OER Handbook/get OER

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Note: The page is outdated, please see http://www.wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook/educator instead.

  • Searching and finding [UNESCO 7.1]

There is a general sense that by now the open education movement has produced a huge amount of free and open content. Much funding has been provided to support content production, the open courseware consortium counts more than 150 institutional members, and there are numerous wiki sites for the collaborative development of content. Because OER is generated largely on volunteer work, the topics and types of OER available varies widely. Additionally, quality control is handled differently by each site, with some site being more selective than others. This makes the process of finding OER occasionally difficult, and sometimes frustrating. While OER exists across the internet, there are several sites that are good places to start when looking for new material.

  • Services/tools across multiple sites
  • [List of "resource" sites] [UNESCO 7.1.1-7.1.4]

The following section provides links to some example sites. Given the rapid developments in this aread, the list will be outdated almost immediately, but provides an overview of the kinds of resources that exist. A more up-to-date selection of resources are saved as http://del.icio.us bookmarks tagged oer-toolkit.

Search engines

A number of specialised search engines and services have been set up to make finding educational resource easier. They have different strengths, and do not provide the accuracy and speed that we have come to be used to in our standard websearches. The list is constantly growing, but some examples are:

  • ccLearn While not operational yet, expectations are high that the recently announced specialised search engine developed by Google and the Creative Commons ccLearn project with support from the Hewlett Foundation will improve things considerably. The key difference to a general google search is that the project is currently collecting URLs of OER providers. http://learn.creativecommons.org/projects/oesearch/
  • Search Creative Commons Creative Commons offers a number of specialised search engines (including google, yahoo, flickr, etc.), which only bring up results that are licensed under creative commons licenses. http://search.creativecommons.org/
  • Commenwealth of Learning Knowledge Finder was recently replaced by a set of specialised google searches, one of which focuses on open educational resources. This means that the CoL has created a list of websites they consider good sources of OER materials, and your search will be restricted to that set of websites. http://www.col.org/colweb/site/pid/2919
  • OpenCourserWare Finder developed by Utah State University, collects a list of courses from some of the well-known open courseware sites, and organises them taxonomically. It offers a nice and fast user-interface, but new content (or new sites) do not show up immediately, and the current set of resources is biased towards MITs materials. http://ocwfinder.com/

Effective search with search engines

(If you are already familiar with different search engines and BOOLEAN search you can skip this section.)

Search engines belong to the web like the mother to the child. Without search engines and their indexing efforts, the web would be a pure chaos for its users. You can use the same methods and techniques like you use for a general search. Just enter one or more keywords or even better a phrase into the search box of your favorite search engine and get the results presented.

To improve your findings Boolean search is helpful. There are three Boolean operators (the following points are from Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection (Wiki How to search/Boolean Logic) (2007-02-15):

  • AND: Use the AND operator to retrieve a set in which each citation contains all the search terms. This operator places no condition on where the terms are found in relation to one another; the terms simply have to appear somewhere in the same citation.
  • OR: Use the OR operator to retrieve documents that contain at least one of the specified search terms. Use OR when you want to pull together articles on similar subjects.
  • NOT: Use the NOT operator to exclude the retrieval of terms from your search.

Nearly every search engine allows you to specify your request with this boolean operators. If you like to search for the fruit "apple" you should exclude all findings about computers and operating systems. For that, you should write a request like

apple AND fruit NOT macintosh NOT mac NOT computer

Every search engine uses an own request-language, but nearly all of the major search engines understand the following request.

:apple +fruit -macintosh -mac -computer

If you are looking for a phrase, you should set the phrase in quotation marks. If you are looking for a "big apple" plant and are not interested in New York - which is often called "big apple" you should write:

:"big apple" -"New York"


Repositories of training and educational materials offer a range of resources developed by many different organisations and individuals and for different subjects, age groups, purposes.

ccMixter offers songs under a Creative Commons license. Several labels allow the reuse of their music, the searchword "open music" leads to many results. Also the podcasting world has a need for open music and there is a growing site with so called "podsafe" music.

