Skip to main content

Resource Guide for Faculty: Open Educational Resources

This libguide provides information on a wide range of issues of relevance to faculty including how to link to library resources, what you can and cannot put into Moodle, Open Content Sites, and Information about new Scholarly Communication Hubs.

What Are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (aka OERs) are educational sesources such as Text Books, Slides, Handouts, Problem Sets, Assignments, Lesson Plans, Learning Objects, Computer-Based Simulations (etc) that are openly available to educators to use and modify. More specifically, something qualifies as an Open Educational Resource if it can be:

  • Reused  (Used Verbatim)
  • Redistributed  (Shared - such as when you share it with students in a Course Pack)
  • Revised   - Have Derivative works made out of it including:
    • Translation to new Language
    •  Changing to suit local needs (e.g. Change to accomodate a different grade level)
    •  Changing formats (e.g. Narrate and burn to disk)
  • Remixed  (Combined with other content to make a new resource)
    •  E.g. Making a new textbook or anthology out of chunks / chapters from existing works

These are known as the 4Rs of Open Educational Resources.  

One can identify something as an Open Educational Resource by reading any associated Creative Commons License and learning what rights you have in relation to the learning object.

      Why are Open Educational Resources Important?

      Open Educational Resources are becoming important educational tools as they:

      • Enable educators to provide students with affordable textbooks
      • Provide educators with access to useful learning objects that can be integrated into the curriculum
      • Provide affordable educational materials to lifelong learners and people in the Third World
      • Being able to view other instructors courses provides educators with useful approaches to teaching in their discipline
      • Sharing educational content under open licensing conditions is one way of avoiding major costs (Access Copyright costs) and  headaches (finding the Copyright holders) under existing Copyright Laws.
      • Shared development of educational content is a sustainable way of enhancing education as useful learning objects - such as Computer Games - can be collaboratively developed and maintained (i.e. Kept Current in a Sustainable fashion).
      • Loose collaborations of Faculty (and sometimes non-faculty with in depth knowledge of a subject area) can create resources that are better, stronger and more current.

      Open Textbooks

      The start of each term involves one consistent question from students: Does the library own a book that my professor wants me to buy?

      Textbooks are costly and are even driving enrollment decisions.  That is why Richard Barniak, one of the founders of the OER movement has created - with foundation support - the OpenStax College.  It is putting out a number of textbooks as OERs. All student's can access them for free or pay the cost of printing to have them for a small fraction of the cost.  Currently, these are introductory textooks.  Not all disciplines are covered as of yet.  If you see one and like it, use it.  As it is an OER you can also adapt it for your own purposes.

      If you are writing at textbook, think about ways you could create it as an OER; perhaps in collaboration with OpenStax. 

      Great Open Education Content Sites

      Exemplarly Collection of Open eLearning Content Repositories
      Put together by Wikieducator, this lists free educatational content. 

      MIT Open Courseware
      Site contains course materials for all courses offered at MIT.  Currently over 1900 courses available.

      Site hosted by Rice University that anyone can contribute to.  The site contains Lens' which act as a post-publication review system by individuals, professional associations, librarians, etc.

      OER Commons
      Worldwide learning network for shared teaching resources and learning materials.  Materials are grouped by subject area and grade level.

      Flat World of Knowldge
      Textbook company that puts all content online for free, but charges a nominal amount to print out a textbook (Print on Demand). Prices are very reasonable.

      Multimedia Educationa Resource for Learning and Online Teaching by California State University provides Peer Reviewed multimedia content under a Creative Commons License.

      National Science Digital Library
      OER Resources largely for the Sciences.

      Free Music Archive
      List music available via Creative Commons Licenses for use.

      John Hopkins School of Public Health
      Provides access to their most popular courses

      Utah State Open Courseware
      Publishes up to 80 courses online for free.

      GB3d Type Fossils
      Collection of High Resolution Fossil  Images and even some 3D ones!  3D created using Open Source MeshLab (for editing images created by 3D Scanners  or SPIERS  (for Topographical or CT Scans).

