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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Developing a Search Strategy

Finding the Open Educational Resources (OER), you need for the courses you teach can be as simple as conducting a single search, or it can be a real adventure in sleuthing! Below are some steps for finding OER to incorporate into your classes. You may not need to go through every step, and you may want to tackle them in a different order.

Before proceeding, be sure you are familiar with the definition of OER and Creative Commons licenses



Consider your goals

Are you hoping to replace your commercial textbook with freely available materials? Do you want to find interactive tools and streaming media to supplement your current textbook or readings? Do you want to move away from using a textbook altogether? Your strategy for searching may vary accordingly.

Keep a record of your searches

Because you may need to search several places for OER, it's a good idea to keep a record of where you look, which terms you use (and what categories you browse through), and what you find. Think about a way to keep that record.



Identify search terms

You may think of other terms as you search, but having a good list before you start may prevent the need to go back and search for sources again.

Course Level

Brainstorm and jot down terms that might be used to describe your course as a whole. Pull from the course title but go further. Does your course go by a different name at other colleges and universities? Are there other ways to express your subject? Do any of the terms you identified have spelling variations (example: behavior and behaviour - you may need to search for both)?

Learning Outcomes

You may need to search for smaller content blocks than an entire textbook or course that matches yours. Take a close look at your learning outcomes and course content to come up with additional keywords you can use as you search. Include common synonyms (other words people in your field use to discuss the concept) and spelling variations as before.



Tips for Searching Repositories

  • Keywords might not return the best results as resources are often uploaded without proper indexing.
  • If it is an option, browse by subject or discipline.
  • Browse broadly — look at subject areas that are broader than yours but may still include information on your subject.
  • Use search filters to narrow down your search to more relevant results.

Searching by keyword is just one option. Also, use the browsing function within each repository to locate resources your keyword searches may have missed.

Think big! Look for complete open courses and textbooks.

You can use (and modify) an entire course, a portion of a course, or just the reading list -- whatever is relevant to your needs. Browse the 'Courses' section in OER repositories. If you don't find your exact course, look for something similar.

If you are hoping to replace your current textbook with one that is open and free for your students, you may be able to find complete OER textbooks to review and use. If you don't find one for your exact course, look for something similar that you can pull from.

Think small! Look for smaller chunks of content.

Instead of focusing on the textbook, you would like to replace, concentrate on your course outcomes: What would you like students to know or be able to do? You may need to use a variety of materials that address different components of your course, especially if yours isn't a high enrollment course nationwide.

Don't forget the ancillary course materials!

Don't forget to look for ancillary instructor materials as you search for OER to adopt or adapt. Many OER go beyond the textbook and include lesson plans, assignments, study guides, and other materials. These extra materials can be immensely useful and save you a lot of time. 

Resources to get you started: