An Overview of OER

2 Finding OER

There are innumerable OER for you to use and adapt for your instruction.[1] In this chapter, you will learn some strategies for finding OER. This chapter also includes references to repositories, search tools, and resources to help you find the right OER for you. The CUNY OER representative at your campus can also help you get started.

Steps for Your Search

You can think of your search for open content as having three basic steps.

  1. Identify keywords related to your course and its learning objectives.
  2. Search OER repositories and aggregators for relevant resources.
  3. Evaluate the resources you’ve located, considering their fit, currency, accessibility, and any other criteria you deem necessary when judging teaching materials.

Use keywords as you might in any online or database search: start broad and drill down to the specific. Some of the repositories and other places you may search are discussed in this chapter. The next chapter gives more information on criteria for evaluation.


OER created by CUNY faculty, staff, and students over the past decade are available through these repositories.


OpenEd CUNY is a digital library of open educational resources, including syllabi, textbooks, lectures, labs, and other assignments and activities. You can search for resources by college, platform, subject, or type.

CUNY Academic Works

CUNY Academic Works is CUNY’s institutional repository, dedicated to collecting and providing open access to the research, scholarship, and creative and pedagogical work done at the university. In this repository, the Open Educational Resources series provides access to instructional materials created by the CUNY community. You can browse the repository by college, school, or center; discipline; or author.

Good Bets

Each of the websites listed below has a different focus, but they all offer a wide variety of options. They are good places to start if you aren’t sure what to look for.

  • The Pressbooks Directory provides an index of public books published by PressbooksEDU networks. It is easy for you to clone, revise, remix, and redistribute any of these webbooks via Pressbooks.
  • The Open Textbook Library is a great resource for finding open textbooks. If you want a textbook and nothing more, this is the place to start.
  • The B.C. Open Textbook Collection collects resources created, reviewed, or adopted by instructors at universities in British Columbia. Materials can be filtered by accessibility as well as by whether they have been adopted by BCcampus courses, include ancillary materials, or have been reviewed by faculty.
  • OpenStax provides peer-reviewed textbooks in math, science, the social sciences, and the humanities.
  • Curated lists of OER, like the Iowa State University Library Guide to OER, can be useful for exploring a selection of open content in your subject area.

Federated Search Tools

SUNY’s Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS)

OASIS is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier by searching multiple sources for OER and other open content at once. OASIS currently searches for open content from more than 100 different sources and contains more than 400,000 records.

George Mason OER Metafinder

The Mason OER Metafinder (MOM) links to a wide array of open content, including open access books and articles, documents in the public domain, and OER. Because of its large breadth of resources, we recommend that you start your MOM search with only a selection of the “OER-Specific Sites” checked, rather than all the materials it can include.


MERLOT is a project that was started in 1997 by the California State University system. The repository includes thousands of resources contributed by members, including original content and links to resources found through other platforms.

Institutional Collections

Not every college shares OER through their institutional repository, as CUNY does, but the following colleges do share collections of OER specific to their institution:

Subject-specific Repositories

Some open educational resources are shared through subject-specific repositories. A few notable examples of this type, including open publishers that specialize in one discipline, include the following:

The book Building Open Infrastructure at CUNY includes literature reviews of OER in five subject areas: Spanish language, early American literature, cultural anthropology, musicology and ethnomusicology, and art history.

OER by Course

Some colleges choose to share information about which OER their instructors assign in courses. These lists can give you a good idea of what other instructors in your discipline have adopted and (if they have provided a review), what they think of their adopted resource.

Open Content (not explicitly OER)

Not all open content is made to be used in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t integrate them into your course. Open access book chapters and openly-licensed media can be great additions to your course.

Open Access Publishers and Repositories

CC-licensed Media

  • Openverse: A search tool for finding openly licensed and public domain works; this tool is the successor to CC Search
  • Digital Public Library of America: Public domain images, videos, recordings, and texts
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art: High-quality open images from the Met; be sure to filter for Open Access images
  • Pexels: Public domain and CC-licensed photographs and stock images
  • Unsplash: Public domain and CC-licensed photographs and stock images
  • Wikimedia Commons: Public domain and CC-licensed images and figures
  • Google Image: Images; use the Tools/Usage rights button to filter by license
  • YouTube: Videos; use the Advanced Search/CC license option to see open content
  • Free Music Archive: Public domain and CC-licensed music and sound bytes
  • Internet Archive: A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

  1. This chapter is a remixed version of the chapters Finding Open Content and Repositories and Search Tools in The OER Starter Kit by Abbey Elder, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Other additions and modifications have been made in accord with the style, structure, and audience of this guide.


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CUNY Pressbooks Guide Copyright © 2022 by Andrew McKinney; Rachael Nevins; and Elizabeth Arestyl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.