Skip to Main Content

Research Guides

Open Education

A hub for information and links about OER, Open Educational Practices and Pedagogy, and Open Education activities and projects at U of T


Do you have an idea for an open educational resource (e.g., an open access course or module series) but are not sure how to implement it? Are you looking to share resources with students that aren’t restricted by commercial licences and copyright terms? The headings and resources below are designed to help you navigate the open access process so you can design your very own open courses, and include details on Creative Commons licensing, attribution, public domain materials, fair dealing, and more.

For creating and maintaining OER texts, please see the tab above: 'Creating & Adapting OER Texts'.

Please note that these passages do not constitute legal advice, and are simply intended to get you started on your OA journey. As always if you have any questions or concerns please email and we will be happy to further assist you.

How does an open-access (OA) course differ from a Quercus course?

  • Quercus courses are password protected - this is common with many Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Quercus courses are generally limited to a certain number of enrolled students and are linked to the central U of T course database to ensure proper enrollment
  • An OA course on the other hand will likely be available for anyone on the Internet to use (i.e., not password protected, though one may require an account depending on the specific LMS)
  • An OA course would probably not be linked to a central repository of courses and enrolled students as the point of OA is for anyone to be able to access materials
  • Please note it may be possible to create a course on Quercus where students and faculty from across U of T can access materials regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in the course. However, this is not true OA as only those who have either paid tuition fees or who work at the institution would be able to see the course materials
  • In order for a course to properly be considered OA it needs to be free in two senses of the word:
    • Free as in libre (where students can download and modify materials)
    • And free as in gratis (where access to materials is provided at no cost)
  • To what extent you wish to make your materials ‘open’ in the former sense depends on what you are trying to accomplish and which licence you eventually place on your materials

The Benefits of Open Access

Copyright Considerations

  • Try your best to link externally to materials, and that the source you are linking to is legitimate and not a site that is infringing copyright. This also applies to legitimate websites that might be hosting illegitimate material (e.g., YouTube)
  • Try to create your own images and figures, or else use items that are:
    • Openly available (i.e., have a Creative Commons or similar licence)
    • In the public domain
  • Limit third party material unless absolutely necessary (i.e., not for aesthetic appeal)
  • Licence or get permission for material
  • Carefully review the terms of use of any material you wish to incorporate into your course

Copyright can seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. If you're short on time and need the basics, be sure to check out this series of short copyright modules This link opens in a new tab produced by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. For more information and resources related to copyright, check out this page on copyright resources This link opens in a new tab. Still have questions? E-mail us at!

Finding Media for OER

Use the repositories below to begin your search for media that are free and/or publicly licensed. You can also search for Creative Commons licensed materials across several websites using Creative Commons Search This link opens in a new tab (Openverse).

Image & Video Repositories

Other Resources

Best practices for attribution

When using CC-licensed materials, you must follow the license conditions for attributing materials. Use the TASL framework to properly attribute a Creative Commons resource: 

T – Title

A – Artist 

S – Source (Link)

L – CC License (Link)

For a more detailed discussion on how to properly attribute materials see the CC Wiki page on best practices This link opens in a new tab.

Picking Tools

Evaluating OER

When evaluating OER, it is important to consider whether the materials that you have selected will help students to achieve your specific learning goals. While it is ultimately up to you to determine whether the resource is appropriate for use, there are many criteria and rubrics to help you evaluate existing content. For more help finding open resources, visit the OER by Discipline and Open Textbook Directory pages on this guide.