6 Finding and Evaluating Open Resources

Finding Open Materials

The first thing you might start with is searching to see what open materials are out there related to your area of specialization. The following chapter will go in-depth on some specific open formats of materials but the easiest way to begin looking is by formulating a search plan.

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. Where to look is discussed in the next chapter!
  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 the following chapter, but you must also be sure to evaluate what you find.

Evaluating Open Materials

Some of the evaluation criteria listed below apply to all instructional materials, and others (such as Adaptability and Modularity) are specific to OER.[1]

Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability

First, ask if the material you are considering can be read and understood by your students.

  • Is the content, including any instructions and exercises, clear and comprehensible to the students you teach?
  • Is the content consistent in its language and formatting (e.g., key terms consistently appear in boldface when they are introduced)?
  • Is the content well organized in terms of sequencing and flow?
Content and Technical Accuracy

The accuracy of the content you use is also a major component of its usability in the classroom. Additionally, be sure to check for technical errors such as broken links or typos. In most cases, content accuracy will not be an issue, but some older resources may require updates.

  • Is the content accurate based on your expertise?
  • Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  • Is the interface navigable for students?
Adaptability and Modularity

Because of their open licenses, OER permit a wider range of (re)use than most traditional educational content; therefore, it is important to keep in mind how your chosen OER can be adapted. Modularity, or the ability to be broken up into smaller pieces easily, is one feature of an OER that should be preferred when possible. When creating OER, using clear chapter and unit breaks can help other instructors adopting or adapting your resource for their own courses.

  • Is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?
  • Is the resource easily divided into modules, or sections, which can be used or rearranged out of their original order?
  • Is the content available under a license which allows for modifications?
Appropriateness and Fit

Although there may be OER available in your field, some resources may require minor edits or additions. Keep in mind that the open licenses of OER mean that they can be edited or even combined with other resources. This can be particularly useful if you would like to adopt a chapter from one OER for the first unit of your course but prefer other resources for other units.

  • Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for your students?
  • How does the content align with your course learning objectives?
  • Is the content level appropriate for use in your course?

No matter what resources you plan to adopt, accessibility should always be a part of your assessment process. Many publisher-provided homework products, for example, are not accessible to students and can cause unexpected issues. Similarly, some OER may not be optimized for students with visual or auditory impairments.

  • Is the content accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications?
  • For online resources, does each image have alt text that can be read? Do videos have accurate closed-captioning?
  • Are students able to access the materials in a quick, nonrestrictive manner?

If you would like a personal copy of these criteria, visit or download them through the Evaluating OER Checklist in Google Docs.

  1. Some content on this page comes from CUNY Pressbooks Guide by Andrew McKinney; Rachael Nevins; and Elizabeth Arestyl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted


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Open at the University of Idaho Library Copyright © by Tyler Rodrigues and Marco Seiferle-Valencia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.