There is no definitive source for locating OER (as there is no definitive source for locating closed educational resources). Your skills in finding OER will improve with experience in developing open courses. This involves developing your knowledge for finding how open licenses are attributed on different sites and improving your online search skills. The open education space is a very dynamic field and you will find that some web pages providing links on where to find OER may be out of date. For this reason, it is important to participate in open education community lists to network and keep up to date with recent developments in the field.

OER course designers and developers need to know what to look for and where and how to source OER materials. For example:

  • OER assets to incorporate into your course, such as images, sound or video
  • Full courses which you can adapt and modify
  • Research articles to support undergraduate and postgraduate learning
  • Open textbooks

When in doubt about the legal permissions associated with resources you find, visit the “terms of reference” or “copyright” link on the site concerned. In time, you will learn which repositories support searching by Creative Commons license types in your field of interest and use these as your primary sources.

In this section we provide two activities and a few additional links to get you started with finding OER.

Finding OER assets for incorporation into your course developments



Using website specific advanced search and filter features to find OER
This is a learn-by-doing activity. A number of websites which host photographs, images, sound and video support Creative Commons license tags and provide the ability to search according to Creative Commons license types. The purpose of this activity is to explore how you can search for Creative Commons licensed materials using the search filters or advanced search features available on a few selected websites. For each website you explore, perform the following two steps:

  1. Conduct a search by Creative Commons license type (where supported).
  2. Visit the individual resource and find out where and how the Creative Commons license is cited on the individual resource page.

Suggested websites for this activity

  1. Wikimedia Commons: a repository of free media with the advantage that all resources are licensed under Free Cultural Works approved licenses.
  2. flickr: a photo sharing site.
    • Go to and enter a search term in the search box.
    • Click on the license filter to select the permissions for different types of CC licenses or click on the “Advanced Search” link and scroll down to the Creative Commons section.
    • Experiment with different search configurations (you can use more than one filter). See if you can find the license statement on the resultant search. Note which CC license is used in relation to the search filters you used.
    • Click on the share icon to reveal the link for attribution and click on the download link to see the download options.
  3. pixabay: a community repository of public domain images, drawings, vectors and photographs. All images on pixabay are dedicated to the public domain so there is no need to filter by license type. However, note that “sponsored images” are not available under the public domain and usually have an embedded watermark.
  4. YouTube: a video sharing site.
    • Go to and enter a search term in the search box.
    • Click on the “Filter” pull-down option and click on “Creative Commons”. Youtube only supports the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
    • Click on the “Show More” link to reveal the license.
  5. Vimeo: Vimeo is a video hosting site.
    • Go to and enter a search term in the search box.
    • Click on the “Advanced Filters” tab and search by Creative Commons license type. Note how the CC license icons are used to display the license attribution.
  6. SoundCloud: a social sound platform which supports Creative Commons.
    • Go to and enter a search term.
    • From the results page, click on the “Tracks” link and then the “To listen to” link to select your preferred CC license filter (see screenshot).
    • On the individual track page, click on the “Read more” link to reveal the license information.
  7. Jamendo: a music website which specialises in free music.
    • Go to and enter a search term (or click on the “Search” link).
    • Click on the “Advanced search” link and select your license filter.
    • Choose an individual track from the search results and scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the license attribution information.

Expanding your OER search horizons



When you are looking for more than discrete OER assets

Think about a course you are teaching, or considering for future development. Identify a broad topic area and visit the following sources for searching for OER:

  1. Try using an advanced Google Search ( and filter the results using the “usage rights” option by selecting appropriate permissions. Always verify the search results by visiting the host site to confirm licensing permissions.
  2. Visit the Find OER page of the Open Professionals Education Network site or the BCcampus Find Open Textbooks portal and select one or two options to try and find what you are looking for.
  3. Visit the Directory of Open Access Journals which may be appropriate for implementing a pedagogy of discovery where you direct learners to source their own materials in pursuit of their own interests in achieving the learning outcomes for your course.

Please share your experiences on your preliminary search for OER by posting on WEnotes below, OERu forums or Twitter and include the hash tag “ds4oer” when posting on Twitter. For example:

  1. I was surprised that … #ds4oer
  2. I’m frustrated that … #ds4oer or
  3. Searching for OER is … #ds4oer

You must be logged in to post to WEnotes.

Building the commons

In your discipline, you may not find the specific resources you were looking for. You can make a difference by filling the gap. By by releasing your outputs under open licenses, you can help build the education commons so that future searches for OER by your colleagues will render more positive results.

case study

Case Study

The absurdity of copyright in higher education and the importance of building the commons

Lapita jewellery box from excavations at Bourewa, Fiji directed by Patrick Nunn, 2007-2008

When the University of Southern Queensland was developing one of the first OERu prototype courses on Regional Relations in Asia and the Pacific, we noted a link to a lapita pottery image. The image was licensed under all rights reserved to a leading publicly funded research university and could not be copied for inclusion in the section of the course on an historical overview of the region.

The Lapita were a sea-faring people thought to be the ancestors of contemporary populations in Polynesia, Micronesia and some parts of Melanesia, and we know this from numerous discoveries of lapita pottery. Radiocarbon analyses date these artefacts to +3000 years old. The artefacts themselves pre-date the origins of copyright and should rightly be in the public domain. However, the copyright of photographs of artefacts in the public domain can be licensed under all rights reserved as was the case of the lapita pottery image. Legally the course developers could not include a copy of this image in the course materials.

We approached the copyright holder of the image for permission to re-license the image under a free cultural works approved license which was denied. Consequently a copy of the image could not be legally hosted on WikiEducator for inclusion in the OER course materials.

We posted a request on the OERu public email lists in an attempt to source openly licensed alternatives of the image for inclusion in the course materials. We received a positive response via the University of the South Pacific, one of the OERu founding anchor partners. Patrick Nunn, the former Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and International), at the University of the South Pacific, directed a significant find of lapita pottery at Bourewa in Fiji. We were able to source openly licensed substitute images which could be incorporated into the OER materials and thus build the education commons.