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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides information about Open Educational Resources, or OER.

OER logo by Jonathas Mello What Are Open Educational Resources?

According to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: 

“Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

Learn More about OER

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Open Educational Resources!

Teacher and blackboard Benefits for Faculty: 

  • Increases student retention and improves student performance by reducing costs
  • Promotes academic freedom to modify or add content to your course
  • Provides more and more engaging resources for your students
  • Can be created to promote your Scholarship of Teaching & Learning portfolio

Open book Benefits for Students:

  • Materials are free to access and can be purchased in print at a low cost
  • Materials are free to access, before AND after your course
  • OER are free self-study and review materials for brushing up on material
  • Resources are customizable and can be aligned with only what you need to know - no more skipping around chapters you don't read!

The 5 R's of Open Content

The Open Education movement is built around the 5 R's, a series of rights that instructors have over the open content they use in their classes:

Retain: ​The right to make, own, and control copies of the content.

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)

Revise: The right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language) 

Remix​: The right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new. 

Redistribute​: The right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others.

This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/

Not all of the free resources you use in class are OER.

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

  • Openly-licensed: You can read about this in the Open Licenses and Your Rights tab. 
  • Freely Available: The resources must be freely available online with no fee to access. A true OER is free to access at all times, unless the resource is printed and must be bought for the price of materials (usually no more than $50).
  • Modifiable: The resource must be editable. This means that 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
Free Web-Based Resources Under Traditional Copyright 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 they are not free for the University. 

**Some OA articles & monographs are able to be remixed, but authors often hold back these rights since their main concern is the free distribution of their scholarship, not its adaptation. 

OER are openly licensed.

Open licenses like Creative Commons licenses are often used to communicate what a user can do with a resource, and what rights its author would like to retain. These licenses give others a variety of permissions, making their use or reuse of your resource a faster and more transparent process. For example, some creators may wish to share their work, but not to allow users to sell adaptations of their work. 

CC BY License icon

The most common CC license is the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). This license allows users to adapt and reuse content with limited restrictions. The only requirement for reusing a CC BY-licensed work is that any new work created must provide attribution to the original creator and a link to the original work. 

For more information, visit our Creative Commons Library Guide.

OER Logo by Jonathas Mello, 2012, CC BY 3.0.

Office of Scholarly Communication

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openISU@iastate.edu