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Open Educational Resources

Suggestions on how and where to find educational resources for students that are freely available

What are Open Educational Resources?

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OER range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video, and animation.” (Definition by UNESCO).

OER are high quality, no-cost, accessible textbook alternatives, and course materials. As the costs of traditional textbooks rise, the use of OER can help remove a barrier to education that many students face.

Use this guide to learn more about what is available and how you can use, reuse or adapt those materials.

Why should I consider using OERs in my course?

As you know, the cost of textbooks is high and getting worse. But the good news is there are many open and low-cost resources that you can use that are just as effective but cost much less. Here are some good reasons why you should consider going open:

  • All your students will have access to the course materials on the first day of class. Wouldn't that be awesome?
  • Many students are struggling financially. In some cases, students choose the course based on the cost of the textbook rather than the course that interests them. In other courses, the student may choose not to buy the textbook at all. Using OER or library materials can help save students significant amounts of money
  • You have control over the content. You can combine, edit and reuse content in a way that works best for you.
  • You can provide options for students. Some students want to buy the textbook but can't. Some want the book electronically and some want it in print. Some prefer to rent and some prefer to purchase. Give students ALL the options so they will choose your class because they want to be in it, not because it has the cheapest textbook!

OER Basics

OER Tutorial

Defining the "Open" in OER

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 licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

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

This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at