  • Connexions is Rice University's online repository and collaboration portal for OERs. Connexions does not focus on whole courses, but structures content as modules – the idea is that users can combine modules in different ways, depending on their needs. Users are encouraged to store and develop their materials on the site. There is both a search function and users can browse by subject, language, popularity or title/author. Connexions currently contains 4615 modules.September 2007 http://www.cnx.org
  • Curriki allows users upload educational resources, and provide ratings and comments. It has recently been launched and does not offer the amount of materials, the other sites feature. http://www.curriki.org
  • Itrainonline aims to be a set of training materials. Most of the resources are licensed as free and open content, but the licenses are often contained in separate files, which have to be downloaded. It makes it more difficult to determine if a resource can be freely used. Itrainonline organises resource in subject areas, and offers a site search. http://www.itrainonline.org
  • MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) is provided by the California State University Center for Distributed Learning. It is a clearning house for learning and teaching resources, and allows users to assess the quality of the materials, in the same way amazon users can post reviews and comments about books. In an informal study, many of the resources found were in fact not open educational resources, but copyrighted. MERLOT lists 17741 resources and allows browsing by discipline or search.September 2007 http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm
  • http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/ is a platform for Creative Commons licensed sounds. There are no songs available on this platform but just sounds and noises.

Database of web-based resources useful for teaching and learning from several Australian repositories. It is organized around Australian school and high school curriculum, its tools are free to Australian educators, it is funded by the bodies responsible for education provision in Australia and run by a non-profit company. Anyone may access the edna website and may use the resources, information and communication areas for education and training purposes.

UNESCO/IIEP hosts a Wiki that offers a list of several portals, gateways and repositories. It offers a list of links to OER initiatives, resources and tools. It was compiled following the first IIEP discussion forum on Open Educational Resources (24 October - 2 December 2005). It offers access to a selection of approx. 30 repositories of open learning objects, mostly at the university level.

MIT OCW is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation , Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and generous support of the Ab Initio software company. Its goals are to: (i) Provide free, searchable access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world, and (ii) Extend the reach and impact of MIT OCW and the "opencourseware" concept. In March 2006 there were 1,400 courses. OpenCourseWare materials are licensed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under a Creative Commons License (CC 2.5). It offers course materials of all subjects done at the university. It also provides access to video recorded classes.

The Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) is an electronic warehouse of ideas, examples, and resources (represented as "packages") that support student learning at the Maricopa Community Colleges. The packages might include a particular lesson, technique, method, activity, assignment that you either developed or applied in teaching. The packing slip might contain a description of the strategy with perhaps some outcomes described. Additional materials might be a Word/PDF document version of a handout, an image of engaged students, or a link to a web site created that describes the activity. At the moment there are 1,472 packages.

A growing library of high-quality online courses for students and faculty in higher education, high school and Advanced Placement. Courses in the NROC library are contributed by developers from leading online-learning programs across the US. All courses are assessed to ensure they meet high standards of scholarship, instructional value and presentational impact. NROC works with developers and contributes resources to improve course quality and to provide ongoing maintenance. Courses are designed to cover the breadth and depth of topics based on generally accepted US curricula and can also be customized within a course management system. NROC partners with academic institutions, publishers, teaching organizations, US state and federal agencies, international distributors and others to create a global distribution network to provide courses to students, teachers and the general public at little or no cost. [NROC Licenses] are content use arrangements for commercial vendors, textbook publishers, and charitable organizations. It is supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Working in partnership with subject experts and commercial developers, BECTA's (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) NLN Materials Team has commissioned and managed the development of Further Education e-learning materials for use in Virtual Learning Environments. The materials span the UK post-16 Further Education curriculum and are designed to be fitted easily into existing teaching. They have around 400 learning objects.

