Open Educational Resources (OER)

Congress defines OER as:

“(6) OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE — The term ‘open educational resource’ means a teaching, learning, or research resource that is offered freely to users in at least one form and that resides in the public domain or has been released under an open copyright license that allows for its free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with attribution.”

OER consist of educational materials such as open access textbooks, websites, documents, modules, and courses that can be legally and freely used. All OER are openly licensed, which allows you to download and adapt these materials. Open licensing also allows you to create your own OER and then share these materials with others for them to reuse, revise, and redistribute.

Watch this helpful video from Iowa State University for more information about OER and why they are important.

Attribution: “An Introduction to Open Educational Resources” by Abbey Elder is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license:

Librarian for Open Educational Resources (OER)

Karlyn Schumacher | (920)-748-8750 | [email protected]

Access Librarian Karlyn Schumacher

Access Services Librarian Lane Library Departments: Circulation, Interlibrary Loan, Course, Reserves

Librarian for Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Physics, and Studio Art.

Why should I use OER?

Benefits of Using an OER

  • Affordability and reducing educational expenses for students
  • Increased access to and customizability of course materials
  • Can be continually updated and improved
  • Opportunities for faculty professional development and innovation

Challenges of Using an OER

Challenge #1: I don’t have enough time to find and evaluate OER. 

Solution: Ask a librarian for help finding relevant, high-quality OER for your classes.

Challenge #2: “You get what you pay for” (or, the idea that OER are lower quality than traditional textbooks).

Solution:  Many OER go through the process of peer review -- you just need to know where to find them. Use the resources listed below to find high-quality OER that have been peer-reviewed.

Challenge #3: My students prefer print textbooks. 

Solution: Many OER offer the option to print pages as PDFs; students can print the pages they need if they so choose. Some OER are also offered in physical format, such as Openstax textbooks. 

Challenge #4: I don’t know if this resource’s licensing allows me to download, adapt, and share it. 

Solution: You can learn more about the different types of Creative Commons licenses and what you’re allowed to do with them here. Additionally, this page explains which license you should choose if you create your own OER.

Adapted from Penn State’s “Challenges of Using OER and How to Overcome Them” guide.

What can I do with OER?

OER are openly licensed, most often with Creative Commons licensing or through the public domain. Creative Commons licenses allow you to engage with the 5Rs of open.

The 5Rs

1) Retain: make, own, and control a copy of the resource
2) Revise: edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
3) Remix: combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
4) Reuse: use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly
5) Redistribute: share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others


Creative Commons Licenses

Here is brief explanation of what Creative Commons Licenses are and how they work:

“The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional ‘all rights reserved’ setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”

Source: Creative Commons 

There are four components of Creative Commons licenses, which are:

  • Attribution (BY): Proper attribution must be given to the original creator of the work. This includes a link to the original work, information about the author, and information about the original work’s license.
  • Share-Alike (SA): Iterations of the original work must be made available under the same license terms.
  • Non-Commercial (NC): The work cannot be sold at a profit or used for commercial means such as for-profit advertising. Copies of the work can be purchased in print and given away or sold at cost.
  • No Derivatives (ND): The work cannot be altered or “remixed.” Only identical copies of the work can be redistributed without additional permission from the creator.

Attribution: “The Four Components of Creative Commons Licenses” from The OER Starter Kit by Abbey K. Elder, CC-BY 4.0. View the full work here

These four components can be combined to create a total of six different Creative Commons licenses, varying in openness and what they allow users to do. 

Where can I find OER?

Textbook Collections

BC Campus OpenEd: Open textbooks for the 40 highest enrolled first- and second-year subject areas in the British Columbia’s public, post-secondary system.

EBSCO Faculty Select: An easily searchable database of high-quality OER from EBSCO.

MERLOT: A collection of tens of thousands of discipline-specific educational resources.

OER Commons: A digital library of educational resources, including over 1800 textbooks. Browse by subject, collection, or search for specific resources, and read reviews from others who have used these resources. 

Openstax: Openstax textbooks are available free online and can be purchased in print as well. The textbooks are peer-reviewed and are updated periodically. 

Open Textbook Library: A library of high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that can be freely used and downloaded. Browse by subject or search for specific resources and read reviews from others who have used these textbooks.

Audio, images, and video

Creative Commons Search: Search for openly licensed and public domain images using CC Search.

Internet Archive: A/V Geeks: A collection of over 25,000 films including civil defense & public service films shot by the government.

Internet Archive: VJ Loops: Short, stylized, loopable video loops, typically used by VJs. Download from this archive or submit your own works to contribute to this growing community.

SoundCloud: Find tracks you can download and use in projects via this CC search in SoundCloud. 

Unsplash: A growing collection of high-quality, freely usable images with CC licenses. Several institutions, such as the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, have added historical photos to Unsplash’s collections.

Vimeo: A collection of Creative Commons licensed videos on Vimeo. 

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