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Open Educational Resources

Introduction to open educational resources (OER) and provides basic info about finding, evaluating, adopting, adapting, and creating OER materials.

Definition of Open Educational Resources (OER)

The William and Flora Hewitt Foundation defines Open Education as the teaching model encompassing the "myriad of learning resources, teaching practices and education policies that use the flexibility of OER to provide learners with high-quality educational experiences."

UNESCO and the Creative Commons both define Open Educational Resources (OER) as "teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities– retaining, remixing, revising, reusing and redistributing the resources."

Open Education and OERs are both intended to improve worldwide education opportunities by facilitating access to high-quality information resources and learning tools to all students regardless of their personal economic circumstances.

Benefits of OER

Benefits to Students

  • affordability
  • immediate access
  • convenience
  • opportunity to contribute to teaching materials (potential)
  • increased exposure to multiple modes of delivery (potential)


Benefits to Faculty

  • customized
  • reusable
  • can be updated quickly
  • increased flexibility
  • increase opportunities for interdisciplinary connections
  • can incorporate multiple formats and delivery modes
  • peer collaboration and networking opportunities
  • ensures students have immediate access
  • help students financially
  • attract and retain students


Benefits to Institution

  • demonstrated efforts at improving college affordability
  • facilitates student success
  • increased reputation
  • increased dissemination of information produced on campus
  • democratizes learning
  • demonstrated social justice activity

5 Rs of OER

OERs enhance teaching and learning experiences by their inherent characteristics commonly referred to collectively as the 5 Rs of OER.

  • Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource
  • Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
  • Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
  • Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly 
  • Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others 

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Permissions and Licenses

For more information about copyright, please refer to our guide linked below.

Most OERs have a Creative Commons license on them. Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow the creator of a work to change the copyright from "all rights reserved" to "some rights reserved". There are a variety of CC licenses authors can choose from and they can be mixed and matched as needed. Many of the licenses allow users to edit the materials and customize them for a different use. Most of the licenses require users to provide credit to the original creator. Some licenses specify that you can remix and reuse, but not for commercial purposes. And there is also an option for limiting the creation of derivative works (although that wouldn't be considered OER anymore). The main CC licenses are listed below, but the Creative Commons website has more useful information about license specifics.

All images courtesy of Creative Commons.

cc by license Attribution (BY)


cc by nc license Attribution (BY) - NonCommercial (NC)

cc by sa license Attribution (BY) - ShareAlike (SA)


cc by nc sa license Attribution (BY) - NonCommercial (NC) - ShareAlike (SA)


 cc by nd licenseAttribution (BY) - NoDerivatives (ND)


cc by nc nd license Attribution (BY) - NonCommercial (NC) - No Derivatives (ND)


This section was reused from the University of Texas Libraries under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

Challenges of OER

Though OER has been around for a while, there are still a number of challenges out there obstructing its development and implementation across academia. Notable of these are:

  • Significant gaps in subject coverage. Some subjects lack high-quality OER.
  • Finding OERs in subject areas requires searches in multiple locator tools.
  • Minimal variety in format availability and technology barriers. Though OER encompasses all formats, only a handful are regularly used.
  • Some formats are unfamiliar to students, making them difficult to access and use.
  • Poor version control. Remixing enables the proliferation of versions, increasing the importance of quality assessment.
  • Obtaining a print copy when desired can be difficult.
  • Faculty have to assess and revise their course structure to fit the new pedagogical approach.
  • Change is difficult, so faculty and students both can be uncomfortable adjusting to the new tools and methods. 
  • Limited acceptance and recognition in many academic programs as well as in faculty promotion and tenure practices.

Mythbusting OER

In addition to these challenges, numerous myths and misconceptions about OERs abound that also interfere with OER growth and acceptance.

See an excellent rebuttal from SPARC HERE

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