Developing a Search Strategy

Photo of women searching for OER on computerYou can find OER by using the search engines you already use, or by searching or browsing any of the OER repositories listed below. Note that as you explore these options, you need to come up with a search strategy that will work best for you. If you have ever searched for anything online, you know that how you formulate your question, or put in keywords, will reflect in your search results.

Before you even begin searching, take note of the options that you may have while looking for OER.

Search by course name.

Yes, there are full OER textbooks, and even full courses! You may have a specific course, like Calculus II, that you’d like to use OER with, or even use all OER course materials for.

Search by discipline.

Are you looking for science resources? English? History? Many of the OER Repositories enable you to begin narrowing your search at the discipline level – even before you enter any specific keywords.

Search by education level.

Are you looking for materials geared for undergraduates? Graduate students? Faculty? Instructional designers? Knowing who your audience is in advance will help you to filter out search results.

Search with learning objectives in mind.

Many of us strive to find course materials that are in alignment with institutional, course, and/or modular objectives. Refer to your course (and/or program) learning objectives before you begin searching, so that you can focus your search on learning content that will help your students meet those objectives.

Search by asset type.

Are you looking for a full course? A textbook? A few exercises or problem sets to engage your students? A video or two for students to base discussion around? You can begin your search without knowing exactly what type of asset you are looking for, but once you get the initial search results, you will want to start narrowing things down. Again, go back to those learning objectives and consider how you want your students to meet those objectives – and what they will need to do just that!

Search by license type.

Are you going to use the OER you find as is, or are you looking for something that you can build upon? Make sure you have a clear understanding of Creative Commons and other open licenses before you start searching, so you know what options are open to you regarding editing and publishing the content you find.

Search by keyword.

This is last on the list for a reason. You may be used to typing in keywords to search for any and everything on the web, and your results may be stellar. That is because most web content is carefully tagged with keywords to ensure that content is findable.

Take a few minutes to hear some excellent advice on searching for OER, and why a keyword search may not necessarily be the best way to go:

Keep your students in mind. While you are searching, keep your students in mind. You may come across a set of videos that are fascinating to you (and maybe pertinent to your research), but will the OER help the students reach their learning goals?

Using Search Tools

There are a plethora of OER search utilities out there – from search engines to discipline specific OER repositories. There are search tools that will help you find images, and search tools that will help you find full courses. Here we explore some of those tools, and provide resources for you to explore more on your own.

Google Advanced Search

A Google search alone can direct you to OER resources, but the Advanced Search feature in Google lets you search by ‘usage rights’ for content published to the Internet under an open license. The Advanced Search dialogue can be found under the Settings function or can be directly accessed at

Take a minute to review this short video from David Wiley, as he shows how simple it is to use the Advanced Search feature in Google to find OER:

OER Repositories

Searching an OER Repository can result in a faster and more productive search experience since the resources have been curated and organized into various categories including discipline, format, and open license.

We invite you to begin your search for OER on the SUNY OER Services website. Our staff is available to help you find and integrate OER into your work.

You can also explore a vast list of OER Repositories and other search utilities on the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources site.

OASIS Search

Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool developed at SUNY Geneseo that aims to make the discovery of open content easier–this tool will simultaneously search 44 different open content sources.

OER Commons

OER Commons Logo
OER Commons provides a robust search capability across a variety of openly licensed content types, and a variety of disciplines.

The Open Professionals Education Network: Find OER
This list includes a wide variety of OER Search tools with a short description of each. As this page is an openly licensed resource with a CC-BY license, you should recognize this list itself as an OER! Feel free to copy, add, remix, and share!

Open Educational Resources (OER): Find OER
Many colleges and universities are adding OER sections to their websites, via LibGuides or other dedicated pages. This LibGuide from the University of Illinois includes repositories of recorded lectures, videos, open textbooks, modular components, complete courses, and other OER search engines.

Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)
This utility, from George Mason University Libraries, searches across 16 OER repositories at once. You can add or remove sources to modify your search targets.

The Good Old Image Search

Searching for openly licensed images may be your first step in OER adoption. Note that there are specific search utilities that enable you to search for openly licensed images. Pay careful attention to attribution information while you are searching, so that you can cite your images accordingly.

Here are some of the top OER image search utilities:

Keeping Track While You Search

What happens when you find an OER that you want to use? We need to find a way to keep track of what we’re finding, right?

If you have a bookmarking utility that you like to use, you can bookmark the URLs for the OER that you find and are considering for use. Or, you can keep track via spreadsheet of what you find, and how you might use it.

Here is an OER Resource Search Result template that you can use to keep track of OER that you find, and to indicate which learning objectives the OER content is in alignment with.


Asking for Help

You may have trouble finding OER that perfectly fit your needs. When you are in the midst of searching, keep in mind that most OER can used in whole or in part and/or modified and customized to fit your specific needs – except those OER that are licensed under ND (no derivatives).

Remember that you can always reach out to your campus librarian and/or OER campus representative for help. They can help you find OER, and in many instances help you integrate content seamlessly into your course(s).

Write on this Course: Search Strategies

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You may have developed search strategies over the years to find textbooks, research papers, journal articles, full courses, videos, tests, interactive multimedia elements, software, and other tools, materials, or techniques used to support teaching and learning.

    • What strategy do you use when searching for learning content now?
    • How will what you have learned here change that strategy when searching for OER?

You can use Hypothesis to add your answers as public annotations to this page. Comments are welcome anywhere on the page. Please use the tag #SUNYOERChat in your posts.

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The content of this course is adapted from the following works:

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