Information As of January 4, 2022, the Library is open with restrictions in place. For more information visit the services and operations updates page.

Open educational resources (OER)

With courses being offered almost exclusively online, this is a good opportunity to use open educational resources (OER) to facilitate access to course materials freely, openly and legally. The Library is available to help professors find OER to replace print textbooks and other resources that are currently unavailable, whenever possible.

For assistance in finding suitable OER for your courses, contact Please provide an overview of the topics to be covered in the course and, if applicable, the title of the textbook usually assigned.


What are Open educational resources?

OER = Free + 5 Rs

OER are learning and teaching materials that are freely and openly available. They range from textbooks to entire courses and everything in between, including videos, podcasts, tests and exercises, websites, software, simulations, case studies, presentations slides, and more. The key is that they can be widely distributed and adapted because they are at no cost to the user and are not subject to the usual copyright restrictions. This openness is most often indicated by a Creative Commons licence.


What can be done with an OER? The 5 Rs

 the right to share revisions and

Illustration based on: D. Wiley, “Defining the ‘Open’ in Open Content and Open Educational Resources,” CC BY 4.0. Definitions adapted from: SUNY OER Services, “5Rs of OER” [Infographic], CC BY 4.0.


Benefits of OER

  • OER are affordable for students, making education more accessible.
  • OER allow you to customize and adapt to the course context, providing a richer teaching and learning opportunity.
  • Students can benefit from multiple learning styles because OER can incorporate various content formats (text, audio, video or multimedia) and interactive elements.
  • Remote and continued access since most OER are digital, do not require an access code and do not expire.
  • Contribute to students’ success and completion by easing their financial burden without having a negative impact on their learning.


How to integrate OER into teaching

  1. Find an existing OER: Use the resources suggested below to find out what currently exists.
  2. Adopt an existing OER: Either use it as is or adapt it to your particular context or course. Because OER can be adapted and modified, you can add or omit information, examples, and so on. You can also create your own OER.
  3. Apply an open licence: State the conditions for reusing the OER that you have adapted or created by choosing a Creative Commons licence.
  4. Share and distribute your OER: Share your OER in distribution networks and index it in existing OER repositories so others can discover and use it.
  5. Reuse your OER: Use and adjust your OER for your classes year-after-year without needing to ask for permission.


Finding OER

Consult the OER by Discipline Guide: University of Ottawa (Version 1.0 - June 2021) for suggested resources for specific uOttawa courses.

Search Tips:
  • Search by discipline or subject first.
  • If searching by keyword, start with broader concepts and then narrow down using discipline-specific terms and/or limiters available on the platform.
  • If available, use the “advanced search” function.
  • Confirm the conditions of use/licence/copyright status of the resource. Some of the suggested repositories include free digital resources that are not necessarily “open” (i.e. under a Creative Commons licence or in the public domain) for reuse or modification without permission. Not sure what is the copyright status of a resource you want to use? Ask the Copyright Office at
Suggested OER repositories and sources
Open access books


What are Creative Commons (CC) licences?

Creative Commons licences act like a permission. When a creator applies one of the six free licences on their work, they retain their copyright but allow the public to share, remix and reuse the work legally without having to ask permission or pay additional fees, provided that the user complies with the conditions of the licence.

CC licences consist of two elements: the CC logo and icons representing a combination of conditions (which can also be represented by two letters or written out in long form).

 attribution, share alike, non commercial and no derivatives

Credit: Creative Commons Icons, Creative Commons, CC BY 4.0.

The most open of these licences is CC BY, requiring attribution only. The most restrictive (but still more open than copyright’s “all rights reserved” approach) is CC BY-NC-ND, which requires attribution but does not allow for commercial use and adaptations.

Note: Resources with the ND condition cannot be used for an OER. ND indicates that the user cannot make changes to the original version to incorporate it into a new resource. This condition goes against two of the five Rs: revising and remixing.

Learn more about CC licences on the Creative Commons website.


Need help?

Contact the Library’s OER support at if you need help with:

  • Finding existing OER
  • Locating open content to create a new OER
  • Hosting or depositing your OER to ensure its discoverability
  • Copyright and licences in OER
  • Pressbooks (digital publishing platform) and H5P Studio (interactive elements) to create an OER


Attribution (BY)

Unless otherwise noted, the content on this page is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Back to top