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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. - definition adapted from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

OER are made available with the 5R permissions, which define the ways open content can be used:

  1. Retain: Make, own, and control copies of the content
  2. Reuse: Use the content in a variety of ways
  3. Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
  4. Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
  5. Redistribute: Share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

There are three ways to use OER: 

  1. Adopt existing resources without making changes
  2. Adapt existing resources by adding, removing, combining, or editing content
  3. Create new resources

Course Materials and Faculty Options

The price of course materials is a major issue for some students, but there are ways faculty can help:

  1. OER:  Identify and adopt an Open Educational Resource (OER) by using this guide or ask a librarian for assistance.
  2. Affordable Course Materials:  Choose an e-book, online video, or online articles that are already available in the library's online resources.  Link to those items on your Canvas site or include a link in your syllabus.
  3. Course Reserves: Choose a standard textbook, put it on reserve in the library, and then let your students know how to access it.

Open Licenses

Authors use open licenses to grant permissions for use of their works in ways beyond what copyright normally allows. Open licenses do not replace copyright but work alongside it, allowing authors to keep their copyrights while permitting others to use their works.

Creative Commons licenses are the most commonly used open licenses for open educational resources (OER). These licenses come in a variety of forms, giving authors multiple choices in how their works can be used. OER are made available with the 5R permissions, and authors can apply Creative Commons licenses to their works to provide these permissions:


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508), as well as good teaching practice, require that all online educational materials be accessible to students with disabilities. When discussing accessibility in terms of OER there is often an assumption that all products, platforms, and materials are able to be accessed by all individuals. Please know that this is not always the case and that not all OER are inherently accessible for individuals with disabilities. Some basic checks when evaluating a resource include checks for closed captioning on all videos and the ability for assistive technology to interact with products, platforms, and materials.

Open textbooks offered by the major OER publishers are likely highly accessible but still require verification.  This is true of OpenStax and Lumen Learning.  In general, accessibility varies by text, but the open license gives you permission to revise the content to improve accessibility.

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