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Affordable and Open Educational Resources

This guide will assist NYU instructors in understanding the basics in finding, using, or creating affordable and open course content.

Faculty Toolkit

The Libraries are pleased to support instructors and instructional designers in adopting OER for their courses. In addition to this guide, please visit our Open Educational Resources Faculty Toolkit, which is intended to help instructors think through the benefits of OER for their teaching and steps for adopting them in the classroom.

Image credit: Cropped from "Assorted Color Plastic Tools" by Dan-Cristian Pădureț, retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/noOXRT9gfQ8, used under Unsplash License.   

What Are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources, or OER, are course materials that are openly licensed, often with a Creative Commons license, allowing for their legal display, use, modification, download, printing, etc., without fee, permission, or conducting a fair use analysis. Materials in the public domain can also be used as OER.

They differ from our licensed electronic resources in that they are not purchased and licensed specifically for NYU students and faculty to use, but openly-licensed and free (or low-cost) for everyone.

Graphic stating "OERs can be" with icons for various types of course materialsMany types of materials can be or become OER when openly licensed or in the public domain, including:

  • Videos
  • Presentation slides
  • Syllabi
  • Textbooks
  • Online courses
  • Quizzes
  • Assignments and homework platforms
  • Online games
  • Infographics

For additional assistance in locating quality open course materials, contact your subject specialist.

Image credit: Graphic cropped from BCOER Poster created by BC Campus Open Ed, used under CC-BY 4.0 license.

Why OER?

Teaching with OERs can have many benefits for instructors and students:

  • Intentional sharing for engagement: Neither students nor instructors need to pay fees to use OERs in the classroom. Instructors do not need to get permission or make a fair use assessment for classroom use, or to revise and share OERs with other instructors to improve upon them over time.
  • Flexibility & Modularity: No textbook is ever perfect. OERs help you tailor course materials; they can be used alongside traditionally-published materials, remixed with other OERs, and modified to meet specific needs. Instead of teaching to a textbook, your course materials help you teach to your classroom goals.
  • Enabling innovative instruction: OERs enable and lend themselves to many innovative teaching practices, including renewable assignments and other forms of open pedagogy.
  • Affordability and academic success: Teaching with materials that are freely available can mitigate the decades-long issue of textbook and course material affordability for students. Lowering these cost barriers is demonstrated to improve student outcomes.
  • Access from Day 1: Using course materials that are freely available and do not require permissions, fees, or fair use assessment ensures that students have access to their materials from the first day of class, instead of needing to take time to consider how they will obtain the materials.
  • Inclusion, Diversity, Belonging, Equity: Many commonly-used traditional textbooks are informed by dominant-culture perspectives and contain (or are permeated by) racism, ableism, gender discrimination, and queerphobia. Creating and adapting OER presents an opportunity to build more inclusive texts, rather than hoping and waiting for new editions to be released. What is culturally considered “inclusive” also shifts quickly, and OER can be adapted more readily to keep up with those shifts.

There are many common concerns about open educational resources; the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)’s OER Mythbusting efforts address many of these.

Finding OER

The following list of sources to find OER is by no means exhaustive. Please contact your subject librarian for help finding OER in your discipline.

General OER Search Platforms

OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search)

This OER search tool from SUNY Geneseo combines 155,000+ records from more than 50 different sources to allow you to search for open educational content based on subject, license, material type, reviews, and more: 

Mason OER Metafinder Search

This OER Metafinder Search tool from Mason University searches across a number of OER databases at once, allowing you to condense your searches for quality resources into one.

OER Commons

Created by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, OER Commons is a one-stop shop for finding and creating a wide variety of openly licensed educational tools. Search tip: Limit by "Level" for "Post-secondary" materials.

MERLOT

Built in the Cal State University system, Merlot contains a wide selection of openly licensed educational materials. These are not just textbooks but also include case studies, quizzes, tutorials, and other learning objects.  Search tips: Limit "Audience" for College- or Graduate-level resources. Limit "Material Type" to find textbooks, case studies, quizzes, etc.

Teaching Commons

Curated collection of open educational textbooks, course materials, lesson plans, and multimedia from colleges and universities all over the world. Aggregated from institutional repositories and presented via its Digital Commons platform.

Open Textbook Collections

Each of the open textbook collections listed below have been peer-reviewed by faculty in that particular discipline to ensure quality in keeping with current academic standards:

OpenStax College Textbooks

Begun at Rice University, OpenStax has a growing collection of peer-reviewed, openly licensed university textbooks in a variety of disciplines, from the sciences to the social sciences to the humanities. Faculty wishing to adopt a textbook must register for a free account. 

