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Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials 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." (UNESCO)

Are OER always textbooks? No! OER can include textbooks, books, scholarly journals and articles, datasets, research guides, videos, images, presentations, tutorials, activities, assignments, modules, courses, and more!

What is an Open License?

All materials, even free resources published on the web, are automatically protected by copyright. Typically, re-use of a copyrighted work would require obtaining permission from the copyright owner – usually the creator of the work, whether an individual, a group, or a company/organization.

Open Licenses are a set of conditions applied to an original work that grant permission for anyone to make use of that work. The copyright owner can choose to openly license their work if they want others to be able to use it freely, build on it, customize it or improve it.  Open licenses therefore give permission to anyone to use the work at no cost, and generally allow anyone to modify the work with no or minimal restriction (such as acknowledging the original author’s work).

There are different open licenses available, but Creative Commons licenses are among the most widely used.

Adapted from under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

What Can I Do With OER?

5 R's of OER: Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute, RetainThe "5R" Framework, proposed by David Wiley, outlines five essential practices associated with OER and permitted by open licenses:

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

Adapted from The Access Compromise and the 5th R by David Wiley under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

What's Different About OER?

Briefly, open licenses are what set OER apart from other free, zero-cost, and affordable educational resources. 

  • Open Access describes a resource that is free to access. It can be an umbrella term for any content that is free to access, including OER. However, it is sometimes used to refer specifically to free content that is not openly licensed.
  • Public Domain resources are not protected by copyright and therefore do not require a license. They can be reused, remixed, revised, redistributed, and retained in all the same ways as OER, but do not require attribution.
  • Library-Licensed Resources are free for students to access, but their conditions of use and reuse are governed by the terms of the license paid for by the library / University.