There are many, many great options there if your computer does not have a suite of professional software (such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Pro). There are also a lot of creative types of software for building interactive and colourful learning experiences. Check it all out!

OER are not truly OER if they cannot be adapted (edited) to suit your local context or learner needs. In order to accomplish editing, the creator of the OER needs to provide the resource in an editable format (as well as other formats if they desire).

While PDFs are a very common form of output for document management, they are not very useful as editable documents. Their purpose is to create an image of text to ensure fidelity of design and printing. This makes them difficult to “scrape” for content. It’s good open practice to keep this in mind when adapting and sharing resources. Avoid PDFs.

Using this link: Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections. You can explore the Library of Congress (United States) listing of digital file formats with deeper explanations.

Here are some common files you might encounter:

Text with and text with Images – might be .txt, .rtf, .doc, .docx, Google Docs, etc. (AlternativeTO has a great listing of options for alternatives to Microsoft Word). Most computers come with a basic form of text editing software.

Images – .jpg, .png, .tiff (most computers come with a built in version of image opening and editing software)

Audio – .mp3, .wav, .wma, .mid, .ogg (Audacity is a great open tool for opening, editing, and converting audio files https://www.audacityteam.org )

Video – .mp4, .mov, .avi, .flv, .wmv (VLC from VideoLan is a great option for reading and converting video files https://www.videolan.org/vlc/ )


OER are not just open textbooks and open courseware, there are so many different small and large ways to find and use them in your practice. Use of editing software may require a learning curve, but in most cases, if you don’t know how to use an open software, there’s a YouTube video for it. Experiment, play around, edit, and share your work. Time invested in adapting OER typically provides returns in your capacity to localize and contextualized materials for your learners’ specific needs. It also increases your capacity to contribute OER for others to use.


Jump right in!

Interested in creating or adapting OER for your project? Jump right in and give the adaptation process a try. Search one of the repositories listed above, download an OER, adapt it in some way that’s fun or useful for you in this course and share it with others. Avoid OER with a license that uses ND (no derivatives), but for the rest, just give it a go and post it in the discussion forum, on Twitter, in a blog post, or keep it for your own learning (see where you are by the end of the course).


This post was adapted from the Making Sense of Open Education Day 4 by Jenni Hayman, which is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation and/or attribution).


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.