Open educational resources

An open educational resource (OER) is peer reviewed researched academic content that has been made available via an open license such as a Creative Commons License.

How do OERs benefit learning and teaching?

For learners

  • The opportunity to test out course materials before enrolling, and compare with other similar courses
  • Opportunities to be involved in OER initiatives either through contributing towards OER development – learning valuable skills of information appraisal and peer review
  • Reduced cost of education by replacing textbooks with peer reviewed open educational resources

For faculty

  • Benefits (efficiency and cultural) of collaborative approaches to teaching/learning
  • Reaching a wider range of learners
  • Professional/peer-to-peer learning about the processes of OER release

Sample OER Declaration

"One of the most often cited definitions of OER comes from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: “Open Educational Resources are teaching and learning resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use...” (The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation website). In keeping with the intention and spirit of OER, we offer this report free of charge to educators, learners and researchers everywhere under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. We invite you to use it, cite it, share it with others and share your feedback about the report with us. The authors’ website profiles are included at the end of this report. We welcome your feedback."  

From Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond by Sarah Eaton et al., available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Publishing OER

Open Education Alberta

Open Education Alberta is a collaborative, no-fee publishing service for open textbooks and other open educational resources.

It allows educators from the University of Calgary to host OERs on a Pressbooks instance hosted by the University of Alberta Library.

Pressbooks is a simple publishing software for the authoring and publication of multimedia-rich print books, ebooks, and webbooks. The published books are shareable in multiple formats including pdf, epub, and mobi and can easily be adapted and updated using the Pressbooks software.

OER on campus

The following is a list of open educational resources that were developed or adapted for a course at the University of Calgary. 

An online course developed for introductory Spanish.

An online encyclopedia that gives a comprehensive overview of the science of energy.

A collection of open source textbooks for introductory mathematics and other courses.

Supplementary materials, including videos, readings and exercises for introductory genetics.

A collection of customizable teaching materials for intermediate and advanced logic.

A collection of educational resources for family medicine.

Sarah Eaton, Barbara Brown, Meadow Schroeder, Jennifer Lock and Michele Jacobsen

An exploration of signature pedagogies in e-learning for higher education.

Pilot project grant recipients

The University of Calgary marked the March 2017 Open Education Week by announcing the launch of a new initiative designed to provide institutional support for adopting and adapting OERs.

MDSC 351: Honours Cell & Molecular Biology
Research Assistant: Chimone Dalton, PhD student at the Cumming School of Medicine

The Cell Signaling unit of MDSC 351 (Honours cell & molecular biology) focuses on how cells receive stimuli and respond to its environment. The plan is (1) to select and modify OERs to integrate cell signaling mechanisms that govern glucose homeostasis; (2) to develop assessment instruments, both formative and summative, to gauge learning; and (3) to test-drive the OER on the MDSC 351 class of winter term 2018. 

The successful adaptation of OERs for this unit will provide impetus for the development of materials for the entire course, whether by adapting and adopting existing resources or creating novel ones. This will be an ongoing process, as OERs are improved and updated to reflect advances in the field and to impart the immediacy and relevance of the science. 

Estimated textbook savings per student: $150

PHYS 371: Introduction to Energy
Research Assistant: Jacqueline Williams

Our project is an encyclopedia that is growing to cover the entire energy sector. This encyclopedia has replaced the traditional textbook for PHYS 371, and is used in other courses on campus. Visit for more information about the project. 

Estimated textbook savings per student: $170 

PSYC 451: Cognitive Development
Research Assistants: Devon Currie, Laura Hernandez, Clara Lee and Mehnaz Rafi

The purpose of this OER project is to develop high quality tutorial resources for upper year psychology courses. Throughout this year, we have been collecting and curating OER writing guides, instructional guides, and sample writing pieces. The aim of this project is to arrange these documents in a comprehensive manual, along with team-created documents that will help advanced psychology students to understand the intricacies of advanced academic writing in psychology. So far, we have collected resources pertaining to annotated bibliographies, hypotheses development, article critiques, drafting an introduction, methods section, presenting a results and discussion section, and formatting reference sections and manuscript layouts. We hope to launch a completed version of this manual in the late spring 2018.

BTMA 601: Business Technology Management
Research Assistant: Alexandra Edie

The theoretical textbook for this class will be replaced by an OER through the adopt and adapt method. With the help of research assistant Alexandra Edie, the team will undergo a search for open textbook resources that match the syllabus, develop standards for the adoption of the new online textbook, and match the standards to the national BTMA governing council standards. The goal is to conceptually digitize the textbook. This project includes a review of the course learning outcomes and the development of a map that relates the new set of learning outcomes to the course content, assessments, assignments and final project

Estimated textbook savings per student: $90

SPAN 203: Beginners' Spanish II
Research Assistants: Berenice Cancino, Nicole Puccinelli and Carlo Roble 

The members of my team and I have completed a full first year basic OER Spanish textbook. The online textbook provides excellent teaching materials at no cost to students. It also allows the professors to use, adapt, and remix according to student and classroom needs.