OER Commons is a teaching and learning network offering a broad selection of high-quality Open Educational Resources, OER, that are freely available online to use and, in most cases, to adapt to support individualized teaching and learning practices. It is the first comprehensive open learning portal where teachers and professors (from pre-K to graduate school) can access their colleagues’ course materials, share their own, and collaborate on affecting today’s classrooms. It uses Web 2.0 features (tags, ratings, comments, reviews, and social networking) to create an online experience that engages educators in sharing their best teaching and learning practices. OER Commons is a project of ISKME, a recognized leader in applying educational research to educational practice.

You will find 7 groups of subject-specific open courseware but also specialized resources for each subject, that is why it is acting as a gateway to specific repositories. It is an annotated listing of publicly available courseware (lecture notes, handouts, slides, tutorial material, exam questions, quizzes, videos, demonstrations, etc) from the world's universities, colleges and other educational institutions. It was created and is maintained by iberry.com, a non-profit private website, serving the international academic community.

The OCW Finder currently shows results from several collections: MIT OCW , Utah State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health OCW, Tufts University OCW, Foothill De-Anza SOFIA, and Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative. The OCW Finder is based on del.icio.us direc.tor, released under the GPL and it was remixed by David Wiley from the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning.

The Open University's (UK) OpenLearn website with free and open educational resources for learners and educators around the world. All learning materials are freely available. In the LabSpace one can share and reuse educational resources, which means you are allowed to modify and re-use. OpenLearn is supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The resources are licensed under the [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/]. The resources are from several subjects: Arts and History, Business and Management, Education, Health and Lifestyle, IT and Computing, Mathematics and Statistics, Modern Languages, Science and Nature, Society, Study Skills, and Technology. OpenLearn is planning to increase the number of study units available in the LearningSpace between now and April 2008. The website will grow from providing 900 learning hours of learning materials at launch to 5400 learning hours.

The UK's free national gateway to Internet resources for the teaching, learning and research community. The RDN is a collaboration of over seventy educational and research organizations, including the Natural History Museum and the British Library, and builds upon the foundations of the subject gateway activity carried out under the JISC's (Joint Information Systems Committee) . The service links to resources through a series of subject-based information gateways. Although primarily aimed at users in UK higher and further education, the network is freely available to all. It gives access to over 100,000 resources. In contrast to search engines, the RDN gathers resources which are carefully selected by subject specialists in our partner institutions. You can search and browse through the resources, and be confident that your results will connect you to Web sites relevant to learning, teaching and research in your subject area.

In English and French. SchoolNet is a partnership with the provincial and territorial governments, the education community and the private sector in Canada, which promotes the effective use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in learning. Nowadays it offers access to 7,000 learning resources.

World Lecture Hall is a project of the Center for Instructional Technologies at the University of Texas at Austin. This project publishes links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver course materials in any language. Some courses can be accessed full text. Materials include syllabi, course notes, assignments, and audio and video streaming. WLH contains links to course materials for university-level courses. WLH has been chosen as a Featured Top Site by Educating.net, the Internet's premiere education portal.


The LabSpace is the experimental zone of OpenLearn institutional repository of the Open University from UK. LabSpace is the place for sharing and reusing educational resources. Download some learning materials, adapt to your needs: translate, shorten, extend, add examples... The resources are from several subjects: Arts and History, Business and Management, Education, Health and Lifestyle, IT and Computing, Mathematics and Statistics, Modern Languages, Science and Nature, Society, Study Skills, and Technology. At the moment (Jan. 2007), there may be around 100 resources.

Textbooks and select educational resources of all kinds. Some of the books are PDF files, others are viewable only online as e-books. Most books are aimed at undergraduates, but there are at least a few resources at every level, from kindergarten to post-doc. All of the books are offered for free by their respective copyright holders for online viewing. They have around 500 books at by the end of 2006 they expect to have 1,000. All original text on this website is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. The categories of the textbooks are: Biology, Business & Management, Chemistry, Computers-Tech, Earth Sciences, Economics, Engineering, Health Sciences & Medical, History, Math and Physics.

