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Open Educational Resources (OER)

About OER

  OER defined  

"Open Educational Resources 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" -- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

  Examples of OER  
Types of OER include (but are not limited to) textbooks, journal articlessyllabi, podcasts, lesson plans, learning modules, lab experiments, simulations, course videos, discussion prompts, assignments, assessments, library guides, and course design templates. In short, 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

  OER for Instructors  
Instructors  use  OER in their classes: — showing YouTube videos, using worksheets created and shared by other instructors, and using online simulations as learning activities. Instructors can also create and share syllabi, lesson plans, and even full textbooks for their courses. They can collaborate with instructors at their own institutions, or other institutions around the world. They can access and remix existing OER and republish them to share with others.

Source: "Understanding OER." by SUNY OER Services, OER Community Course is licensed under CC BY 4.0

  Potential benefits of OER  
  • Saves costs and grants access to more quality choices
    ​​Students enjoy savings from accessing free quality materials developed by faculty, experts and leading institutions. OER programs have reported that students enjoyed huge savings on the cost of their education.
  • Lifelong learning
    Because OER are open, they allow students to return to course content again and again -- before and after courses.
  • More clarity/certainty regarding reuse of materials
    You will have peace of mind especially if you’re re-using someone else’s materials. The resources are licensed to allow sharing of content. You need not contact the author for permission to use of his/her work as long as it falls within the ‘open’ license.
  • Customize contents to meet specific teaching needs
    OER are fully revisable and remixable and this allows for freedom to revise materials as well as the flexibility to combine parts of resources to ensure that materials are contextualized to a specific course.
  • Increasing support for "plug and play" resources 
    For instructors who have little time to adapt resources, OER projects like OpenStax and the Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon) are increasingly making "packaged" resources available. Packaged resources include textbooks with accompanying ancillary resources (slides, clicker exercises, learning materials).
  • Student-driven, multi modal learning
    OER are one way of engaging students more deeply in the educational process, moving beyond lecture and text. Open education gives instructors the tools to involve students in the creation of learning materials.

Adapted from the Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable LearningWashington State University LibGuide.

"The terms 'Open Content' and 'Open Educational Resources' describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like 'Open Source') that is either in the public domain or  licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the following 5R activities":


This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 4.0. license at

  Characteristics of a good OER  

  • Searchable – it can be in multiple locations
  • Clearly described
  • Clearly licensed (normally through Creative Commons)
  • From a source you trust
  • Easy to modify
  • Free-standing – it does not assume knowledge of other resources
  • Free of copyright content
  • Being used by/recommended by people like you
  • Imperfect – it just needs to work for you.

Adpated from: The Open University. OpenLearn. Creating open educational resources. What makes a good OER?

Integrating OER into a Module

  Useful  Pointers...  

Using OER at first can be daunting because there are so many resources that you can use. If you are considering incorporating open resources into your module, here are some tips on building or adding OER to your classes.

 Step 1 :

Set aside time

  • It takes time to search for these materials. Be persistent, you'll find something useful!

 Step 2 : 

Check if someone else has created a similar, complete OER course or textbook.

  • Explore the "Open CourseWare" and "Open Textbooks" sub-tabs under the "Finding OER" tab at the top panel of this guide. 
    Example: Go to the Open Textbook library and browse  their open business texts.

 Step 3 :

Take a closer look at your learning objectives. 

  • Focus on what you would like students to know or be able to do. Then think of the textbook that you would like to replace.
  • You will likely need to search for several materials to address different topics or components of your complete class.

 Step 4 : 

Search several OER repositories to see what content is available. 

  • Explore the "Finding OER" tab on this guide, for a list of repositories.
    Tip*: Explore the browsing tools that the repository or search engine presents to you! Don’t rely solely on keyword searching.
  • Use the Google “Advanced Search” to search for open resources.​

 Step 5 :

Look for library materials like e-books, articles and streaming videos to fill in gaps.

 Step 6

Not finding what you’re looking for? Ask your librarian. askalib3

 Step 7 

Consider creating and sharing your own OER.  

  • Share your OER with a Librarian who will help to add your OER into our library collection. 

Adapted from "OER - Open Educational Resources: Adopt" by University of Pittsburgh Library System.

Are Free Resources as Effective or of the Same Quality as Textbooks?

"Students spend a lot of money on textbooks. Alternatives to the expensive textbooks that come from commercial publishers are open educational resources, or OER. But, are these free resources as effective or of the same quality as textbooks? The research says yes." This video summarizes the available research synthesized in Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research and Development, 64(4), 573 - 590.

To access the original research, go  to

Source: "Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions by Research Shots is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0.