Estimated textbook savings per student: $110

ENGO 343: Fundamentals of Surveying
Research Assistant: Dr. Iliana Tsalis 

Unlike fundamental engineering disciplines, students studying surveying cannot benefit from having easily accessible comprehensive open textbooks and other OER. Such resources are scarce and scattered as single modules in environmental, civil engineering, or geography OER courses. At the same time, the cost of the surveying textbooks is prohibitively high for many students. As these books are required also in the third- and fourth-year surveying courses, their replacement with comprehensive, well-thought-out, and well-organized OER will be indispensable for students’ learning and success. The project focuses specifically on three chapters of the current course syllabus in ENGO 343 Fundamentals of Surveying: distance measurements, angle measurements, and levelling. These modules are chosen because they contain a plethora of key concepts that require a significant effort by students to learn, retain and apply them in labs and field exercises. The project has undergone two phases. During the first phase, we researched the availability of open textbooks and other resources in open education repositories as well as courseware in surveying and evaluated them. It was determined that the available OER do not match the course syllabus or do this with a very limited extent. Therefore, in the second phase of the project we has focused on developing OER, as well as adapting and mixing some portions of the best found OER.

Estimated textbook savings per student: $280

CORE 209: Disability in Theory and Everyday Life
Research Assistants: Rebecca Brady, Sarosh Sawani 

Disability Studies is multi-disciplinary by nature. One of our first year courses Disability in Theory and Everyday Life offers a survey of disability theory in a variety of contexts. The course acquaints students with both classical and contemporary theorists and the application of theory to disability issues and practices i.e. power, agency, social structure and inequality. For this project, two RAs, one who has taken this course and one who has not, will work towards finding open access resources to replace the current textbook with a variety of resources which reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the course and the materials covered. Our aim is not only to find readily accessible materials for the students, but also to provide sources that can be shared with the community agencies with whom we work closely. We plan to get started in January and to have an initial selection of resources by March. We are all very excited to get working on this project and to make the readings for next year’s course more accessible, both financially and academically. 

Estimated textbook savings per student: $45

CHEM 209: General Chemistry for Engineers
Research Assistants: Brian Gilbert, Jack Jarvis and Linh Ly

Our teaching team is developing an OER under the Adopt and Adapt Model for the pilot project. All Schulich School of Engineering students need to take CHEM 209: General Chemistry for Engineers and many take the course as a final chemistry course. Our goal for this pilot project involves offering our OER as an optional alternative to the current book in Winter 2018 and we aim to transition to the OER as the recommended book with a optional alternative print copy in Fall 2018. Our project is designed to bring the students high-quality open resources that can be used to supplement or replace our print textbook. The ability to tailor these resources to match the course requirements as exactly as possible, plus the low cost to students, should make this a powerful resource, once complete. 

Estimated textbook savings per student: $170

MGST 741: Business Process Improvement and Creative Problem Solving
Research Assistants: Devon Cornelisse, Julie Pham, Aaron Nasser

The MGST 741 MBA course textbook is out of print, and only a limited quantity of used copies are available on the market now. This creates the risk that students will not get the book via related Internet sites. Although the textbook was published in 2004, its price is about $200. As compared to the textbook, OERs will provide more financially accessible, widespread and up-to-date content for the students. OERs will include examples, cases, and solutions for business process improvement relevant to multiple organizations. Creative problem solving will be demonstrated in OERs across various areas, such as business development, inventory, quality and supply chain management. MBA students have diverse previous work experiences and backgrounds, so each of the students will find in the OERs some information of particular interest to them.

Estimated textbook savings per student: $200

Download MGST 741 OER (.pdf)

Download MGST 741 OER (.docx)

VETM 442: An Introduction to Veterinary Clinical Pathology 
Research Assistant: Dr. Jantina McMurray 

Our collaborative group project involves the development of an open educational resource (OER) for the teaching and learning of veterinary clinical pathology. Specifically, we are creating a freely accessible databank of digital animal cell pathology images that can be used to complement current learning resources in this field. Our hope is that this OER will be useful in a wide range of veterinary educational settings, helping learners to develop their ability to confidently recognize and describe common pathologic cell changes that can be observed during basic microscopic evaluation of laboratory samples.

Find OER

Find resources published online, free for use in your courses.

Use existing high quality online textbooks, or customize them for your specific uses. Some great starting points include: