What is Open Educational Resources?
Open Educational Resources (OER) are useful and freely accessible teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.
- Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource
- Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly
- Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
- Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
- Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others
OER is an educational movement
OER stands for "Open Educational Resources" and is linked to an educational movement that began about 20 years ago and has become a global educational movement. Faculty who use OER in their courses are using freely available, high-quality educational resources in order to bring textbook costs down for students. OER, in essence, then are freely available, openly licensed resources -- textbooks, media, videos, articles, and more -- that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.
OER provides benefits for students
- Reduce student costs: Many students opt out of buying textbooks and other course materials due to cost. Reducing or eliminating the costs of course materials is one of the most compelling reasons to use OERs.
- Support student success and retention: OERs can help guarantee that every student in a course has access to course material simultaneously and at the optimal time. Several studies indicate that access to course material helps students succeed in a course and in their advancement towards graduation.
- Innovate your teaching practices: Adapting, adopting, or creating OERs allows faculty to tailor course content in new ways, allowing them to maximize the use of content to provide innovative and/or optimized learning experiences and environments for students. OER supports open pedagogy and open education.
- Exercise your academic freedom: You can control the content. Edit, revise, modify it as you like. True OER permits all of these adaptations.
- Enrich scholarship: If faculty share that great lesson, simulation, tutorial, textbook, etc., it gives fellow instructors more options for their own teaching and learning. The more pedagogical strategies available for teaching a topic, the stronger the teaching and learning can be.
What is copyright?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship. The copyright symbol probably looks familiar: ©
But, this is important to remember! Copyright is the DEFAULT -- a work does not have the copyright symbol, ©, on it be protected under copyright law.
When is your work protected?
Your work -- yes, even the work you create as students for classes! -- is under copyright protection the moment it is created and in a "tangible form." Virtually any form of expression will qualify as a tangible form, including the scribbled notes on the back of an envelope that contains the basis for an impromptu speech.
What does copyright protect?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. Again, you do NOT have to put the copyright symbol, ©, on something to have it be protected.
Everyone is a copyright owner
So, if you created your original work in a tangible form, like in a paper or a PowerPoint slide, congratulations! You are now a copyright owner. This connects us to another critical concept: license.
What is a license?
In an academic context, a license is a permission you get from the copyright owner of the work you want to use. A license basically grants permissions, but sometimes it states restrictions as well. It specifies what can and cannot be done with a work.
- Copyright = (a form of) intellectual ownership
- License = permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work
- Licensing = obtaining permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work
What is an open license?
An OPEN license is a type of license that grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work for free, with few or no restrictions. With open licenses, creators still maintain the rights to their copyrighted work -- they are not "giving" away their work or their copyright.
Bottom line? Think of an "open license" as "free + permissions."
What is public domain?
A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright, which means it’s free for you to use without permission. Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.
A public domain license may have only those words -- "public domain" -- listed, or use a public domain license graphic:
There is an additional license, called the "CC 0" (CC Zero) license that releases modern works into the public domain with a Creative Commons license.
Public domain vs. open license vs. all rights reserved
To recap, please see the infographic below to visually see the difference between open license, public domain and all rights reserved copyright.
Image source: "Difference between open license, public domain and all rights reserved copyright" by Boyoung Chae is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs. -- From Creative Commons website
Choosing and Using Creative Commons Licenses
Outlines things to think about before applying Creative Commons license to your material or using Creative Commons-licensed materials.
Contains information on how to choose the appropriate license for your work.
Learn how to mark your work with a Creative Commons license.
Provides some good (and not so good) examples of attribution.
Easily cite open materials. This tool will automatically generate the attribution for you.
Metafinders & Dedicated Repositories
- VIVA Open: Collection of Open Education Resources (OER) adopted, adapted, and/or created by faculty and higher education professionals at Virginia institutions. You can also join VIVA Open’s network of educators committed to open education.
- Mason OER Metafinder (MOM): A wide-ranging, real-time federated search engine to find a variety of open educational content. Use this search tool when you’re looking for something very precise or narrow.
- MERLOT: MERLOT is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials and faculty-developed services contributed and used by an international education community.
- OASIS (SUNY): Developed at SUNY at Geneseo’s Milne Library. Search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. Limit search by resource type, license type and reviews.
Repositories have been created to make it easier to find and access available OERs. Use the list of OER repositories below to discover OERs!
- Applied Math & Science Educational Repository – Although math and science are in the title, this repository of online educational content offers resources in a variety of other disciplines, too, including vocational education and health.
- BASE – The BASE search engine provides access to more than 240 million documents from more than 8,000 content providers. You can access the full text of about 60% of the indexed documents for free (Open Access). BASE is operated by Bielefeld University Library in Bielefeld, Germany.
- COERLL: Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning – The Center for Open Educational Resources & Language Learning (COERLL) is one of 16 National Foreign Language Resource Centers (LRC’s) funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The overall mission of these federally-funded centers is to improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages by producing resources (materials and best practices) that can be profitably employed in a variety of settings.
