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Open Educational Resources (OER): Evaluating OER for Instruction

OER in the Classroom

Are you thinking about using OER for instruction? You will want to take the following into consideration:

Evaluating Quality

Like anything you'd find online (or in print), OER vary widely in quality. Be sure you evaluate them carefully before using them in your classroom or recommending them to your students. There is no standard checklist for evaluating OER yet, but the criteria used for online resources will give you a good start:

  • Authority: Who created the material? Do you have reason to believe the author is an expert in the field?
  • Objectivity: Is there any bias present?
  • Accuracy: Do you notice errors in the material? This is a tricky question with OER, since you can fix errors before you use the materials with your class, however obvious mistakes may be a sign that there are more subtle ones as well. It can be hard to catch them all, but it might be worth the work if you can't find any other materials that suit your needs.
  • Timeliness: Is the material up-to-date? Again, this is a little different for OER than for most web-based resources. If you are willing to spend some time updating the resources, it might be worth it to you to use materials that are a little out-of-date but cover the specific topics you are looking for.


On this guide's "Find Open Resources" tab, we've provided many sites that compile a variety of types of different resources you may find useful in your course. Unfortunately, there is no single standard for copyright or licensing agreement for OER at this time.

Some of the sites we listed contain content that is in the public domain; this content is free for you to use as you please. Most of the other sites we provided for you primarily promote OER that are under licenses from organizations like Creative Commons. These licenses allow you considerable amounts of freedom with varying kinds of restrictions. For a list and explanation of the six main Creative Commons licenses, please visit this page. Most repositories should document how specific items are licensed; it is important to look for this information and follow the terms of the license for each individual item.

Technical Standards

Like licensing standards, there is no standard technical format for OER. If you plan to combine parts of multiple resources to make your own custom slide deck, textbook, or other course material, it is important to note the format that was used for the original resources. If the materials you want to pull from are in different formats (such as Microsoft Word vs. PDF) combining them is likely still possible, but it may take more time and effort than you originally anticipated.

When considering using OER in your classroom, you should also keep in mind federal and state accessibility requirements. To see a checklist for compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, please visit this link.

Change on the Internet

Since OER are available online, they are easy to access and tend to be more up-to-date than traditionally published materials. Unfortunately, online resources are also less-stable than print resources. URLs can change, sometimes frequently. Since open repositories are generally provided by nonprofit institutions, they frequently have short life spans and will go down without warning. A resource that you used one year may not be available the next year or changes may have been made to it so that it will no longer be compatible with your course. For all of these reasons, when you find OER that work well for your course and that you might want to reuse, be sure to keep at least one backup on a personal drive. If you decide to create an OER and publish it in a repository, you may want to keep an eye on it in case the repository disappears.

Other Issues

Of course there are other things to keep in mind if you plan to implement OER in your classroom. How will the OER be used? It is not enough to simply substitute an OER for an existing course material; you need to carefully plan how you will integrate the new resource into your curriculum. How will you adapt the OER to meet your course learning objectives? Be sure to provide clear instructions to your students regarding how you intend for them to use it. Is the resource free or will students have to pay for it? While many OER are completely free, some, especially full textbooks, have a minimal cost to acquire print versions, and many students still prefer to read text in print. Finally, how will you evaluate the effectiveness of the OER?