The Wisconsin Online Resource Center is a digital library of Web-based learning resources it has been developed primarily by faculty from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and produced by multimedia technicians who create the learning objects for the online environment. At present, 348 WTCS faculty members have authored around 2000 learning objects. It is a searchable repository in wide range of subjects, all implemented in Flash. You have to register to use the site, but this is free, and you can deep-link to objects within the site.


arXiv, set up by Cornell University, is an e-Print archive specializing in Physics, Mathematics, Nonlinear Sciences, Computer Science and Quantitative Biology. It contains more than 380,000 documents, mainly as Postscript and PDF files. It is addressed to graduate education mainly. No license agreement is published, so full copyright protection has to be assumed.

A repository specializing in medicine and health resources. Maintained by the University of New South Wales in Australia, it has not been updated since 2000. Contains mainly links. Addressed to the higher education space.

A collaboration between Hofstra University, the College of New Jersey, Pennsylvania State University, Villanova University and Virginia Tech, as part of the US National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library Project, to create a portal to computing education. CITIDEL is a digital library of educational resources for the computing field, harvested from ten different source collections. It contains to a wide variety of resources, addressed to a diversity of educational levels.

488,256 resources for computing

A repository of peer-reviewed teaching resources for college and graduate level computer science education. The CSTC is designed to facilitate access to quality teaching materials developed worldwide. It is endorsed by the US Association of Computing Machinery and funded by the US National Science Foundation. Metadata for materials are created by users. CSTC is one of the source collections for CITIDEL. It contains all types of archives. It has not been updated since 2003.

Over 10,000 resources for computing

It is a Community of digital library access to high-quality collections of educational resources, mainly centered around Earth Sciences. It addresses all levels of education and contains a wide range of resource types.

ESCOT is a testbed for the integration of innovative technology in middle school (K-12) mathematics. The project investigates replicable practices that produce predictably high quality digital learning resources. It contains graphs, tables and simulations, as well as tools for manipulating geometry and algebra, to be integrated in math education software.

Funded by the US National Science Foundation, DLESE provides learners and educators at all levels with access to materials to support Earth system science education. The collection includes lesson plans, maps, images, data sets, assessment activities, curricula and online courses. The site also provides support services to help users effectively create, use and share OER, as well as communication networks to facilitate interactions and collaborations across the field of earth science.

Over 25,000 learning objects for the earth sciences, available under a custom open licence

Aims to provide access to quality networked engineering, mathematics and computing resources, and be the UK national focal point for online access to information in these subjects. It is run by a team of information specialists from a number of universities and institutions in the UK, led by Heriot Watt University. EEVL's target audience is students, staff and researchers in higher and further education, as well as anyone else working, studying or looking for information in Engineering, Mathematics and Computing. EEVL Xtra allows users to cross-search a further 20 databases. All rights and all related rights for the content of the EEVL site are reserved by Heriot Watt University or individual authors.

Over 10,000 resources for engineering, mathematics and computing
N.B. Users will be charged a fee to access some content.

A project of Brown University's Computer Graphics Research Group to create a set of exemplary Web-based learning objects (Java applets) that teach concepts in introductory computer graphics at the college and graduate level. Learning objects are characterized by their flexibility, interactivity, hypertextual curriculum frameworks, and use of explorable 2D and 3D worlds. Users can download complete Java applets, or build their own from the components collection. The project also publishes the results of its research into creating useful learning objects, and is working toward the creation of a complete Design Strategy Handbook.

71 java applets for science and mathematics

The collection of Earth Sciences Sector geoscience databases that is managed and accessed by a series of Information Services (GDRIS). This site allows for you to discover, view and download, free of charge, thousands of maps since the mid-1800's, hundreds of digital maps from the Geological Survey of Canada, data related to fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) in Canada, 400 geochemical surveys, etc.

