7 OER search tools

Learning outcomes

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Locate OER using OER search tools

Locating OER using OER search tools

Where to search for OER will depend on the type of material you are looking for. A broader range of OER, including videos, course materials, and simulations can be discovered through general and discipline-specific OER collections. Below are some examples of OER metafinders and OER collections for you to explore.

Note: Some repositories and collections contain items that range in user permissions from no copyright (e.g., in the public domain), to CC licences, to all rights reserved. Make it your practice to check every resource’s licence to ensure it is truly open.

OER Metafinders

There are numerous OER collections containing high quality, openly licenced educational materials that can be searched through specific tools: metafinders. These tools search across multiple repositories and aim to make the discovery of open content easier. Prominent OER metafinders include:

OER collections

There are a range of general OER collections that cover a range of resource formats and media types. They are particularly useful for finding educational materials to adapt or remix as part of a course. Some examples of these collections are as follows:

  • OER Commons is an open digital library of OER of many different kinds.
    • Did you know? The CAUL Digital Dexterity Champions have created a group within OER Commons to share resources? Explore the CAUL Digital Dexterity group resources.
  • MERLOT is a curated collection of over 98,000 OER. The platform is maintained by California State University with partner institutions and societies around the world.
  • LibreTexts is a collection of open textbooks, learning objects, and other OER. It covers a range of disciplines, including biology, business, chemistry, engineering, the humanities, mathematics, medicine, physics, and social sciences.
  • Khan Academy is a collection of educational videos, mostly released under CC BY-NC-SA licences.

Discipline-specific OER collections

There are also a range of discipline-specific OER collections and repositories with particular subject strengths. Some examples include:

Open textbook collections

In post-secondary environments, open textbooks are one of the most common types of OER used to support learning. However, a significant barrier to open textbook use is a common perception among educators that finding traditional textbooks is easier than finding open content. However, studies suggest that increased faculty awareness of the benefits of open textbooks – such as accessibility features and the potential to use innovative pedagogical approaches – support their adoption (Jung, Bauer & Heaps, 2017). The following are some examples of open textbook collections:

Pressbooks is an open publishing platform based on WordPress. The Pressbooks Directory shares open textbooks and resources. Several Australian universities publish using Pressbooks, so it can be a good source of local content.

Milne Open Textbooks is managed and maintained by Milne Library Publishing at the State University of New York (SUNY Geneseo). It is a catalogue of open textbooks authored and peer-reviewed by SUNY faculty and staff. These OER works have a variety of publishers, but all are:

    • authored by a SUNY faculty member
    • full courses or texts to be used in a college-level course
    • original works, or a significant remix or adaptation of another open work.
    • licenced with a Creative Commons licence, with permission to create derivatives (no ND designation)

The British Columbia Campus Consortium’s OER repository, the BC Open Textbook Collection is Canada’s first major repository of OER textbooks and is available to be freely used by students, instructors, librarians, and members of the public. It contains textbooks from a variety of resources that can be freely assigned (or revised) for courses.

OAPEN Library is a central repository for hosting and disseminating OA books. The platform is run by the OAPEN Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in the Netherlands, dedicated to open access, peer-reviewed books.

The Open Textbook Library, supported by the Open Education Network , is a repository of original open textbooks used in higher education institutions. Public reviews by academics using these books are often available.

High-quality, peer-reviewed collection of open textbooks. Features online highlighting, note-taking, and learning and teaching resources associated with each textbook.

Other collections

In addition to the various resources, databases and collections outlined in this module, other common tools, such as Google and YouTube, are available to locate OER. The two resources below show how YouTube and Google can be used to find open resources:

Universities throughout Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand also maintain OER collections. Examples include:

Searching OER collections

Searching OER collections is like searching any library database. Some tips for searching OER online collections effectively:

  1. Use keywords related to your subject
  2. Start broad and then narrow depending on the results to get an idea of the breadth of resources available in your area
  3. Use the subject headings and filters in the repositories
  4. Compile a list of relevant OER
  5. Evaluate relevancy by searching tables of contents and descriptions

Broadly speaking, library professionals and academic libraries play an important role in promoting and supporting the adoption of OER. It is, therefore, important to understand what OER collections are available and what resources each collection provides.

  Reflect: OER advocacy

How do you think your knowledge of available OER collections would help you advocate the OER movement?

Watch an example of how to search Khan Academy, Merlot and OER Commons, three OER collections.

Watch: Searching in OER Repositories – Use the tools! [4:27 mins.]

Note: Closed captions are available by clicking on the CC button in the video.

Reflect: OER collections

Choose 2-3 OER databases or collections to explore.  What are some of the similarities or differences? Was one easier to search over the other? Why?

Do: Search a collection

Complete a search in an OER collection of your choice and find OER relevant to the topic. Reflect on this process and how it will inform your OER search practices going forward.

Reflect: OER collections that are useful for your role

What OER collections did you find interesting when exploring the OER collections? Which OER collections were most useful for your current role? Identify the OER collections you will use, why and how.

Key takeaways

This chapter we learnt:

  • about a variety of OER collections.
  • how searching for OER is like searching for information within databases – selecting the right collection and using filters.

Next chapter, we will look at how to evaluate the quality of OER. This is an important part of the process and there are many tools you can use to get started.


Jung, E., Bauer, C., & Heaps, A. (2017). Higher education faculty perceptions of open textbook adoption. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3120


This module has been adapted in part from:



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

CAUL Open Educational Resources Professional Development Program: Foundations Copyright © 2024 by Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book