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Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that allow others to use, distribute, keep, or make changes to them through permissions granted by their creator.

OER have an open copyright license (such as one from Creative Commons), or they are part of the public domain and have no copyright. Depending on the license, OER can be freely used and/or revised and shared with your students.

Examples of open educational materials includes open textbooks, streaming media, canvas modules, lecture slides, quiz banks and tests, games, models and simulations, homework platforms

Not all free resources are OER

OER are openly-licensed, freely available educational resources that can be modified and redistributed by users. 

  • Openly licensed: The author(s) grant permission for anyone to use that work as long as they follow the conditions of the license.
  • Freely Available: The resources must be freely available online with no fee. A 'true' OER is free to access unless the resource is printed and must be bought for the price of materials (~$30).
  • Modifiable: The resource must be editable. This means it must be licensed under an open license that allows for repurposing and remixing. 
Examples of non-OER
Material Type Openly Licensed Freely Available Modifiable
Internet resources with no paywall No Yes No
Subscription-based Library collections No Yes* No
Open Access articles & monographs Yes Yes No**

*Library materials are free for students and faculty to access but are not free for the University. If you would like to use existing library collections in your course, please check with a librarian to make sure the number of users licensed for the library resource is adequate for the class. The library occasionally purchases one copy of an e-book, but does not typically license multiple copies.  Library materials use must also fall within Fair Use.  

**Open Access resources focus on the free distribution of scholarship, not its adaptation. The Library provides support for Open Access publishing 

Graphic with the 5 Rs of open educational resources: retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute


The term “open” in “open educational resources” describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is characterized by other words like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, 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 material 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)