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Course & Subject Guides

OER: Open Educational Resources

OER are any type of educational material that are freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse.

What is OER?

Education is sharing.

David Wiley, Lumen Learning

Photo by OpenSourceWay

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of educational material freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse.

Examples of OER include learning content (such as lesson plans, assignments, textbooks, exams, and videos) as well as tools for learning (like software for creating videos and websites, course management systems, word processing programs, and training materials).

Questions? Ask us! 

Benefits of OER

Textbooks are prohibitively expensive for some students, especially those who rely on grants and student loans to attend college. Studies show that 60% of students have not bought a textbook because it is too expensive, and 23% of students routinely forego purchasing a required course textbook because of the expense.

OER include not just textbooks, but also lesson plans, assignments, exams, and in-class activities. OER are created by instructors from all around the world and shared with others teaching similar topics. Instead of creating course content all on their own, instructors can take advantage of high-quality course materials already made by others. Instructors can then spend more time on their personalized lectures, feedback, and one-on-one assistance for students. 

One of the hallmarks of OER is their reusability. 

OER are generally offered with Creative Commons licenses that allow the content to be freely reused and remixed with attribution to the original author. This means that you can take a great resource and tweak it to fit your class's needs.

Students often choose to borrow textbooks from the library or rent them from the bookstore in lieu of purchasing the textbook. For those that do purchase textbooks, many attempt to regain their money by selling the books back to the bookstore or online after the course is over. OER are free and available. Students can take their materials with them after class ends, which means that they will always have access to learning materials for future use. 

Textbooks and educational materials are often covered by stringent copyright restrictions, which does not allow reuse in other contexts or modifications or derivations. With OER, students and instructors can re-use and re-purpose the materials not just during the class, but in the future as well.

OER are free and available online, which means that anyone can access and use them. When an instructor makes their teaching material openly available, they can teach far beyond their own classroom. Students can also access these materials, whether they are supplementing a course they are already taking or starting out on an educational journey. 

By creating and adopting OER, students and teachers can connect around the world, opening up networks of learning and enhancing collaboration opportunities. Read a story here about a yak herder in Tibet learning poetry from a Stanford professor. 

There are a lot of myths about OER. Don't fall for them! Check out this excellent resource on OER Mythbusting:

 

OER Basics

5 Rs of OER

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)
(Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources was written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.)

Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use

Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property.

The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as

  • A set of exclusive rights awarded to a copyright holder or owner for an original and creative work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
  • A limited statutory monopoly that gives a copyright holder the sole right to market a work for a limited period of time.
  • Copyright also includes exemptions that permit a user of the copyright-protected work the right to exercise an exclusive right without authorization or royalty payment under certain conditions.

(Source: U.S. Copyright Office, "Copyright Basics" - http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf)

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) licensing is at the heart of the OER movement. CC allows creators to specify more flexible forms of copyright that allows "others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work."

Look for copyright information (often at the bottom of webpages). Creative Commons licensed material sometimes display clickable icons that indicate the specifics of licensing. Examples:

Creative Commons License  Creative Commons LicenseCreative Commons LicenseCreative Commons License

See the Creative Commons website for more info and to acquire license icons.

Apply a CC License to make your work re-usable on your terms. The chart explains the different CC licenses and what the licenses allow others to do with your work. Click to view larger image.

Fair Use

In general, Copyright Law prohibits reproducing and distributing copyrighted works. However, the "Fair Use Doctrine" (Section 107) allows a limited amount of copying for purposes such as teaching and scholarship. In determining whether the use made of a work in a particular case is a Fair Use, the factors to be considered include:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use raises almost as many questions as it answers, and can be a persistent source of concern for teachers.  The most important point to remember is that Fair Use is both a right and a privilege, and does provide a substantial degree of freedom and protection for teachers. However, that freedom is often challenged, and in reality most educational institutions do not have the resources, skill, or will to engage in long and expensive legal battles over this issue. 

The Fair Use Checklist can be helpful in determining whether or not usage falls under fair use.

See our Copyright guide for more information.

CC BY

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.