There’s an OER For That: Looking at Affordable Learning Options

There’s an OER For That: Looking at Affordable Learning Options

With the success of our Scholar’s Book Fair last week, we received some feedback from faculty that the OER (Open Education Resources) and IU Pressbooks stations were two of the most valuable topics covered during the event. And with OER Week coming up in less than a month (March 2-6), it is a good time to discuss in more detail what an OER is and how can IU Pressbooks contribute to OER creation.

Figure 1 Parody book designs by IU Information Technology

What is an OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any teaching, learning, and research resources (textbooks, syllabi, courseware, assessments, lesson plans, test questions, etc.) that are freely available and shared under an intellectual property license that allow others to download, reuse, adapt, edit, retain, and redistribute the material in any way they see fit. A true OER will be licensed as CC BY 4.0 (or even CC0 which is the public domain), but other similar resources may fall under one of the other Creative Commons license below:

Isn’t this Open Access (OA)?

They are similar, but no. Open Access enables anyone to access scholarly publications released under an open license (i.e. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) for free or very little cost, but they are still resources with restrictive licensing that usually doesn’t allow adaptation.      

Where Can I Find More Information on OER?

If you’re curious to see what an OER looks like or can entail, or maybe you want to jump right in and begin searching for OER materials, here are a few places to start:

Open Stax is a popular OER textbook repository from Rice University. It has textbooks for subjects like Math (elementary to college Algebra, Calculus, Statistics), Science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), US History, Sociology, American Government, Macro and Micro Economics, Business Ethics, Accounting, Organization Behavior, and more. All of these are openly licensed, 100% free to download (or order for $50 via Amazon if still interested in having a physical copy), and peer-reviewed. These textbooks are authored by faculty who teach and research within the discipline and there are contributing authors from colleges and universities from around the U.S. The content is comparable to other textbooks by vendors such as Pearson, Palgrave Macmillan, Wiley, etc. and if there is something that you don’t like or think should be included, then you are free to add it or remove it and customize the text to suit your classroom and teaching needs.  

From British Columbia, BC Campus is another great repository for searching for OER textbooks and it also provides information on creating your own open textbook. Like IU, BC Campus uses the Pressbooks platform to create and adapt open textbooks.

Open Textbook Library from the University of Minnesota has a wide range of OER textbooks from various subject areas, including law and engineering. This platform only provides PDF’s, so in terms of access or viewing, it’s not as flexible as Open Stax.

If you are looking for other OER material, then check out MERLOT. MERLOT is an OER repository that provides textbooks, but also access to other teaching materials (simulations, tutorials, quiz/tests, syllabi, courses, etc.) and you can even submit an online learning material you’ve created.

For more detailed information about OERs, creative commons licensing, the quality of OERs, and even more repositories to check out, then I’d recommend Academic Libraries of Indiana’s OER Instructor Resource Guide, pulled together by ALI’s Affordable Learning Committee or the Open Educational Resources Guide from our colleague at the Bloomington campus, Scholarly Communications Librarian Sarah Hare.

IU Pressbooks

Okay, so maybe there isn’t an OER for what you need…yet. If that’s the case, then create your own! You can even team up with your students and make a class project out of creating a suitable textbook for your course and you can then share it with others as an OER. Check out this example created with Pressbooks by a faculty member at Houston Community College: Eastside Campus: A Road Less Traveled: An OER US History Textbook with Student Contributions.

Or if you found an OER textbook that will work for you, but you want to remove some sections that aren’t relevant to your course or add your own examples, questions, content. Then you can import the OER into IU Pressbooks and make your edits there.

We keep talking about Pressbooks/IU Pressbooks. What is it exactly?

“Pressbooks is a tool that enables faculty and students to create and publish text in multiple formats, available to Indiana University through the Unizin consortium (About Pressbooks at IU).” You can create an account with Pressbooks via IU by visiting and logging in with your IU username and passphrase. Here you can create your etext, collaborate with students, or import and adapt an OER textbook downloaded from Open Stax, BC Campus, etc. Pressbooks is fairly intuitive to work with and if you’re familiar at all with WordPress, the blogging site, then you’ll be able to easily pick up on working with Pressbooks. You can also check out this guide on how to use Pressbooks if you need help getting started.

OERs are educational resources that are freely available with permissions that allow others to use, adapt, and share how they see fit. Pressbooks is a tool that can allow you to easily create or edit your OERs. If you have any questions at all about OERs or using IU Pressbooks, please contact Assistant Librarian of Access & Technical Services Beth South at for help. You can also reach us anytime with any of your research questions, just Ask US! at

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