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Finding Open Content

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Hint: Google's Advanced Search can also be used to find content free to use or share in your classes. Simply adjust the 'Usage Rights' options on the Advanced Search screen to fit your needs. Many of the other tools recommended in this guide will allow you more control of your search and a more pristine, trustworthy set of results. 



This guide introduces alternative sources for textbooks and other auxiliary classroom resources, both those available in Ramsey Library's collection and those provided online for free, called Open Educational Resources (OER). These resources can be used to replace some or all of the textbooks students are usually required to buy for their coursework and readings. 

Where to start?

If you're ready to start searching, you can use the tabs at top, or jump straight to the section you need here:

This first page introduces Open Educational Resources, read on to learn more. 

Introduction to Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

OERs are educational materials that are specifically designed by their creator/s to be openly available, and are often licensed to be re-used, re-mixed, and re-distributed.  Open is not just about being free (though that is an important benefit of using most OER) but about the ability to take what others have created, customize them for your courses' specific educational needs, and then share your remixed creation with others.  

The Open Education movement is built around the 5Rs of Open:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

OERs can come in a variety of forms:

  • Learning content - created content that ranges from individual lectures, animations, and assessments to complete courses and textbooks.  
  • Primary sources - Images, video, and sound recordings.  Some  sources are in the public domain, while others have been licensed as open by their creators.   In addition, many texts that are in the public domain are available online/electronically.

Why OERs?

The open resource movement has been around for a while, starting with static learning objects (in about the year 2000), and transitioning to OERs that allowed for revision and reuse.  It is the ever increasing cost of textbooks and materials for students that is now pushing the OER movement forward.  Textbooks and learning materials cost students approximately $1,200 per year at UNCA. According to a 2014 survey by the Student Public Interest Research Group of 2,039 students at more than 150 colleges and universities, two thirds of the students surveyed reported that they did not buy or rent some of their required textbooks due to their high cost, even though 94% of these students reported that they realized that not purchasing the text would impact their grade in these courses. Through OERs the cost of student materials can be drastically reduced.  OERs also give instructors the ability to customize the materials, creating the "perfect" textbook instead of being bound to traditional print resources. 

If you have questions about open licensing (Creative Commons Licensing), you can find out more here.

Here are some good resources to begin learning about OER Resources from the experts:

  • David Wiley talk on High Impact Practices for Integrating Open Educational Resources (OER) into University Courses: Link

  • Scholarly reviews on the efficacy of open access textbooks: Link

  • A Preliminary Exploration of the Relationships Between Student-Created OER, Sustainability, and Students Success article: Link

  • Some OER Case Studies: Link

  • Presentation on Creative Commons and OER: Link


Although every effort is made to ensure that only reliable, up-to-date OER sites are recommended here, and that the content included by the sites themselves is actually licensed as listed, the responsibility ultimately falls on individual users to ensure that the license (including Creative Commons, Public Domain, and paid for/ individually agreed upon with the rights holders) is correct to the reuser's individual use case. Please make a diligent, good faith effort to ensure the resources you use are validly licensed for your intended uses before you reuse them. Librarians are here to help you, and UNCA general counsel is also available as a professional resource for some questions. 


This library guide makes use of selected content from the University of Oklahoma's recommended Open Educational Resources Library Guide under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Much of that original content has been adapted for use in this guide.

Creative Commons License