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Open Education Resources (OER) - Faculty Tools

What are OER?

"Open Educational Resources" (OERs) 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. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation." (UNESCO).

Original image CC By Recyclethis) licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0


What makes open textbooks different from a traditional textbook?

Traditionally-published textbooks are produced under closed copyright, meaning they cannot be shared, re-used or re-purposed. They are usually costly (hundreds of dollars each) with new editions published frequently, making texts only a year or two old out of date. Even if they are published digitally at half the cost, they are still expensive and come with digital rights management that means they only appear for a short period of time (4-6 months) on a student’s e-reader.

The open licensing of open textbooks allows for collaborations on and improvements to textbooks from contributors around the world. In contrast to traditional textbooks, openly licensed textbooks give faculty the ability to adapt any portion of a textbook without requiring students to purchase an entire book only to use a small portion, or to make the content of the textbook more pedagogically appropriate for their specific educational context.

What can I do with OER? 5R's 

Open content uses free license that grant users permission to:

Retain - Make, own, and control (download, duplicate, store, and manage)

Reuse - Use the content in a wide range of ways (in class, study group, website, video, anthology, in software)

Revise - Adapt, adjust, customize, or alter the content (translate, modify, reorganize, change formats)

Remix - Combine original or revised content with other material to create something new (mashup, anthology, package)

Redistribute - Share copies of the original content, your revisions or remixes (share publicly online, give a copy to a friend)

See also: Best practices for attribution of Creative Commons licensed works

This material is based on original work by David Wiley, and you can download, edit, and share the original for free under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license from:

Why OERs

Reduce Student Financial Burden

Textbooks can be prohibitively expensive for our students, especially those who rely on grants and student loans to attend. One 2012 OER study found that 60% of students have not bought a textbook because it is too expensive, and 23% routinely forego purchasing a required course textbook because of the expense. (Details of this OER Study PDF)  College faculty around the nation are adopting OER in their courses, improving student experience and success.

Improve Access, Boost Success

Many students rent their textbook from the bookstore or compete with other students for access to the library's reserve copy.  For those that do purchase textbooks, many attempt to regain their money by selling the books back to the bookstore or online after the course is over. OER and other low/no cost alternatives can get learning materials into students hands from day one.

Traditionally published textbooks and educational materials are subject to copyright restrictions, which do not allow them to be modified or reused in other contexts. With OER, students and instructors can re-use and re-purpose the materials not just during the class, but in the future as well.

Pros and Cons

 Pros                                                 Cons

Low- or no-cost Cost to create
Customizable Quality concerns
Easily modified Technology issues
Scalable Lack of incentive to create/maintain
Available on demand Discoverability