Part of the US National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library Project, the goal of the project is to create a collection of digital teaching and learning resources for medical students and professionals. Users can search the main Reviewed Collection, a collection of materials awaiting review and 12 affiliated collections. Users can submit materials for review and possible inclusion in the main collection. HEAL is hosted by the University of Utah, UCLA and the University of Oklahoma.

21,834 resources for medicine, as of September 2006

Part of the US National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library Project, iLumina is a digital library of sharable undergraduate teaching materials for chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and computer science. Resources range from small learning objects, such as individual images and video clips, to entire courses and several virtual collections. Metadata captures both technical and education-specific information about each resource. Users may contribute their own resources. iLumina was developed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Collegis, Inc., Virginia Tech, Georgia State University, Grand Valley State University and the College of New Jersey.

Over 1,500 resources for science, mathematics and computing

A free online service providing access to the very best Web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists. It covers the physical sciences, engineering, computing, geography, mathematics and environmental science. It contains 33,094 resources.

A free online service providing access to the very best web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists in the health and life sciences. There are over 31,000 resources described.

The Math Forum Is a the leading online resource for improving math learning, teaching, and communication since 1992, created by teachers, mathematicians, researchers, students, and parents. It offers a wealth of problems and puzzles, online mentoring, research, team problem solving, collaborations and professional development.

A mathematical specific repository, created by Wolfram Research. Contains web based (HTML) resources about algebra, applied mathematics, calculus and analysis, discrete mathematics, geometry, history, number theory, probability ans statistics and topology, among others. No educational range is given, but subjects start mainly at the high school level and reach graduate level. Materials are copyrighted by Wolfram Research.

One interesting kind of resource is the classroom, which provides a set of pop-up "capsule summaries" for more than 300 mathematical terms.

The HTML headers of each page contain Dublin Core and Mathematics Subject Classification metadata.

A digital library of learning resources for engineering education. NEEDS provides web-based access to a database of learning resources where learners and instructors can search for, locate, download and comment on resources to aid their learning or teaching process. It is possible to search for resources suitable for mobile devices (so-called "Learning Everywhere" resources). NEEDS also supports a multi-tier review system for resources, from an industry-sponsored national award competition, to user-based reviews of individual learning resources. Materials are mainly at the undergraduate level.

1,220 resources for science, engineering and mathematics at the higher education level
N.B. Users will be charged a fee to access some content.

Created by the US National Science Foundation to provide organized access to high quality resources and tools that support innovations in teaching and learning at all levels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. NSDL provides an organized point of access to content that is aggregated from a variety of other digital libraries, NSF-funded projects, and NSDL-reviewed web sites. It also provides access to services and tools that enhance the use of this content in a variety of contexts. NSDL is designed primarily for school-level educators, but anyone can access and search the library at no cost. Access to most of the resources is free; however, some content providers require a nominal fee or subscription to retrieve their specific resources.

Resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in 554 collections
N.B. Users will be charged a fee to access some content.

OAIster is a project of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service. Our goal is to create a collection of previously difficult-to-access, academically-oriented digital resources. 9,771,738 records from 701 institutions

The SMETE Digital Library is a dynamic online library and portal of services by the SMETE Open Federation for teachers and students, specializing in science, mathematics, engineering and technology education, addressing all levels of education. It contains around 20.000 resources. Partially supported by the National Science Foundation, National STEM Education Digital Library program.

15,885 resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Social Sciences

A free online service providing access to the very best Web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists in the social sciences fields. Each subject area within Intute has its own collection development policy (available on request). Only covers information of relevance to social science HE and FE students, academics, researchers and practitioners. The social sciences are broadly defined, as well as core subjects the gateway covers areas such as law, business, hospitality, sport and tourism.

