Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

What Are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Defining OER

"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."  ~ William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

The 5 Rs of OER

Often it's the case though that when people talk about reducing the cost of classes to students they are talking about a mixture of OER and open access materials. In talking about what makes something a true OER you'll often hear mention of the 5 Rs which describe the permissions often given to you to:

  • Retain - Make and own a copy
  • Reuse - Use in a wide range of ways
  • Revise - Adapt, modify, and improve
  • Remix - Combine two or more
  • Redistribute - Share with others

Why are OERs and Other Type of Affordable Content Important?

  • Course materials are available on the first day of class
  • Increased retention, completion and grade point averages
  • Cost savings for students
  • Increases opportunity for creativity, collaboration, and innovative teaching

Why are we talking about Open Educational Resources?

consumer price indexes for tuition and school related itemsThe cost of textbooks continues to rise and costs are becoming prohibitive to the point students are choosing to not purchase a textbook if they can avoid it. According to Nicole Allen, of Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), a recent survey "found that seven in 10 undergraduates skipped buying one or more required textbooks because the cost is too high, and three-quarters of those students believed that doing so could hurt their grades" (2013). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2006, consumer prices for college textbooks have increased 88 percent and housing at school (excluding board) increased 51 percent.



OnCampus, a division of the National Association of College Stores, reports that the annual spending on required course materials had dropped to an average of $655 in 2012 (2012) through programs such as textbook rentals, eBooks, and guaranteed buy-back all of which can save students considerable amounts of money. The problems with these programs is that the books are due back at the end of the semester, they don't allow the student to keep the book for multi-semester classes or as a reference for future classes. These programs can also be underminded by publication of new editions, the number of allowed devices for eBooks, and Digital Rights Management of eBooks. (Senack, 2014).

Learning about the costs of textbooks and how those costs can be reduced for students is an important part of student recruitment and retention.  The cost of textbooks can be surprising, especially those who are first generation college students.  Faculty across the country are starting to take notice and are working to reduce the amount of money students are paying for class materials and in the process are saving them thousands of dollars.  

Additional Reading

Video: Open Educational Resources: Adopting an Open Course

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License