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Open Educational Resources (OER): OER Basics

"Open educational resources (OER) are any resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings, and other learning content; simulations, games, and other learning applications; syllabi, quizzes, and assessment tools; and virtually any other material that can be used for educational purposes. OER can originate from colleges and universities, libraries, archival organizations, government agencies, commercial organizations such as publishers, or faculty or other individuals who develop educational resources they are willing to share."

Source:  "7 Things You Should Know About Open Educational Resources" by EDUCAUSE

Open content uses free license that grant users permission to:

  • Retain - Make, own, and control
  • Reuse - Use the content in a wide range of ways
  • Revise - Adapt, adjust, customize, or alter the content
  • Remix - Combine original or revised content with other material to create something new
  • Redistribute - Share copies of the original content, your revisions or remixes

Why Choose OER?

Save Money!

Textbooks are prohibitively expensive for some students, especially those who rely on grants and student loans to attend college. Studies show that 60% of students have not bought a textbook because it is too expensive, and 23% of students routinely forego purchasing a required course textbook because of the expense. (Learn more.

A study of eight colleges from around the United States shows that students saved an average of
$900 per year on textbooks when their professors used Open Textbooks or Open Educational Resources in place of commercial textbooks. (Learn more.)

Save Time!

OER include not just textbooks, but also lesson plans, assignments, exams, and in-class activities. OER are created by instructors from all around the world and shared with others teaching similar topics. Instead of creating course content all on their own, instructors can take advantage of high-quality course materials already made by others. Instructors can then spend more time on their personalized lectures, feedback, and one-on-one assistance for students. 

OER are Reusable!

One of the hallmarks of OER is their reusability. 

OER are generally offered with Creative Commons licenses that allow the content to be freely reused and remixed with attribution to the original author. This means that you can take a great resource and tweak it to fit your class's needs. 

Improve Access!

Students often choose to borrow textbooks from the library or rent them from the bookstore in lieu of purchasing the textbook. 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 are free and available. Students can take their materials with them after class ends, which means that they will always have access to learning materials for future use. 

Textbooks and educational materials are often covered by stringent copyright restrictions, which does not allow reuse in other contexts or modifications or derivations. With OER, students and instructors can re-use and re-purpose the materials not just during the class, but in the future as well.

Democratize Learning!

OER are free and available online, which means that anyone can access and use them. When an instructor makes their teaching material openly available, they can teach far beyond their own classroom. Students can also access these materials, whether they are supplementing a course they are already taking or starting out on an educational journey. 

By creating and adopting OER, students and teachers can connect around the world, opening up networks of learning and enhancing collaboration opportunities. Read a story here about a yak herder in Tibet learning poetry from a Stanford professor. 

OER Make an Impact

OER are being adopted by faculty at universities around the country. Even just a few faculty using OER rather than costly textbooks and course materials can have an incredible impact on the student experience. The infographic below shows some figures from one project in British Columbia.

(Click on the infographic for a larger version.)