LoLa is the home to a Information Literacy Learning Object collection of the Wesleyan University (Connecticut) of around 40 objects. It is also an common environment of learning ojects that staff of this university are developing. LoLa allow staff to discover materials developed by other faculty, and provide opportunities for collaboration within the academic disciplines on the Wesleyan campuses that have begun to develop and use Learning Objects. LOLA is also the home to a collection of Information Literacy Learning Objects that we are developing as part of a collaborative Information Literacy Project that Wesleyan, Trinity, and Connecticut College are working on. They are, at the moment in beta version.


The Digital Scriptorium is an image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts, intended to unite scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. It contains 15,000 images and 3,510 manuscripts and documents. All rights reserved to The Regents of the University of California.

The Humbul Humanities Hub is a service of the Resource Discovery Network funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is hosted by the University of Oxford. Humbul is dedicated to discovering, evaluating and cataloging online resources in the humanities for higher and further education. Resources include educational materials, and links to institutions, academic research projects and companies offering educational software. Materials are submitted by users and reviewed and cataloged by on-site staff. Humbul also maintains a Virtual Training Suite of subject-based self-learning Internet skills tutorials (10 tutorials).

A free online service providing access to the very best Web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists in the Arts and Humanities fields. Over 18,000 Web resources listed here that are freely available by keyword searching and browsing.

Because the system understands that books are related in different ways (fiction, non-fiction, topical, genre, writer, age, type of plot, scientific area, etc) it can connect you to discussions that may be of interest to you even if the books discussed are not exactly the same as the ones you have on your booklist. The same goes for connecting you with other members. The system can introduce you to others who share your interests even if you haven't read any of the same books. This is usually a great way to get recommendations for new books.

ou start by creating a list of books you like. Using this list the site will introduce you to discussions you may want to engage in as well as other members you may want to connect with.

The British Library in association with JISC give access to 12,000 selected recordings of music, spoken word, and human and natural environments. Anyone can search or browse the information on this site. For copyright reasons, only people in licensed UK higher and further education institutions, or in our reading rooms can play the recordings. Downloading is available in licensed institutions

An index of educational podcasts, ordered by educational level and/or language.

Web community for finding, authoring and sharing open and free learning resources and open source server software for setting-up and having your own LeMill site. Design with and for school teachers.

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Their goal is to make all public domain (under U.S. right) books available as free audio books. It is a volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project.

The Education Podcast Network is an effort to bring together into one place, the wide range of podcast programming that may be helpful to teachers looking for content to teach with and about, and to explore issues of teaching and learning in the 21st century.

  • Wikipedia is one of the most recognized sources of OER. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia in which anyone can edit. With over nine million pages in several different languages, there's a Wikipedia entry on virtually any subject. While Wikipedia's editors try to verify the information added to Wikipedia, errors can and do appear. Therefore, it is important to carefully examine Wikipedia content before use. Other wiki projects that are useful for OER are Wikibooks, which has a collection of freely available books and Wikimedia Commons, which has a collection of images, audio and video.
  • [1] Sponsored by the same foundation as Wikipedia, Wikiversity organizes its content according to courses. As with Wikipedia, anyone can edit Wikiversity courses. The courses are arranged by subject, allowing for easy navigation. Since everyone can edit a Wikiversity page, it is important to carefully examine Wikiversity content before use.
  • WikiEducator is a site based in Canada that is specifically for developing free content for use in schools, polytechnics, universities, vocational education institutions and informal education settings. However, OER at WikiEducator may or may not be formatting as a course. The topics range widely, including subjects like Anatomy and Life Skills. As with Wikipedia and Wikiversity, anyone can edit WikiEducator OER; therefore, it is necessary to review WikiEducator information before use.
  • Flickr is a photo sharing site with some photos licensed using a Creative Commons license (see the licensing section for more information about Creative Commons licensing. There are two ways to search for Flickr photos with a Creative Commons license is to go to Flickr's Creative Commons page. Another method is to go to http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced. Select "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed photos." In some situations you may want to add a checkmark by "Find content to use commercially" and "Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon." As the option might imply, "find content to use commercially" means those photos can be used for commercial projects, such as books and magazines. Typically, photos used from Flickr should be used 'as-is,' without any modification. However, if you've selected "Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon," then those photos can be localized to fit a particular need (see licensing and localizing sections for more information.
  • Youtube.com has a vast selection of videos under fifteen minutes that can viewed for free. While most people consider free access alone not enough to make it an open educational resources, Youtube offers access to a wealth of quality educational videos. Finally, there are limitations on how they can be included in commercial endeavors, and there is some legal uncertainty what that means for commercial education providers. On the other hand, The Internet Archive has a video section that contains only liberally licensed works at http://www.archive.org/details/movies

