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Open Educational Resources (OER): Overview

All About OERs

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world."



David Wiley summarizes how you can use (and reuse) OERs with his "5 Rs":

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

Source: Wiley, D. (2014). An Open Educational Reader (Ed.). Montreal: Pressbooks.

To Reduce Costs to Students

To Increase Student Success Through Access

  • Equitable access to resources for all students from day one
  • Researchers found that students in courses that used OER more frequently had better grades and lower failure and withdrawal rates than their counterparts in courses that did not use OER
  • Students who receive Pell grants, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education show even higher improvements in grades and reductions in D/F/W rates than their peers.

equality picture with everyone on the same box size versus equity picture showing different box sizes to fit the height of a person trying to see over a fence

Additional Sources:



Quality is an important consideration for faculty who are thinking about making the move to OERs. Many of the OERs available go through the same rigorous peer review process as textbooks published in the traditional textbook market. In fact, some of the textbooks you'll find in places like OpenStax are the exact same textbook that has been previously published traditionally.

As when selecting any new textbook, you should evaluate OER textbooks for content and accuracy. There are many repositories that make this easier by including professor reviews on their websites. My favorite place to start is the Open Textbook Library. Books in this repository must be complete, original textbooks that are openly licensed and in use at multiple higher education institutions. These books are available for review based on the following criteria:

  • Comprehensiveness
  • Accuracy
  • Relevance/Longevity
  • Clarity
  • Consistency
  • Modularity
  • Organization/Structure/Flow
  • Interface
  • Grammatical Errors
  • Cultural Relevance
  • Other Comments

Other good sources that use professor reviews are BCcampus:OpenEdMERLOT, and OER Commons.

Basic Information on OER:

Recent Research on OER: