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.
- Open Textbook Library: Faculty-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks
- OASIS: An OER search tool with full textbooks, modules, homework sets, A/V materials and more
- How to Adopt an Open Textbook: Guide created by Northwestern librarians
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.