A list of other (mostly video) resources can be found here: http://soundblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!D380EA83E108537F!2532.entry

  • The Internet Archive is a collection of images, audio and video that are in the public domain. The Internet Archive particularly specializes in media that is over thirty years old. It also has section especially for education. Users can rate and review OER within the archive.
  • Project Gutenberg is a collection of books that are in the public domain. Titles include Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Poetics of Aristotle. The books are available in 2-3 formats, but usually lack any illustrations. Some audiobooks are available (often of more popular titles).
  • Preferred formats (Interoperability) [In the UNESCO doc we have this under publishing rather than getting other peoples' materials? 6.6.3]

When planning a particular OER, interoperability is important. Interoperability means that the OER is in a format that works well with other formats. Some formats commonly used are better for OER than others.

Individual project sites

A number of institutional OER projects stand out for the amount and quality of resources they have published. One starting point is the list of open courseware consortium members with active repositories that is provided on the OCWC site (http://www.ocwconsortium.org/use/index.html). The MIT OpenCourseWare project (http://ocw.mit.edu) deserves special mention since it was the first large scale open courseware endeavour, and has produced over 1700 courses so far. The materials are not designed for online learning, and often the important reading materials are not available. The Open University UK is taking a different approach to open courseware, and publishes materials specifically designed for online learning, but only offers some modules of its full courses freely (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk).

There are individual, isolated OER available on websites scattered throughout the internet. While a Creative Commons Search (see above) can find some of these materials, it will not find all of them. For OER that can't be found through the Creative Commons search engine, use a traditional search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.) with the keyword "free" along with the type of resource you're looking for. (ex: "free video cambodia classroom")

File formats

As you look for OER, it is important to keep in mind the file type of the OER. Some file types are better suited for OER distribution than others. The file type also affects how the OER is used in the future (see localizing and remixing sections for more information). The following is a list of file formats and their suitability for OER.


ABW: File format used by the open source program Abiword. It is based on XML and is therefore easier for other word processors to convert.
CSV: Stands for "Comma Separated Values." Essentially it is a plain text file that uses commas to separate individual entires. This format is commonly used by spreadsheets and database applications and is very open.
DOC: Proprietary format used by Microsoft Word. The actual format has evolved with Word, but has always been closed. Many other word processors can open and save to DOC format, but the resulting document rarely looks similar to a copy opened in Microsoft Word.
DOCX: XML format that is used in Microsoft Word 2007. Although the format is open for anyone to use, implementing it in other word processors is difficult and support is lacking in word processors besides Word.
DOT: Template document for versions of Microsoft Word before 2007. Not compatible with other word processors (verify?).
DOTX: Template dcoument for Microsoft Word 2007. Compatibility unknown.
HTML: Open format managed by the non-profit organization W3C(World Wide Web Consortium).
ODT: Open Document format managed by OASIS industry consortium. Supported by many open source word processors, Microsoft Word can open ODT files with a plugin. PAGES: Format used by Apple's Pages program. Currently there are no other word processors that open files in PAGES format. (verify?)
STW: Template format used by Star Office, Open Office and Neo Office word processors. Generally not compatible with other word processors. (verify?)
SXW: Text format used by Star Office, Open Office and Neo Office word processors. May be compatible with open source word processors, but not proprietary ones such as Microsoft Word. TXT: generic file format based on several standards. Almost universally compatible with any word processor or text editor. WPD: Word Perfect word processor file format. Compatibility unknown.
WPS: Microsoft Works word processor file format. Some compatibility with open source word processors such as Neo Office.
WPT: Microsoft Works template file format. Compatibility unknown.
WRI: Windows Write word processor file format. Compatibility unknown, but unlikely to be good, as Write hasn't been used since Windows 3.1.
XHTML: Update of HTML using features of XML. Eventually XHTML is indended to replace HTML. Can be open by many word processors, but appearance may be different than anticipated.
XML: Open format that is very flexible. Many open formats use XML, at least in part, to make a new open format. Future compatibility with XML should be excellent.