      Utah State Open Courseware
      Publishes up to 80 courses online for free.


      ANimated Tutorial Sharing Project and LiON TV
      Collection of embeddable multimedia tutorials that teach students how to find and effectively utilize information sources found in libraries.

      Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

      Knowing Your Rights with Creative Commons Licenses

      In order to understand your rights under a Creative Commons License it is useful to know a bit about them.

      CC licenses were designed to allow Creators to share their work under certain conditions and these licenses override default restrictions in copyright law.

      All CC Licenses allow for Reuse and Redistribution of a work – after that there are  alternative licenses based upon the following:

      • Attribution: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give you credit.
      •  Noncommercial: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.
      •  No Derivative works: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
      •  Share Alike: You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

      OERS Typically use one of three types of CC licenses

      • Attribution License – Have the ability to do all the 4Rs PROVIDED that you give attribution to original author.
      • Attribution Share-Alike License - Same as above AND all Derivative works must be shared under the same conditions that the original author shared with you.
      • Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial License - Same as previous HOWEVER you are forbidden to use your derivative work to make money.
      Note that Open Educational Resources never make use of the Creative Commons No Derivatives Licenses - as  that would prevent others from modifying the content (one of the things that makes a learning object an OER.)
      Also note that “While 'open'…may mean 'without cost', it does not on the other hand, means 'without conditions' as you will need to give Attribution, Share your Derivative work, etc.

      Open Education Week

      Connect, Collect, Create, Share!

      To Learn more about all the ways you can particpate, visit The Open Education Week Website.

      To Learn a bit more About the need for Opennnes in Education watch the Video Below by David Wiley - one of the leaders in the Open Education Movement.

      Tools for Finding Open Educational Resources across Institutions or Projects

      Open Education Database
      Database that allows you to explore Open Education Courses by Degree, Catagory and Subject.  Includes several MOOC courses as well as true Open Educational Resources classes.  Enroll, investigate, learn how instructors are structuring online courses in different disciplines, or even learn about tools used to assist with online classess such as cognitive tutors.

      Site where you can locate OERs created by members of the UK Higher Education community.

      OER Commons
      Global site offeing not only content but also support for OER creation, opportunities to develop and join groups, content challenges and accounts for contributors.

      Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN)
      Like OER Commons assembles content, provides design guideance and encourages groups of interested parties to form and work together.

      Help The OER Movement

      • Share your Educational Content with others by learning how to create and share OERS
      • Assist with OER projects by being a Quality Control person for the Project (do Post-Publication Reviews or do Content Selection fo Resources by being a Lens)
      • Inform your colleagues about OERs and encourage them to get involved.

      • Participate and contribute to organizations hosting content such as the OER Commons.

      Learn More about OERs

      UNESCO OER Toolkit/Background to Open Educational Resources  
      Site has information about the History of Open Educational Resources, Licensing Issues, Where to find OERs, How to Create and Share OERs, etc.  
       Series of Videos by leaders speaking at an ACRL / SPARC Forum in 2009.

      OER Research Hub
      "Provides a focus for research, designed to give answers to the overall question ‘What is the impact of OER on learning and teaching practices?’"

      OER Commons
      Global site offeing not only content but also support for OER creation, opportunities to develop and join groups, content challenges and accounts for contributors.

      Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN)
      Like OER Commons assembles content, provides design guideance and encourages groups of interested parties to form and work together.

      Keep up to date with OERs via Twitter hashtags such as #oer, #opened, #ukoer

      History of OERS

       The term OER was created in 2002.  That year UNESCO - following the lead of MIT who made all their courses public in 2001 - held the First Global OER Forum. During this meeting UNESCO officially supported the development of shared educational resources and it termed them Open Educational Resources

      This initial birth of the movement has been followed by subsequent initiatives in support of Open Educational Resources including:

      • Ongoing funding for OERs by the Hewlett Foundation
      • The Capetown Declaration in 2007 (Statement of Principles Around what Educators believe Open Education is all about.)
      • Development of OER projects and repositories from a wide array of Educational Institutions (See Great Open Content Box)