OASIS: The Search Tool for the Open Educational Resource Desert

Guest Post by Kaylen Dwyer

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license so they are free to access, use, remix, and share again.

Source: The Review Project. For more information about OER, the University of Illinois’ guide is available online.

Last year, the Common Knowledge blog discussed the cost of OER to professors and institutions in grants, time, sabbatical funding, and more. Yet professors felt that the main barrier between OER and the classroom were not these hidden costs, but rather lack of awareness, the difficulties of finding texts to use, and the monumental task of evaluating the texts and tools they did find.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s study, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” determined that many students chose not to buy their textbooks due to the costs despite concern for their grade, and felt that they would benefit from open resources. Even as textbook costs have skyrocketed and faculty awareness of OER continues to increase, only 5.3% of classrooms are using open textbooks.

Enter OASIS (Openly Available Sources Integrated Search), a search tool recently developed and launched by SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library. OASIS addresses the main frustration expressed by faculty—how do I know what I’m looking for? Or even what open sources are out there?

Oasis Logo Image

The easy-to-use interface and highly selective nature of OASIS are both evident from the front page. At the outset, users can start a search if they know what they’re looking for, or they can view the variety of OER source types available to them—textbooks, courses, interactive simulations, audiobooks, and learning objects are just a few of the tools one can look for.

Image of the options within Oasis for OER materials

Users can also refine their search by the source, license, and whether or not the resource has been reviewed. For those who need a text which has already been evaluated, this certainly helps. At launch, there are over 150,000 items available coming from 52 different sources like Open NYS, CUNY, Open Textbooks, OER Services, and SUNY. And, as a way to increase awareness of the tool and open resources, OASIS also created a search widget that libraries and other institutions can embed on their webpages.

OASIS is one step closer to getting OER into the classroom, providing equal access and increasing the discoverability of texts.

Check it out here!

Open Educational Resources: Who’s Paying?

A stack of books.

This post was guest authored by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Paige Kuester.


Who wants free textbooks? If you’re a student, you probably just jumped out of your seat, depending on how much you have spent on books during your college career. According to an article in The Capital Times, one study has shown that the majority of students have not bought a textbook for a course because of its high price.

If you’re not a student, and especially if you’re a faculty member, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch?” You know that everything has its price, and in this case, you’re right.

So what are we talking about?

According to the article “Breaking free: To save students money, colleges are looking to the Open Educational Resources movement,” there is a trend among higher ed to provide open access resources to students instead of requiring traditional textbooks. Though the article cites that during 2015 and 2016, only 5.3 percent of courses across the country used open education resources, this is likely to increase in the coming years.

Open educational resources are just what they sound like: books are other items whose copyright makes them available online openly for educational purposes. Since books and materials are open, they can be shared between different institutions and updated more easily than a physical textbook. They can also be reused, revised, and remixed with other material to suit a professor’s needs.

But someone has to pay, right?

Right. In the case of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the school that is the focus of the article, the burden falls on the professors and instructors. Kristopher Olds, a professor of geography featured in the article, seized the opportunity to create an open textbook when it was presented with him, but it paying for it by patching together small grants, sabbatical funds, and other resources, and volunteering some of his own time. He feels his effort is worth it; however, after realizing that his students were not buying the expensive book he was assigning or were getting outdated information from older textbooks.

Surprisingly, Olds does not say that funding is one of the main barriers to institutions and professors implementing OER, but actually, awareness about OER and how to use them are bigger problems. However, the landscape is changing as knowledge about this type of resource spreads.

Here at the University of Illinois, we are encouraging professors and instructors to look into this facet of teaching. The University has just joined the Open Textbook Network, but data has not yet been gathered about its implementation on campus. Over the next few years, the library will be putting out more initiatives for OER as a part of joining the OTN. The Office of Information Literacy has put out a guide for helping instructors understand what it OER, how to use it, and how to find resources. Learn more at the Open Educational Resources LibGuide.

Schneider, P. (2017, August 9). Breaking free: To save students colleges are looking to the Open Educational Resource movement. The Cap Times. Retrieved from http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/university/breaking-free-to-save-students-money-colleges-are-looking-to/article_eebc0888-2f1f-5faf-ace3-6264b52b8512.html