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Open Educational Resources (OERs) Toolkit: OER: Low and no cost basics

Where to start?

Welcome! If you're interested in supporting student success by finding and using lower or no cost course materials*, you've come to the right place. To get started:

1. Learn what they are:

  • Open Educational Resources are openly licensed --  scroll down to read the definitions on this page to learn more. Check out SPARC*'s OER Mythbusting for some quick facts.
  • Other free or low cost materials -- think about incorporating library materials or using copyrighted material with permission. Learn more about copyright here.
  • Prefer to read? Try this OER text, which is an introduction to OERs: The OER Starter Kit or for a little more interactivity, The OER Starter Kit Workbook.

2. Think about your course objectives and learning outcomes. Make a list so as you look over low or no cost materials, you can quickly determine what you need. 

  • Remember you do not have to find any one resource that meets every learning outcome -- you can use pieces from more than one open resource and "remix" -- see "The 5rs" below and learn how to Revise/Remix/Create here.

3. Find possible course materials and evaluate them. Be sure to consider accessibility. Explore the Find OERs and OERs for Guided Pathways sections of this toolkit or ask your librarian for more suggestions. You can schedule time with any of the librarians on the OER Taskforce as well (see below).

4. Connect with others to share ideas, ask questions, and get support:

You can connect with colleagues in CCSNH, New Hampshire, or national online forums, or speak with an Open CCSNH member:

·         Great Bay CC: Becky Clerkin (librarian), Eric Kulberg

·         White Mountains CC: Melissa Laplante (librarian)

·         Nashua CC: Betsy Gamrat, Fran Keenan (librarian)

·         NHTI: Kerry Cook, Alan Lindsay, Christie Cho (librarian)

·         River Valley CC: Amanda Couitt, Julie Robinson, Sarah Hebert (librarian)

·         Lakes Region CC: Penny Garrett (librarian)

·         Additional Support/ Project Management:

Alisa Kadenic-Newman (CCSNH Director of Academic Technology)

Jenn Cournoyer (River Valley CC VP Academic and Student Affairs, Co-Chair)

Scroll down to find definitions and keep learning, and please feel free to contact any of us for further assistance and support! 

Open CCSNH defines No Lost and Low Cost (NoLo) as materials for one course costing less than $40 new. For more details visit myCCSNH.

OERs and library materials in Canvas

You can upload and use OERs in your Canvas courses. You can also share and find materials in Canvas Commons:

One easy way to reduce the cost of course texts for your students is to use library materials:

  • You can link to library eBooks and articles as well as Research Guides in Canvas.
  • See our Faculty Resource Guide for information about links in Canvas.
  • If you would like a librarian to suggest materials or to help you select them as you plan your syllabus, please call the library at 603-206-8150 or email and we will be happy to help!

Copyright and Fair Use

Fair Use is a right, and we have tools to help you exercise it. Visit our guide for more details. Librarians from CCSNH completed training to become part of the Copyright First Responders network: Kristen Lindsay at MCC and Melissa Laplante at WMCC. We can answer your questions or call on our network for additional information if needed. 

Creative Commons License
MCC's Open Educational Resources (OERs) Toolkit by Deb Baker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

The 5 Rs

The  "5R's Framework" describes the ways OERs may be used, depending on the way they are licensed:

  • Retain: Users have the right to make, archive, and "own" copies of the content;
  • Reuse:  Content can be reused in its unaltered form;
  • Revise: Content can be adapted, adjusted, modified or altered;
  • Remix: The original or revised content can be combined with other content to create something new;
  • Redistribute: Copies of the content can be shared with others in its original, revised or remixed form.   

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons Licenses are your guide to which of the 5rs you can apply to a particular resource. For example, you can't revise or remix anything with a ND license -- no derivative. Read this helpful wiki on the CC licenses to find out more about Creative Commons and OER.

Creative Commons Licenses chart

"Creative Commons Licenses by Andi Roberts, CC BY-NC-SA"

What are OERs?

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions." (UNESCO).            

OER is related to "textbook free" -- a textbook free course or degree may include OERs but often includes library and other reading materials, placed on reserve or uploaded to Canvas and used according to copyright and fair use guidelines. 

What's the difference between "free" and "open?" Open educational resources are licensed to be re-used, while free just means there is no paywall to access something.

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