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Open Educational Resources are a type of “Open Content” materials for teaching, learning, and research that are not only free but have a perpetually openly license enabling them to be used and reused without charge or need to ask permission (e.g. Public Domain, Creative Commons, or GNU license). There is a common misconception that any free online resource is “open”, however most resources on the Internet are closed resources, even if they are available for free. OER is also different from “Open Access” (e.g. Open Access journals or archives) which may hold more-traditional copyrights and sometimes cannot be copied, shared, or remixed.

Open content, including OER, have licenses that grant users the right to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain -  make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store)
  2. Reuse - use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, on a website)
  3. Revise - adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself
  4. Remix - combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

(David Wiley, Please note that according to this definition Creative Commons (CC) licenses that include an no derivatives (ND) clause are not considered OER.

Most OER materials are digital, however some are also available in other formats. Some OER resources, for example, may be available free online or as a printed copy for a low-cost. Types of OER resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, audio-video resources, tests, software, learning activities and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. OER resources should be available in multiple technical platforms and be accessible to people with disabilities and those who do not yet have access to the Internet.

Why choose OER? OER provides clear benefits for students in with cost savings and being able to make the resources available to all students the first week of classes. Faculty benefit in that they can customize OER materials to fit the needs and goals of their classes. OER also has clearly defined rights, so educators are not challenged with interpreting Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines. Quality OER resources are also becoming easier to find as awareness spreads and more organizations support their development.

For more information about how OER Resources are defined, see OER Resources: What is OER? Finding OER Textbooks (by the California Open Educational Resources Council or OER-101: Locating, Creating, Licensing and Utilizing OERs(a self-paced, community learning module).