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Open Educational Resources (OER): Home

This guide provides a basic understanding of OER materials, including how to find, evaluate, and use them for teaching and learning.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others, including the ability to freely edit those materials, as well as mix-and-match them with other materials with compatible licenses. These resources may include: 

  • Learning content such as full courses, specific course material, content modules, collections, journal, etc.
  • Tools such as software, content and learning management systems, development tools, and online learning communities.
  • Assessment resources such as quizzes, exams, assignments, and portfolio ideas.
  • Full-text resources such as textbooks, articles, and lectures 
  • Digital materials such as videos, simulations, and games

OER materials are any type of educational material that is freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse.  They are NOT the same as public domain materials; however public domain materials are often included in many of the OER full courses.  Most of the time, someone still owns the copyright of the OER under a creative commons license.

The 5 Rs of Openness

According to David Wiley from Lumen Learning, the power of open educational resources comes from a set of permissions which allows you to:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g. download, duplicate)
  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g. in class, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g. translate into another language)
  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g. a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g. share with a colleague)

These permissions are usually granted by the copyright holder of a work by licensing it under a Creative Commons license. Licenses which disallow derivatives are not considered OERs, as the distribution of edited or remixed materials is prohibited under the terms of the license. These materials must remain unaltered in their original form if they are to be used.

Why OER?

The open resource movement has been around for a while, but has transitioned to OER which allows for revision and reuse. Textbooks and learning materials currently cost students approximately $900 - $1,200 per year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students didn't purchase textbooks in the last year because they were too expensive. Using OER materials can drastically reduce the cost of student materials. The use of OER also gives instructors the ability to customize the materials, creating textbooks that fit their needs.  

For more information, consult this page on the website of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resource (CCCOER), one of the best and most frequently updated sources of information on the current state of OER.

OER vs. Non-OER Creative Commons (CC) Licenses

Creative Commons 7 LIcense from most free to least free

This helpful graph taken from the CCCOER shows some of the various OER and non-OER licenses. While licenses which prohibit derivatives are not considered OERs, licenses which prohibit the use of materials for commercial gain may still be used for educational purposes, and are considered OERs.

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