Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OER) is a broad term that links concepts of openness to materials used for instruction and teaching.

At BCOEL, we use OER when referring to open resources such as journal articles, books, associated course materials, and AV materials such as streaming audio and video.

Adopting OER

Using OERs in the classroom doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Instead, try adopting an existing resource of high quality and relevance.

You can search resources like SOL*R, OER Commons or Merlot, or even popular sites like Youtube, which contain a great deal of scholarly content — if you know how to uncover it. You can also explore the OER repository rubric and other OER finding tools. Don’t forget to talk to your librarian. They are expert searchers and will help you find exactly what you need to make OERs a success in your classroom.

Be sure to tell others about your experience and share your story about saving students money and improving their learning outcomes.

Adapting OER

Adapting is a great way to save yourself time, by building on the work of others to customize a resource to meet your course or student’s particular needs.

You might, for example, find an excellent open math textbook, but all of the examples are in imperial measurement. You can adapt it by replacing the examples with metric measurements. Or, you could take an open textbook with an American focus and make it relevant for B.C. Students.

Be sure to share out your adaptation, as others will undoubtedly be able to make similar use of your work.

Creating OER

You may also wish to create your own OER if is no relevant, high-quality resource already exists. If this is the case, and you decide to create a new OER, your efforts will not only be of value to your students, but to many other instructors and students around the world.

There are hundreds of tools available to help you create your own OERs, many of which are free and open source. We’ve created a list of free resources to help you get started.

Be sure to talk to your local Teaching and Learning Centre, for recommendations, training opportunities, and access to some of the more expensive applications.


There are many benefits of using Open Educational Resources in your teaching, from saving students money to adding diverse perspectives to your course content. 

One of the most important reasons for using Open Educational Resources is the cost savings to students. Traditional textbooks can cost up to $200 – $300 in some disciplines, beyond the budget of many students and their families. Students who are unable to afford the course textbook will often fall behind and have lower levels of achievement. Open Educational Resources are free and can help students succeed.

You can adapt OERs, which allows you to take an existing resource and modify it to the specific needs of your students. You can add local examples, combine chapters from different texts, or translate a work into another language. 

OERs can also save you time and add different voices to your classroom. The internet doesn’t just have cat videos; you might also find a great lecture or podcast by a senior scholar in your field. Using that as an OER in your classroom can provide another perspective on the topic for your students and save you time to write up and deliver another lecture.

Taking advantage of existing OERs can provide you with inspiration for ideas for your own classes. You can learn from the work of your colleagues and implement new resources knowing that they worked well for others.


The biggest challenge to using OERs in a classroom is finding resources that are of high relevance to the topic being studied. Most OERs should be discoverable on the internet using online guides. That’s where we librarians come in. Librarians are expert internet searchers and have extensive experience in matching information needs with available information resources. Don’t go it alone, ask a librarian!

Another challenge for using OERs is that they can be time-consuming to create. While this is definitely true, you don’t need to start from scratch. Try adding an existing resource that someone else has already created (adopting). Or if you feel even more ambitious, take an existing OER and tweak it to match your specific needs (adapting).