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Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free teaching materials that are intended to be widely distributed and modified to fit the particular needs of instructors. Some examples of OER include textbooks, websites, presentations, syllabi, and lesson plans. While most OER starts in digital format, files can be converted so faculty and students can print their materials at home or through a printing service.

Benefits of using OER

  • Saves students money on course materials and creates more inclusive learning environments
  • Open licensing allows instructors to have greater control over course content
  • Librarians can help reformat text and add multimedia elements to course materials
  • Provides opportunities to explore open pedagogy for scholarly publication and presentation

How to get started

Finding open course materials

Northwestern University is a member of the Open Education Network, which manages the Open Textbook Library, an online catalog of college textbooks that are free to download, print, upload to canvas, or revise to work with your courses.

In addition to the Open Textbook Library, there are a variety of consortiums offering collections of open textbooks which can be used. See below for additional resources for OER discovery in your subject area.

Developing open course materials 

If you cannot find existing OER that is suitable for your course, or the OER you've found isn't rigorous enough, we can work with you to develop custom course materials. Starting from scratch can be a daunting task, but there are a variety of options to get started, including utilizing course notes, lecture slides, and adapting or remixing existing open content.  

If you teach an undergraduate course, consider applying for the OER grant. Funded by the Office of the Provost and the Libraries, this annual grant program gives $5,000, individualized support, and technical assistance to faculty who replace their commercial textbooks with newly developed or adapted OER. Visit the OER grant page for application details and instructions.

Visit the OER Grant Recipients page to see examples of OER created by Northwestern instructors.

Printing options

While most OER begins in a digital format, files can be converted to print at cost, either via a personal or campus printer, through the Northwestern Bookstore, or through a third-party printing service, such as Lulu

Set up a consultation

The Libraries are available to assist you with finding quality OER and help you incorporate these materials into your teaching. They also provide consultations on developing your own OER. Email with questions or a copy of your syllabus for a consultation.

OER for graduate courses

While AIR’s primary mission is to lower the cost of undergraduate courses, the Libraries support OER work for all courses offered at Northwestern year round. If you’re interested in using or creating OER for graduate courses, visit the Libraries OER website for a comprehensive list of services, support, and consultation information.


Visit our FAQ page for a list of common question related to Open Educational Resources, and contact for more information or to set up a consultation.