- Commonwealth of Learning – Hosted by the Government of Canada, The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is the world’s only intergovernmental organization solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL helps developing Commonwealth countries increase their access to learning using distance education and appropriate technologies. Some course materials are available.
- eCampusOntario Open Library – Access to more than 250 free and openly-licensed educational resources. eCampusOntario has sought to continually improve the library to meet the needs of Ontario’s post-secondary educators and learners.
- Hathi Trust – HathiTrust is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future.
- JSTOR – Open Access Books – More than 2,000 Open Access ebooks covering a wide variety of disciplines are available at no cost to the public. Users don’t need to register or log in, and there are no DRM restrictions or limits on chapter PDF downloads or printing.
- The NROC Project – NROC course content is an Open Educational Resource (OER) and is available at no cost for individual use.
- OER Commons – Provides a single point of access to the highest quality content from around the world. Users can search across vetted and fully-indexed OER, ensuring a high level of resource relevancy and discovery. Since these resources are ‘open,’ they are available for educational use, and many hold Creative Commons licenses that allow them to be repurposed, modified and adapted for a diverse array of local contexts.
- Open Course Library – The Open Course Library (OCL) is a collection of shareable course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts. Some of our materials (also called open educational resources, or OER) are paired with low-cost textbooks ($30 or less).
- Open Culture – Portal to cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community.
- OpenDOAR – OpenDOAR is the quality-assured global directory of academic open access repositories. It enables the identification, browsing and search for repositories, based on a range of features, such as location, software or type of material held.
- Saylor Academy – Nonprofit initiative offers free and open online courses to all who want to learn. Offers nearly 100 full-length courses at the college and professional levels, each of which is available right now — at your pace, on your schedule, and free of cost.
OER Courseware from Colleges & Universities
- Academic Earth – Provides access to video lectures from MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale a comprehensive collection of free online college courses.
- Carnegie Mellon University – Open Learning Initiative – Multiple subjects. Anyone can use the courses without registering, but work will not be saved. Lessons include quizzes. There are materials for students and faculty. Accessing material is free and instructors can set up a course for their students which will include metrics to track their progress.
- Delft University of Technology – OpenCourseWare – Delft University of Technology is the largest and most comprehensive university of engineering sciences in the Netherlands. TU Delft develops technologies for future generations, focusing on sustainability, safety and economic vitality.
- Harvard University – Free Online Courses – Access over 100 free online courses from Harvard University.
- Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health – OpenCourseWare – Provides access to most popular courses, open access to info & knowledge about obstacles to public’s health & potential solutions: content by topic, image library.
- Kutztown University – Free Online Learning Programs – The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center offers free business courses online. Kutztown’s courses are individualized and self-paced. Many of the courses feature high-end graphics, interactive case studies and audio streams.
- MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.
- Northeastern University – Pandemic Teaching Initiative – Module Library – This initiative uses the radical disruption brought about by COVID-19 as an opportunity to deepen learning about pandemic-related issues from the perspective of the social sciences and humanities. These open-access modules include learning objectives, lectures by Northeastern professors, readings, videos, suggested assignments, and additional resources for those who want to learn more about the module’s topic. Each module contains the equivalent of a week’s content for an academic course.
- OpenLearn – Free learning platform, delivered by The Open University as part of its Royal Charter commitment to support the wellbeing of the community.
- Open Michigan, University of Michigan – Collection of openly licensed educational resources from the University of Michigan, ranging from course materials to videos to software tools to student work, ready for downloading and remixing: literature, science and the arts, architecture + urban planning, dentistry, education, engineering, information, medical, nursing, pharmacy, public health, public policy, social work.
- Penn State University – Open Education Resources – Substantial portions of the resources provided to students, resources are available for reuse by teachers and learners worldwide: Energy and Mineral Engineering, Geography, Geosciences, Materials, Science and Engineering, Meteorology, Earth and Environmental Systems, Outreach Resources
- Stanford University – Stanford Engineering Everywhere – For the first time in its history, Stanford is offering some of its most popular engineering classes free of charge to students and educators around the world. Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) expands the Stanford experience to students and educators online. A computer and an Internet connection are all you need. View lecture videos, access reading lists, and other course handouts take quizzes and tests and communicate with other SEE students, all at your convenience.
- SUNY OER Services – A support organization for SUNY institutions looking to build, support, and expand Open Educational programs and practices. We help lower the cost of higher education for students and empower faculty to use course materials most suited to their needs.
- UC Irvine Open – The University of California, Irvine’s OCW is a web-based repository of various UC Irvine courses, video lectures, seminars and other learning resources.
- UC San Diego Podcasts – Provides technology services, support, and resources to the UC San Diego academic community, facilitating teaching and learning in service of the university’s educational mission. Our efforts are grounded in a commitment to quality, collaboration, customer focus, innovation, and inclusiveness.
- The University of Colorado – PhET: Interactive Simulations for Science and Math – Fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena from the PhET™ project at the University of Colorado.
- University of Oxford – Podcasts – Audio, video, also on iTunes: Divisions (Humanities, Mathematical Physical and Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Social Sciences), Continuing Education
- Yale University – Open Yale Courses – Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.
This page listed different basic information on Open Educational Resources (OER), collected from various library websites.