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Open Educational Resources: About OER

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are course materials that are legally available on the internet for anyone to use, edit and distribute.

Open Educational Resources

What are OERs?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are educational materials that are in the public domain or have a license that permits anyone on the internet to freely use, edit, and distribute those resources.
"Open Educational Resources 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 repurposing by others.  OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." 

-William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

OERs are available in different formats: 
  • Learning objects (quizzes, crossword puzzles, animation, flashcards, etc.)
  • Audio lectures
  • Video lectures
  • Images
  • Sound and music
  • Entire course content and open courseware
  • Collections of journal articles and institutional repositories
  • Textbooks

The 5R Permissions of OER

Instructors are legally allowed 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)

(Five R's via OpenContent.org)

Why Use OER?

Have you seen the cost of textbooks lately? Students often pay $100-$300 per class for books that will become outdated before they can be resold. OERs significantly decrease the cost of textbooks per student, often charging nothing for online textbooks and less than $40 for print copies. This also allows students to have access to textbooks and learning materials from the first day of class. Since many OERs can be edited, instructors can tailor the texts to fit the syllabus.  

Adopt OER for Your Course

Adopting an OER course is a fairly easy process, which includes identifying your needs, finding the perfect textbook, and evaluating the textbook.  While this guide features some basic information about OER and adoptions, other guides have been created with much more in-depth information.