Skip to Main Content
Research Guides@Tufts

No-cost course materials & Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides resources for finding alternatives to pricey textbooks and locating open educational resources (OER)


This guide provides resources for finding & using no-cost course materials & Open Educational Resources (OER). The guide is divided into several sections:

  • Find no-cost material: suggestions of places to find freely available course material, including textbooks, syllabi, lectures notes, videos, and more
  • Use library-licensed resources: find ebooks, journals, databases, audio & video that the library provides that can be freely used by students
  • Using & evaluating OER: tips for evaluating & incorporating Open Educational Resources into your course
  • Get help and learn more: get support from librarians in finding or using no-cost course materials, including our Syllabus Affordability Review program and Affordable Course Materials Awards

If you have any questions about this guide or finding & using no-cost course materials, use our contact form to get in touch with the Tisch OER Steering Committee.

Why use OER?

"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."


OER are one way to address textbook unaffordability by providing high quality, free alternatives. They also allow instructors to reuse, remix, and create course material that is directly tailored to their teaching.

Textbook costs are consistently rising, leaving many students unable to afford resources necessary for their coursework.

In 2019, a report from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) stated:

"Prices have increased by almost 190% since 2006, and undergraduate students now budget over $1,200 for materials each academic year. Lower-income community college students are particularly affected, with textbook costs accounting for 80% of their total college attendance expenditures."

OER are one way to address textbook unaffordability by providing high quality, free alternatives.

Infographic of affordable course materials by Abbey K. Elder

Understanding open & free resources

What resources do you have permission to use?Affordable course material options table

Creative Commons Licenses

Many OERs are shared openly under Creative Commons (CC) licenses. CC licenses indicate the permissions for sharing and reusing creative work. Licenses range from public domain (no ownership or restrictions) to Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (give attribution to the creator, don't use for commercial purposes, and do not create derivatives).

You can use Creative Commons materials, including searching for Creative Commons images, or select a license for your own work.

An infographic showing the levels of Creative Commons licenses

Infographic: “Creative Commons License Spectrum” by Shaddim (CC BY)