Open Educational Resources: Introduction

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed academic materials.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are much more than just free books.  OER includes any educational resources that are freely available for students and educators to use, adapt, share, and reuse.  Examples of OER include learning content (lesson plans, assignments, textbooks, exams, videos) and tools for learning (software for creating videos and websites, course management systems, word processing programs, training materials).

Why use OER?

Save Money

  • Textbooks are prohibitively expensive for some students. Studies show that 60% of students have not bought a textbook because of cost and 23% of students routinely forgo purchasing a required textbook because of the cost.  Students also indicate that the expense of textbooks has caused them to take fewer courses or avoid a specific course.

Save Time

  • OER includes not just textbooks but also lesson plans, assignments, and activities. Instead of creating course content from scratch, instructors can take advantage of high-quality course materials developed by others.  Instructors can then devote more time to personalized lectures and one-on-one assistance for students.

Improve Access

  • Many students choose to rely on the library to view textbooks instead of purchasing a copy.  While the LRC does currently keep one copy of each required textbook on reserve, students' access to the reserve book is limited to hours that the library is open.  For students who do not live near campus, including online students, it may not be possible to visit the library.  And there are also times when another student in the class is already using the reserve copy, making it unavailable for their classmates.  In contrast, OER books are free and available for the student the use whenever and wherever they need it.  Students will always have access to them, both during the class as well as in the future.

OER Myths

"You Get What You Pay For"

  • OER publishers work hard to ensure the quality of their resources.  Many open textbooks undergo rigorous editorial and peer-review process.  There are also many OER repositories, such as the Open Textbook Library, that allow faculty members to provide reviews of the material.

All OER is Digital

  • OER comes in a variety of formats. While most OER start out as digital, they can be used in a wide variety of formats, including being printed, read on a screen, or heard through text-to-speech technology.  In addition, many can be purchased as a physical book through print-on-demand services. 

‚ÄčOpen Just Means it's Free

  • An "open" resource is more than just one that is free. The designation of OER also means that the resource can be freely downloaded, edited, and shared. This means that the content can be customized to fit the instructor's or student's needs.