Open Educational Resources

What is OER?

Teaching has always been a collaborative profession, from Elementary level teachers sharing lesson plans to higher-ed instructors chatting about the most effective way to engage students with their content.  We often borrow materials from others, put our own spin on them or modify them to fit our methods or discipline.

The development of the internet has taken this collaboration and made it easier than ever before by providing platforms to easily create or search for amazing course materials and resources. In their simplest form, open educational resources are all of the stuff that you can find on the internet and use as learning materials in your courses. The really nice thing is that often they are items that you may not have the skill, expertise, connections or budget to create yourself. Simulations or web-based exercises are one example. Interviews with national or world renowned subject matter experts or virtual reality based videos can be an excellent addition to a course that will give students a perspective the wouldn’t normally have by sitting in a desk in a classroom.

The only requirement for a resource to be classified as an OER is that the resources must be free and open for all to use. Now, there can occasionally be some rules around HOW the resources can be used, for that it will be important to read our articles on copywrite and Creative Commons, but since this page is dedicated to OER.

The options below are different types of OER you may want to consider. Click the “+” to expand each section.

Text-based Options

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are just what they sound like, free and open textbooks anyone can use.  Although these types of texts are primarily offered in digital form, they could potentially be printed by a student who really wanted a printed version.  You may be skeptical that this is too good to be true, that the quality just isn’t there with an open textbook.  However, there have been many studies measuring effectiveness of open textbooks and the open versions have consistently shown to be just as effective if not more effective than traditional texts.

Options for locating open textbooks:


Journal articles can also be a wonderful supplement to your teaching.  Polk library

Links to an external site. has a series of excellent databases Links to an external site. that provide access to hundreds of journals.  Not sure exactly where to start with your search?  We have fantastic librarians on campus dedicated to online students and instructors.  They are very skilled in finding the exact resource you might need.  Please reach out to Erin McArthur Links to an external site. or Joe Pirillo Links to an external site. for assistance.

Audio Options

Audio Options

Audio files are another way to add rich media to a course. They can be used in many dfferent ways.  Short audio clips can be an effective way for the instructor to introduce video, give background on an article, leave feedback on an assignment, etc.  Similar to videos, just hearing an instructor’s voice can really help build that sense of community and instructor presence in the class.  Short audio clips of interviews can bring the voice of a world-renowned expert to the class.

Audio is also a great way to bring concepts presented in class to life.  Maybe the class is talking about the impact Covid-19 had on a small businesses.  A story about a real small business struggling through the pandemic can add a depth and richness that sticks with the student.  The audio recording captures feelings and emotions and struggle of that small business owner, you can hear their voice crack with fear and anxiety.  Stories like this help students understand that theories and concept are not just stuck in a book, they play out in real life.  They have an impact on society and day-to-day life.

Sources for Audio

  • National Public Radio– NPR makes it really easy to incorporate current events into your course by providing embed code with many of its news stories.
  • Podcasts – Sharing a short podcast episode is another great source for content.  If you don’t already listen to one specific to your discipline, go out and search for one.  Many have webpages that have search functions and transcripts of episodes.
Video Options

Video Options

As we mentioned earlier, video is a powerful resource type.  It has the ability include visual and auditory components and is versatile enough to illustrate any process, concept or idea.  Below are some video options you may want to search for content.  The best part is that each of these resources is integrated with Canvas so you can add video with just a few clicks of the mouse.

  • YouTube: Youtube is a social media platform that hosts videos on just about any subject you can imagine.  It is especially good at process videos.  Maybe you don’t have the time to create a video on adding subtotals to a spreadsheet, YouTube would be a great alternative.  Just one piece of caution, be sure to check your links to YouTube videos frequently. The videos are created by others, so if the creator decides to delete the video, the content will no longer be available to your students. Fortunately, Canvas offers a tool to help you quickly validate links
  • Links to an external site. an ensure they work.
  • Films on Demand: This subscription-based video service is a wonderful source for documentaries and other professional videos.  We have free access through Polk Library, so cost is not a consideration.  The best part is that the service is very customizable.  You can choose to show an entire video or just a clip that will illustrate a certain point. 
  • Kahn Academy: Kahn Academy is another academically focused video service.  IT started as a way to tutor middle school children on complex mathematical concepts, but through the years has expanded to include videos for a wide variety of audiences on a wide variety of topics.  U.S. history, art history, computer science, economics and personal finance are all examples of topic areas.
  • Ted Talks: Ted Talks are a fantastic way to supplement a textbook or written article.  At a maximum length of 18 minutes, these videos highlight topics on just about any topic you can think of. They are impactful and enlightening and can be a great way to invigorate learners’ curiosity.
  • Polk Library Streaming Video – Polk library subscribes to multiple streaming video services that features short tv episodes to full lenth movies.  Subjects include everything from Accounting to Zimbabwe Culture & History.
Learning Objects

Learning Objects

Learning Objects are all the other instructional resources available on the internet.  Maybe that is a simulation or a quiz, maybe a web-based branching scenario or game.  If you have some extra time and want to try some out, give these a try.

The following repositories are a great source to begin your search

Note: Some learning objects can be difficult for students with disabilities to work with.  Things like closed captions are not always included.  It is always a good idea to have an alternative assignment or activity available for a student who may not be able to work with a selected learning object.