Open Textbook Library

The Open Textbook Library, initiated at the University of Minnesota, has a collection of over 100 peer-reviewed and openly licensed titles in a wide range of disciplines. It is supported by the Open Education Network, a collaboration of library partners from colleges and universities across the country including NYU.

Milne Open Textbooks (formerly SUNY Open Textbooks)

A collection of open textbooks authored and peer-reviewed within the State University of New York system, managed by Milne Library Publishing at SUNY Geneseo.

BC Campus Open Ed

BC Campus continually adds new OER textbooks across a wide variety of subject areas, as part of their broader open education initiative.

LibreTexts

Initiated at the University of California, Davis, this resource offers texts in many subjects, including workforce education materials.

PDXOpen: Open Educational Resources

Portland State University offers OER textbooks in a variety of subjects including language studies, STEM, and the humanities.

Pressbooks Directory

Pressbooks is a platform by which many open textbook authors create and publish their textbooks (NYU Libraries offers Manifold for similar purposes). The Pressbooks Directory is an index of open textbooks published at the various institutions that provide that platform for their open textbook authors

Open Culture Open Textbooks List

List of over 200 openly licensed textbooks from universities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Central and South America. Includes a wide range of subjects from Art History to Computer Science.

Open Courses

MIT OpenCourseWare

A web-based publication of materials from thousands of MIT courses, including textbooks, but also including other course materials as well.

Lumen Learning

Lumen Learning develops and hosts open college-level courses in subjects ranging from business to mathematics.

Open Course Library

An initiative of Washington’s community and technical colleges, this resource collects open course materials including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments.

Saylor Academy

Saylor Academy is a nonprofit organization that offers open courses that use open content, with nearly 100 peer-reviewed college-level courses.

Other Sources of OER

Avalon Project

The Avalon Project has law, history, and diplomatic documents from ancient times (4000 BCE-399) to the present-day (post-2000), a strong source of public domain primary sources.

Engineering Technology

Engineering Technology includes a wide collection of engineering simulations, as well as a set of open courses intended to fulfill the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges Associate in Applied Science degree.

Data.gov

Open data, such as the US Federal government’s open data at Data.gov, can also be used as OER in teaching and learning.

Annotations in this section are adapted from Marissa Ajamian Grossman’s annotations in the Open Educational Resources Faculty Toolkit.

OER Services and Support at NYU Libraries

NYU Libraries and NYU IT offer multiple web publishing platforms for those who are seeking to build new OERs or adapt existing ones for NYU courses, including the following:

Manifold

An open-source publishing platform with media support, and iterative and customizable publishing templates. Powerful annotation tools in the reader interface enable teaching and learning through conversation.

Web Publishing

A fast and easy way for faculty, staff, and students to create a WordPress website or blog in NYU’s custom environment.

Web Hosting

A hosting service with up to 2 GB of free server space and customizable one-click installations of Omeka, Scalar, Wordpress, and more. (Service website includes comparison of Web Publishing and Web Hosting services).

Please contact the Libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Information Policy department at open.access@nyu.edu for help with:

  • Finding existing OERs to use or adapt for use in your classroom
  • General information about engaging with copyright and licensing in OERs
  • Making new OERs discoverable

Guides and Best Practices for Creating OER

The OER Starter Kit Workbook, by Abbey Elder and Stacy Katz

A broad introduction with worksheets to walk readers through multiple topics in OER, including copyright, finding and evaluating OER, and tools and techniques for creating new OER.

Authoring Open Textbooks, by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen

A guide published by the Open Education Network for creating open textbooks, including guidelines on textbook organization and elements, a checklist for getting started, writing resources, project management considerations, and authoring tool suggestions.

Modifying an Open Textbook, by Cheryl Cuillier, Amy Hofer, Annie Johnson, Kathleen Labadorf, Karen Lauritsen, Peter Potter, Richard Saunders, and Anita Walz

A step-by-step guide for modifying open textbooks, including importing and editing across multiple common open textbook file types (PDF, HTML, EPUB, MOBI, Pressbooks, OpenStax)

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources, coordinated by American University Washington College of Law and North Carolina State University Libraries

A document that supports OER creators in evaluating when and how to incorporate third party copyrighted materials into their OERs to meet pedagogical goals.

Student Advocacy Tools

Student voices are essential in our campus conversations about affordability, and about teaching and learning. For students interested in talking with professors about options and alternatives for class readings, and for student organizations interested in creating a platform for the discussion of textbook affordability on campus, there are many resources available. Here are a few:

  • The Library Course Content page of this guide includes details about the Libraries’ vast resources, all of which are available to students and faculty without additional cost.
  • BC Campus Open Ed’s OER Student Toolkit lays out important points for student advocates on OER specifically
  • Student PIRGs provide useful research and information on making textbooks more affordable.