Skip to main content

Open Educational Resources

“OERs are teaching, learning, and research resources in any medium – digital or otherwise -  that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 2018).    

Open Educational Resources (OER) can be textbooks, lectures, videos, or entire courses complete with assignments and learning objectives.  The open license under which OER are offered allows educators the "5 R Permissions" that move beyond copyright restrictions typical of traditional commercial textbooks:

  • They can retain and make copies of materials. 
  • They can reuse materials in a wide range of ways. 
  • They can revise, adapt, modify, and improve materials. 
  • They can remix materials by combining multiple OERs. 
  • They can redistribute and share materials with others (Lovett, Meyer, & Thille, 2008).

OER are rising in popularity due to use benefits such as: 

  • Free or Low-Cost Price Point - Learners and educators can often use these without cost (Fischer, Hilton III, Robinson, & Wiley, 2015). 
  • More Immediate Access – Learners and educators can often access these immediately online as they need to or pull contents into a shared space like Blackboard or OneDrive. 
  • Customization/Tailored Materials – Educators don't have to be concerned about imposed publisher revisions as they can save and customize materials to suit their needs, such as editing text; reordering, deleting or adding chapters; asking learners to co-construct content, etc. (Feldstein et al., 2012). 

Research has shown OER are of comparable quality, if not better than, traditional commercial textbooks (Feldstein et al., 2012; Hilton, 2016). Studies of their use suggest learners may have more positive course outcomes in terms of engagement, higher grade averages, and lower failure and withdrawal rates when open textbooks are leveraged by educators (Grewe & Davis, 2017; U.S. PIRG, 2014). 

Additional resources

It can be a daunting task to navigate through the variety of open education repositories and other OER resources available.  Keep in mind CMU Librarians are trained in reference support to aid in your OER search. 

Here are some starting points: 

Here are examples of repositories with no-cost texts, supplements, and materials for download/use: 

  • Doab (Director of Open Access Books):  over 8,800 academic peer-reviewed books and chapters 
  • MERLOT:  curated online learning and support materials 
  • OER Commons: single search source the pulls from multiple OER collections. 
  • OER Metafinder:  simultaneously searches multiple OER repositories 
  • Open Textbook Library:  open textbooks reviewed by educators from a variety of colleges and universities. 
  • Open Stax:  math, science, social sciences, humanities and AP 

Here are examples of repositories with low-cost texts, supplements, etc. For use through an online platform and also sometimes available for download/use: 


Feldstein, A., Martin, M., Hudson, A., Warren, K., Hilton III, J., & Wiley, D. (2012). Open textbooks and increased student access and outcomes. Retrieved from

Fischer, L., Hilton III, J., Robinson, J., Wiley, D. (2015). A multi-institutional study on the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students. Retrieved from 

Grewe, K., Davis, P. (2017). The impact of enrollment in an OER course on student learning outcomes. Retrieved from

Hilton III, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: A review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Retrieved from

Lovett, M., Meyer, O., Thille, C. (2008). The open learning initiative:  measuring the effectiveness of the OLI Statistics course in accelerating student learning. Retrieved from 

United States Department of Labor. (2016). College tuition and fees increase 63 percent since January 2006. Retrieved from 

U.S. PIRG. (2014). Fixing the broken textbook market. Retrieved from 

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2018). Open educational resources. Retrieved from