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)

Information about OERs and resources for finding and using them in your classroom.

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

"Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public

5 "Rs" of Open Access: Retain, redistribute, revise, remix, reuse. See text for an explanationdomain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions." [The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation]

The Open Education movement is built around the 5Rs of Openness []

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Image: Flickr user KarenSeptember. Click the image to view it larger.

Open Educational Resources can include many types of materials, including:

  • Textbooks
  • Animations, simulations, lectures, or other instructional videos
  • Images
  • Interactive materials
  • Lesson plans
  • Entire course content (open courseware)

Why Use OER?


  • Textbook prices rose 82% between 2002 and 2012 - three times the rate of inflation [Government Accountability Office]
  • Students report spending anywhere from $600 to $1200 on textbooks annually. [College Board] 
  • In a study of 22,000 students at public colleges and universities in Florida, students reported that they purchased between 2 and 3 textbooks that were never used during their full course of study. [2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey]
  • Faculty don't have much say over tuition or fees, but their textbook choices can have a direct and significant impact on a student's cost of college attendance.


  • Customize content to suit your learning outcomes
  • Use only the content you need
  • Develop materials that uniquely suit your students' needs

Student Retention & Success

  • In the Florida study, nearly 48% of students indicated that textbook cost influenced how many or which courses they took[2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey]
  • In the same study, 38% of students reported that they earned a poor grade because they were unable to purchase the textbook; nearly 20% failed a course. [2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey]
  • In a recent large-scale study at the University of Georgia, courses that converted to OER saw an increase of A and A-minue grades by 5.50% and 7.73%, respectively [University of Georgia] 
  • ALL students will have access to the textbook on the first day of classes - no more waiting for textbooks to arrive in the mail or to receive financial aid disbursements


  • Online materials are often easier for students with print disabilities to use, including the ability to change the text size and use a computer to read the text
  • They provide more versatility for all students, as many allow for the digital copies to be downloaded or printed out


  • Get out of the "teaching from the textbook" rut
  • Discover new materials, resources, and strategies for teaching your content
  • Flex your pedagogical muscles
  • Involve students in the selection of materials or development of open content

Common OER Concerns

Concern Traditional Textbooks OERs
  • ideal for introductory courses, presenting broad coverage of topics in easy-to-understand language
  • adhering strictly to OERs may preclude use of some great content
  • introductory texts are included in many open textbook collections
  • library resources and services can also be used to provide high-quality and relevant content to students at no cost to them (there's a whole tab for that!)
  • traditional textbooks are written by vetted authors and rigorously edited
  • no standard quality control process
  • major repositories are curated for high-quality content and utilized peer review to maintain quality
  • a course is already set up to work with a chosen textbook
  • adopting or adapting an OER does take time
  • start with integrating one or two supplemental materials, such as articles or book chapters
  • looking for resources to satisfy SLOs will be more productive than looking for an exact textbook replacement
  • look for grants to compensate you for time spent reviewing, adopting, adapting or creating OERs
  • studies show retention is higher when using print materials
  • students prefer print materials
  • while this may be true, students also like saving money! 
  • some OERs are available to print on demand for a nominal (less than $50) fee
  • with the college's $20.00 per semester print allowance, most OERs can be  printed on campus for no additional cost to students - many licenses allow for this

Attribution and License

This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at