JPEG: The most common image format on the internet. There are some patent concerns with JPEG, although its committee has stated that they intend for the format to be free to use. JPEG is considered a 'lossy' format, meaning that if the photo is continually being edited, the image quality will be reduced. Because JPEG is so commonly used on the internet, it is often used as the final format for OER.
TIFF: A proprietary format by Adobe. TIFF files are often used when scanning documents. Despite being proprietary, it is not uncommon for TIFF files to be used as a high-quality backup of OER.
PNG: Open format that is similar to TIFF. In the past, some browsers did not support PNG that well, so adoption of the format has been slow. However, all current web browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, will display PNG files. The growing support for PNG files makes it a good format for OER.
SVG: An open format with promising new features, including animation. Unfortunately, SVG support in web browsers is uneven, making it difficult to recommend as a format for OER. Perhaps, in time, SVG will become a recommended format.


MP3: Although MP3 is probably the most used audio format on the internet, it has had patent issues which makes acceptable, but not ideal, for OER creation. Still, there is a large amount of software and hardware designed to use MP3, which may makes it a good choice in many situations.
WAV: A proprietary format from Microsoft and IBM. Although WAV format is patented, WAV files are not 'lossy,' which means they do not lose sound quality as they edited. Although the format is not open, converting to a WAV file makes sense if you are planning on editing the audio.
AIFF: A proprietary format from Apple. Like WAV, AIFF is uncompressed and is a good choice for audio editing.
OGG Vorbis and FLAC: Open formats that are completely free. Ogg Vorbis is a lossy format, like MP3, while FLAC is similar to WAV and AIFF.


MPEG-2: Format with patents by several companies. MPEG-2 is the standard format for DVD's and is one of the formats used by the Internet Archive.
MPEG-4: Format with patents held by the same companies as MPEG-2. MPEG-4 files are capable of a wider variety of resolutions and sizes, making it a very flexible format. As with MPEG-2, MPEG-4 is used by the Internet Archive and is a recommended format for OER.
Windows Media File (WMV): Developed by Microsoft, but is an open format. Although WMV files produce good quality with a small file size, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 is preferable to WMV.
QuickTime video (MOV): Format developed by Apple. MOV files are based on MPEG-4, but not as widely supported. Therefore, it is preferable to save OER as MPEG-4.
SWF and FLV: Format owned by Adobe. SWF files can be viewed by the vast majority of web browsers and platforms (Windows, Mac and Linux). Because SWF files can be viewed by so many different people, it is one of the most common formats for video and animation on the internet. Unfortunately, editing SWF is very difficult and is not recommended for OER development. FLV is the video format that is used for video while developing SWF files. Neither file is recommended for OER, but may be unavoidable in certain situations.


  • Accessibility

When searching for OER, it is also important to keep accessibility in mind. Some material may be better suited for accommodating persons with disabilities better than others. For example videos with closed captioning are preferable to those that do not. Some persons with disabilities have low-vision or colorblindness, making low-contrast images inappropriate. Text sizes should also be kept above a 10pt size and all image and video should be large enough to be plainly visible.
File types also play a role in accessibility. For example, it is easier to add closed captioning to a MOV file than a WMV file. If you are making an OER that is strictly audio, an accompanying transcript should be provided for the hearing-impaired.

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