Open Educational Resources in Course Design

Open Educational Resources in Course Design

The option of using open educational resources in course design is ever increasing. Advantages of designing with and incorporating OER into your courses include student access to materials, higher instance of academic freedom and being able to align content more closely to your course learning outcomes. Read here for tips on how to research and adopt OER in your content area and how to design around these new resources.

What are Open Educational Resources?

According to Creative Commons, Open Educational Resources (OER) are "free and open licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes."  There are many positive reasons to begin to move higher education courses to using open educational resources including student costs, academic freedom, and sharing of course content between educators. Some have even suggested that using OER is good for the environment from the view of sustainibility. 

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation says: "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."

As noted above, OER can be in the form of textbooks, web based learning modules, data sets and others that are shared under the Creative Common licensing structure. The most open being CC BY, which indicates that the material is free to use, disceminate, and modify, as long as the user posts attribution.

Creative Commons has done much to share the reasons for the OER movement and has provided, all educators, very detailed resources that can be found online at Free to Learn Guide/Index of OER Resources.

Where do I find Open Educational Resources for my content area?

Many times when we begin our research we tend to "Google it" which can be a way to get started in finding OER, but it happens that the team at Creative Commons and others have begun to curate OER on websites and wiki's that are organized and clearly marked as OER with Creative Commons copyright. There are resources like The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, OpenStax from Rice University, MIT OpenCourseWare, and more found in the resources list below.   

Another valuable resource for beginning the steps of locating OER for your content area is the OER Commons. This site allows you to begin your search of collections curated by Creative Commons, connect with other educators who are sharing resources and more. The OER Commons also has tutorials on how to use the site for research and connect with others who have traveled the journey you are looking to begin. 

Wanna Work Together? from Creative Commons on Vimeo.

How do I redesign my course now that I have found OER content to adopt?

Course redesign and new text or materials adoption is not a quick and easy process, yet is the same process to implement OER materials as it is when adopting a new textbook. The difference with OER you are free to adjust, add, and manipulate OER materials based on their Creative Commons Copyright. CC-BY is open to use freely, share with students and add or take out components and the only requirement is to attribute the origin of the material. CC BY-SA, means you can adjust, add and use freely and the requirement is to attribute the origin of the material and re-share freely your versions, also under a CC BY-SA license. These two CC licenses are great for use in higher education materials. For more information on the Creative Commons licensing see:

When thinking out your design, make sure to use universal design standards and address accessibility needs. If you are moving a course to a hybrid or online presentation you may review the course design educational materials provided by Acaedmic Innovations & eLearning and get assistance from the AI&e Instructional Designers to begin that process.

How do I create my own Open Educational Resources?

Any publication that you create can be given a Creative Commons copyright license, if it is your own original work, and then share the work online or in any form where other educators may find it and use in their teaching. At UAA you can publish your work to Scholarworks at UAA, and choose the creative commons license appropriate for you.

Where to I find resources?

Below are some places to begin starting with the curated toolkit created by our librarians here at UAA/APU Consortium Library.

  • UAA Resources around OER

    UAA/APU Consortium Librarians are an amazing resource for faculty at UAA. All departments at UAA have as assigned library liaison that assists in curation of additional course materials and resources to suppliment and use with courses. They are also experts at building specialty resource pages to use with assignments and course projects.

    The librarians have created for you a Faculty Toolkit. In it you will find the contact information for the Subject Library Liaisons, information on Course Reserves, how to connect with Library Research Instruction for your Students and instructions on how to Create Links to Library Content for your Blackboard course shell.

    The library website also has a vast amount of information for both you and your students. Make sure to meet with your liaison to get a tour and full explanation of how this resource can be leveraged toward student success!

    Contact the UAA/APU Consortium Library at 907.787.1848 for more information or send them an online inquiry here: Contact UAA/APU Consortium Library

  • Creative Commons Resources

    There is a global movement being led by Creative Commons for creation of and freely sharing educational resources.

    The Creative Commons motto is “Keep the Internet creative, free and open” the idea being that education should be free and collaborative.

    There are many ways to design or redesign a course using Creative Commons licensed materials. Here is a list of ideas that you may begin to think about when designing a course:

    • Adopt a CC eTextbook for your course
    • Add supplemental CC materials to your materials list
    • Research and curate CC materials to create an OER course
    • Research and use CC curriculum to support your course design

Bibliograpy & Resources

Creative Commons. (2016). What is OER?  Retrieved from:

Creative Commons. (n.d.). State of the Commons 2016. Retrieved from:

EDUCAUSE Library. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources  Retrieved from:


Pawlyshyn, N., Braddlee, Dr., Casper, L., Miller, H. (2013). Adopting OER: A case study of cross-institutional collaboration and innovation.

     EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from:


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