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Affordable & Open Educational Resources: OER

Last Updated: Sep 26, 2019 12:29 PM

Infographic demonstrating the five rights of O E R: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

Definition of OER

Open educational resources (OER) are any teaching, learning, or research materials, in any format, that reside in the public domain, or are made available under an intellectual property license permitting free use or re-purposing for educational purposes. The most commonly used OER is an open textbook, but they can also complete courses, parts of course, course sites, modules, syllabi, video-recordings, or podcasts.

Benefits of OER

There are three main arguments that favor the use of OER materials over traditional course materials:

  • OER are easily accessible and free for users. The high cost of higher education is untenable, and the associated debt incurred by students is debilitating to the point that many have taken drastic steps to limit the impact. Debt-ridden students are often forced to limit their course load, forego the purchasing of course materials, or even leave their programs. 
  • Current research suggests that OER is of equal quality when compared to traditional learning materials. Students and faculty are rightfully concerned with using materials of high quality and dependability in the education process and assume that a traditional and more expensive resource will be of higher quality than a free OER counterpart. 
  • Current research suggests that student performance can improve with the use of OER over traditional resources. This may be the result of a variety of factors: for example, greater faculty engagement with course material, ease of access, and reduced costs.

Copyright and OER

Creative Commons slug.

Creative Commons (CC) is the premier licensing organization for creating, sharing, and using OER materials. A CC license is used when the author or the creator of a work wishes to grant other users the right to use, share, or build upon originally created or remixed material. CC provides authors and creators with flexibility in terms of distribution and use of their works, and it protects the users of those works from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the CC license.

There are several types of CC licenses; all grant the baseline rights of proper attribution. Authors and creators of original content can choose from a variety of other factors relative to distribution and use: for example, remixing, redistribution, and commercial use. Additional information is available on the Creative Commons Licenses web site and in the UB Libraries Creative Commons presentation.