Skip to Main Content

Biology: Open Educational Resources for Biology

This guide is intended to help students in the bachelor's degree program in biology.

What can you freely reuse in course materials?

A product in the public domain can be shared without restriction. Works in the public domain include:

  • Most work produced by the United States Government, see the rules and exceptions here
  • Works that have an expired copyright (i.e. 70 years after the creator's death)
  • Works created for the public domain (the creator gives others free reign to reuse or mix content using a Creative Commons license or puts it in the public domain)
  • An idea expressed in a work or a common fact

A very helpful FAQ page on what is and is not permitted in the classroom due to copyright concerns can be found on the University of Maryland University College Libraries' website. The United States Copyright Office's Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians gives more concrete examples of what is and is not allowed under fair use of copyrighted materials in the classroom. You can read here that the spirit of fair use is achieved in the spontaneity of using materials. 

OpenStax Textbook Update

Sites will allow instructors to download, post, modify materials for free textbooks

Rice University-based publisher OpenStax is partnering with OER Commons to provide online community hubs where instructors can freely share and modify syllabuses, homework, study guides and other open-copyright course materials that are made specifically for each of the free textbooks in OpenStax’s growing catalog.

Rice-based publisher OpenStax is partnering with OER Commons to provide online community hubs where instructors can freely share open-copyright course materials made specifically its free textbooks.

See the Biology textbook OER Commons community here: 

Places to Find CC or Public Domain Biology Content


YouTube playlist of 89 biology films uploaded by UMass Amherst Libraries under a CC-BY license.


LibreTexts Biology Header LibreTexts in Biology offer open access, non-commercial, share alike licensed materials that can be used freely. The materials are developed through a multi-institutional partnership and supported by a National Science Foundation grant. In addition to texts, there are support materials in the form of labs, visualizations, images, and detailed graphics.


The Public Library of Science publishes several open access journals. See below for some of the latest headlines from the PLOS: Biology journal. Their terms are as follows.

PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to works we publish. This license was developed to facilitate open access – namely, free immediate access to, and unrestricted reuse of, original works of all types.

Under this license, authors agree to make articles available for reuse, without permission or fees, for virtually any purpose. Anyone may copy, distribute, or reuse these articles, as long as the author and original source are properly cited.

Loading ...

Miscellaneous Collections

Biology lessons from the Khan Academy. Includes full courses with text, videos, images, and test questions. You can also find many practice questions for preparation for standardized tests. Non-commercial reuse of materials is allowed if you provide the following attribution: All Khan Academy content is available for free at



BioInteractive is a website produced by the non-profit Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). It hosts different forms of multimedia to teach students the excitement of understanding science.

Search Creative Commons Licensed Materials

Creative Commons Logo


Enter your search query:

use for commercial purposes;
modify, adapt, or build upon.

Search using:

Many US government agencies share copyright free photos through social media accounts. The Creative Commons search box above will search Flickr as one of the options, but you might stay up to date with postings if you follow your favorite US government profiles on your own preferred social media account. Check out a few below.

National Science Foundation on Instagram

National Institutes of Health on Flickr

National Park Service on Flickr

US Department of the Interior on Instagram

Smithsonian Marine Station on Instagram

US Department of Health and Human Services on YouTube

US Department of Agriculture on YouTube

One very useful website to find additional biology-specific OER repositories, courses, textbooks, materials, etc. can be found on the LibGuide for the Libraries at the University of Oklahoma here.

Searching on Your Own

You can search the Internet for Creative Commons licensed materials or public domain items. A Google Advanced search allows you to limit your results to items with an open license.