15 Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are any learning materials, tools, platforms, or software that support learning and can be provided to the student with little or no cost to the student, instructor, or institution. Historically, conversations about OER have focused on learning materials such as textbooks. However, the concept is closely connected to a larger movement that includes open-access publications (including journals), open data, and open educational practices. The Cape Town Open Education Declaration provides an introduction to these and other concepts and how they impact higher education.

Benefits of OER

OER is gaining traction in higher education institutions for several reasons:

First, there is a growing consensus among researchers that use of OER does not negatively impact learning and consistently reduces financial cost (and therefore reduces student hardship and increases retention) to students.

Second, OER can be used to better meet the resource requirements of the universal design for learning (UDL) framework and personalized or adaptive learning. These approaches require the inclusion of multiple resources for each concept; OER can provide alternative or supplemental learning materials.

Additional benefits to using OER have been identified and can be accessed on Pennsylvania State University OER website.

Strategies for adoption

In some cases, the decision to adopt OER takes place at the institutional or program level. In other cases, individual faculty may opt to incorporate OER as primary, alternative, or supplemental resources at the course level.

While choosing OER can benefit students and their learning, the process requires a thoughtful approach to ensure efficacious and smooth integration. The suggestions, below, can help you establish a process that works for you and your course design.

  • Set aside time. Recognize that integrating OER into a course takes time as you find, evaluate, and consider the implementation of individual materials. You may want to take a short, no-cost introductory course in OER identification and adoption, such as the one provided by the State University of New York OER services.
  • Educate yourself on the 5Rs. The proper use of OER requires a basic understanding of the 5Rs: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. OER authors are able to give or restrict permissions related to the 5Rs through open licensing. You should have a basic understanding of these concepts before adopting or adapting OER for your course.
  • Identify appropriate collections or repositories. The growing popularity of OER has led to the creation of numerous OER collections and repositories. You will need to find collections that suit your needs and discipline. The well-organized Big List of Resources provided by the University of Pittsburgh is an excellent place to start.
  • Evaluate potential resources. It is not uncommon to hear concerns about the quality of OER. You will need to review OER in the same way you would any other learning materials you choose to include in your course. This evaluation checklist from Lansing Community College offers one systematic approach. Additionally, the OER evaluation rubrics created by Achieve focus on resource accessibility, which can sometimes be an issue with OER.
  • Consider your implementation strategy. Think about how you will integrate the resource into your course. This State University of New York OER Services infographic on OER integration offers some inspiration.
  • Provide author attribution. It is important to give appropriate credit to OER creators, as required by their licenses (and also because it is the right thing to do.) This Oregon State University blog post provides guidance and links to the Open Washington Open Educational Resources Network Open Attribution Builder.

Strategies for production

As part of the OER sharing cycle, you may want to start creating and sharing your own OER. This OER production workflow from Lansing Community College provides a checklist approach for making sure you cover all your bases. Additionally, the University of Hawaii has summarized published workflows for OER production and created a workflow for University of Hawaii faculty.

Additional resources


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