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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides information for users who want to learn more about Open Educational Resources and their value for teaching and learning.

What Are Open Educational Resources?

Source: "What is OER?" by The Council of Chief State School Officers is licensed under CC BY 4.0

OER Definition

Open Educational Resources (OER) are "teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use."

Excerpt from SPARC. To learn more visit

OER allows you to: 

  • Adopt: Choose from a growing selection of free OER in lieu of assigning commercial textbooks, which are often expensive for students. 
  • Adapt: If existing OER don't meet your curricular needs, you may customize them by combining chapters from multiple textbooks, edit content to be more relevant to your individual classroom, and add your own original open content. Pay attention to licensing guidelines, which specify what you are permitted to do with the material.  
  • Create: Publish your own openly licensed work.
Types of OER

OER encompasses a wide range of educational materials including, but not limited to:

  • Textbooks
  • Research articles
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Assignments
  • Lab modules
  • Syllabi
  • Lesson Plans
  • Exams 
The 5 R's 

To qualify as an Open Educational Resource, it must be freely available, either in the public domain or through a license (usually a Creative Commons license) that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

Source: Adapted from Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources, which was originally written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Why Use OER?

High Costs of College Textbooks

According to a national survey conducted in 2020 by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, "textbooks are too expensive" and students are making difficult choices to manage the high cost of course materials, which can negatively impact student success. The results of the survey below demonstrate how students cope with these costs. 

65% Students who didn't buy the textbook due to cost
90% Students who were concerned that not buying the textbook would negatively impact their grade
21% Students who skipped purchasing textbook access codes
79% Students who were negatively impacted by the pandemic (i.e. job loss, getting COVID-19, transferring schools)
10% Students skipped meals
86% Food insecure students who didn't buy a textbook

​​​​Source: "Fixing the Broken Textbook Market, Third Edition" by Cailyn Nagle and Kaitlyn Vitez, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, February 2021, is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Benefits of Open Educational Resources 
For Students For Faculty
Reduces or eliminates barriers to student success due to high cost of course materials Ability to customize content to better align with your course objectives and teaching styles
Reduced educational costs increases student retention rates Access to current and frequently updated content in your field
Increases equity by making materials available for all students on the first day of class Positively impacts educational costs for students
Course materials can be printed for a small fee Encourages innovation and experimentation 
Student engagement and advocacy to promote affordable textbook options Contributes to a culture of global collaboration