Preparing Your A/OER Course


To convert an existing or future course to A/OER can be a daunting task. To simplify things, you can start with a creative consultation in the CTL, or a research consultation in the Library. Prior to this meeting, you should send the consultant a syllabus or course outline, or a document with an overview of the topics you plan to cover in your course.

At your consultation, you will discuss the nature of the course you plan to teach with A/OER and include any particular areas of focus or ways that you approach the topic distinctively. You'll talk about the text you're currently using — why are you interested in replacing it? What are some of its strengths and weaknesses?
The consultant will use this information to conduct a preliminary search through copious OER repositories and databases, in an effort to help narrow down your search. Ultimately, you will have to decide what text(s) to use in your course.

For more information, get in touch with either the CTL or the Library.

Finding Resources

Open Textbooks

There are a number of resources to help an instructor replace a traditional publisher's textbook with a digital (or on-demand print) textbook. Some books, including those offered via OpenStax, are peer-reviewed and designed to meet course standards in scope and sequence. Other textbooks, including many offerings in the Open Textbook Library, are the result of institutional incentives and sponsorships.

Open textbooks offer a number of advantages over traditional texts, including: 

  • Usually available as a PDF, so easy to embed in a Canvas course
  • Available (at shipping cost) as print copies, for students who require this accessibility function
  • Usually available in multiple formats (e.g., iBooks, Kindle, web-viewing), for student ease/preference
  • Often come with instructor resources (e.g., test banks, slides, sample syllabi language) to simplify the process of incorporating the book into a course 

For more information on the movement to "open the textbook," see the 2016 Babson Report on open educational resources in the United States.

Below, find several examples of digital textbooks, all of which are either from Open Stax (OS) or the Open Textbook Library (OTL):


(OTL) International Trade: Theory and Policy, "built on Steve Suranovic's belief that to understand the international economy, students need to learn how economic models are applied to real world problems. It is true what they say, that 'economists do it with models.' The text presents a variety of international trade models including the Ricardian model, the Heckscher-Ohlin model, and the monopolistic competition model. It includes trade policy analysis in both perfectly competitive and imperfectly competitive markets."


(OS) American Government (2nd edition), "designed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of the single-semester American Government course. This title includes innovative features designed to enhance student learning, including Insider Perspective features and a Get Connected module that shows students how they can get engaged in the political process. The book provides an important opportunity for students to learn the core concepts of American Government and understand how those concepts apply to their lives and the world around them."


(OS) Business Ethics, "designed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of the single-semester business ethics course. This title includes innovative features designed to enhance student learning, including case studies, application scenarios, and links to video interviews with executives, all of which help instill in students a sense of ethical awareness and responsibility."


The wonder of OER is in the materials that lie beyond the traditional textbook. Check out any of these open resource repositories to discover what is available in your discipline:


OER Commons

The UMSL community has contributed to the UMSL group within the OER Commons; if you can't find what you're looking for, broaden your search to include the entire Commons.



MERLOT is a curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community. It is a product of the California State University System partnering with education institutions, professional societies, and industry.


Open Education Consortium

The Open Education Consortium is a worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing open education and its impact on global education [who] envision a world where everyone, everywhere has access to the education they need to build their futures.

You can find many more sources for open materials at the library's LibGuide page.


On Intellus

UMSL is proud to offer access to Intellus to instructors and faculty who are interested in a hassle-free conversion to OER resources. Gaining Intellus access is a part of the UMSL consultation process.

Intellus is a resource development platform, which allows for the easy and convenient integration of digital learning resources into Canvas modules. It operates as an OER "crawler" which searches a number of other sources (including the Library) for materials to include in your course.

...assigning free content to supplement or replace traditional textbooks has never been easier. Faculty no longer have to scour endless web pages or library sites to find course content. Intellus Learning’s OER and academic library resources are organized by course topic, or by learning objective. Intellus Learning also tracks student engagement with real-time analytics.

Evaluating OER

As you review material, keep the following questions* in mind:

  1. Does this OER cover the content you'd like your students to learn in this course or module? Is the content accurate and are sources well-cited?
  2. How accessible and appropriate is this content? Will it be accessible for your students, or is it too technical? Or is it robust and challenging enough for your students? Is it of high technical quality, with clear visuals and high production value?
  3. How can you use the content? Verify the license that the resource is under. Can you remix or revise the OER as long as it isn't for commercial purposes? Who do you have to recognize if you use it? Will you be able to do so? How does it align with course objectives/learning outcomes? Has it been subject to peer review?
  4. Once you determine how you can use the OER, what would you like to do with it? Does only a portion of it apply to your class? Would you possibly want to combine this OER with another OER or resource? Does the library have access to articles that could act as supplemental readings?
  5. Tip: As you collect more OER and other resources, save them in a central location. Take note of how you envision using them. Align these resources with the learning objectives and weekly lessons on your syllabus in order to identify gaps. 

* Adapted from the OER Guide at the University Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

There are also a number of useful rubrics (including this handy PDF guide to evaluating OER, and this online iRubric assessment) that can help you to make the most appropriate choices in selecting open materials to use in your course.

To learn more, check out the grant programs available to support a transition to open education, and make sure you're familiar with everyone who is involved in OER on the UMSL campus.