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Open Educational Resources

A guide to finding and using OERs in the classroom.

Things to Consider with Regard to Using OERs for Instruction

There are a variety of resources available to help instructors who want to use OERs in their classrooms.

Evaluation Criteria

Because OERs may vary in quality, it is important for instructors to carefully evaluate them before posting them in their classroom.  Although there is not a standard checklist that’s been developed for this purpose, many of the criteria listed here can be used to evaluate OERs.  The criteria include: 

  • author:  Is it clear who developed and wrote the material? Are his or her qualifications for creating the material clearly stated?
  • organization:  With what organization, association, or sponsor is this page's author affiliated?
  • point of view/bias:  Is any type of bias present?
  • purpose: Is there a Statement of Purpose, and does it really indicate the purpose of the page?
  • documentation: Does the author cite other sources?
  • timeliness:  Is the resource up-to-date and/or is a creation or update date visible?
  • suitability:  Is the audience identified in the Statement of Purpose?


It is important to pay attention to the type of copyright assigned to an OER by its author and to use the OER in strict accordance to its license stipulations.  In order to facilitate their use, modification, and distribution, many OERs have flexible copyright licenses from organizations such as Creative Commons; these licenses provide varying amounts of protection, ranging from “all rights reserved” (full copyright) to “no rights reserved” (public domain).  (See this page for a list and description of the six main Creative Commons licenses.)

Several online tools can help you determine an item’s copyright status.  These include the PDTool, an interactive tool that can help determine whether permission is needed to use an item and when an item will no longer be protected by copyright, as well as Stanford’s Copyright Renewal Database, which allows you to search the copyright renewals records received by the U.S. Copyright Office between 1950 and 1992 for books published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1963.

Goucher College's  Library and/or Legal Counsel Office may be able to provide additional copyright-related information and guidance.

ADA Compliance

If you are planning to use OERs in your classes you should keep in mind that the OERs should comply with federal and state accessibility requirements.  A checklist for compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be found here

Other Considerations

There are other considerations to keep in mind when determining whether and how to incorporate OERs into an online classroom. You must consider, for example, how an OER will need to be adapted to meet the particulars of the class learning objectives. You will need to decide how the OER will be used (as the basis for a conference discussion, for an assignment, etc.), and  provide clear instructions to students for its use. Determine how you will assess whether the OER was successfully integrated into the class and whether it was valuable to students. 

Subject Guide

Pamela Flinton's picture
Pamela Flinton
ATH 442
Library 4th Fl, College Librarian's office.

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