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Open Educational Resources: Intro to OER

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are Open Access resources that are created for educational purposes by educators, students, tutors, and self-learners to use for teaching, learning, and research (1). These resources are freely and immediately available, and come in "in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others" (2). OER include textbooks, short readings, modules, lesson plans, artwork, videos, music, podcasts, and more (1). 

You may decide that Open Educational Resources are best for your classroom or research. OER:

  • Breaks down barriers in accessing scholarly and trustworthy information with immediate and unrestricted access for students and faculty
  • Allows faculty, students, researchers, journalists, policy makers, and the general public to access resources without a subscription or paywall
  • Reaches additional audiences, which may lead to breakthroughs, funding, and more

The following video, Open Educational Resources concept: What is an OER? by UNESCO, explains OER:

Why Use OER?

There are many reasons instructors might want to use OER (3): 

Lower Educational Costs and Improve Access to Information:

  • Reduce the cost of course materials, particularly textbooks, so that all students have access with a reduced financial burden
  • Find and access information instantly on virtually any topic on various devices
  • Provide learners the option of looking at course content openly before enrolling
  • Reduce the load students bear, possibly increasing graduation and retention rates

Free and Legal to Use, Improve, and Share:

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been created
  • Tailor educational resources to the specific content for your course
  • Expand opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and learning by allowing you to integrate and revise multiple educational resources
  • Redefine "traditional" learning by incorporating multi-media or scenario-based education
  • Go beyond the confines of "teaching to the book"

Network and Collaborate with Peers: 

  • Access educational resources that have already been "peer-reviewed" by other experts in your field
  • Utilize reviewing or annotation features so other instructors have greater in-depth knowledge of the resource and its quality
  • Make learning and teaching a team project using collaborative platforms (3)

Important Features of OER

  1. OER can either be in the public domain or use a license, such as a Creative Commons License, that makes adoption and adaption easier
  2. OER can be revised, remixed, expanded, translated, and then shared to meet different needs
  3. OER can take many forms, such as: syllabi, lesson plans, videos, software, tests, teaching techniques, group activities, writing prompts, textbooks, learning modules, experiments, simulations, and course designs. There are no platform restraints (4).

More Information

The term "Inclusive Access" is often used interchangeably with Open Educational Resources, but it is a different model for access to textbooks and other educational materials. Inclusive Access is a for-profit procurement model where a student pays towards their tuition and fees for access to eTextbooks and other electronic resources for their courses.

Learn more about Inclusive Access: