Open Educational Resources (OER)

4. What are Open Educational Resources?

4.1. OER

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Password OER Password OER by Laura Rachfalski is licensed under CC-BY

Have you ever found something from the internet that could be a perfect learning resource (e.g. an image, video, quiz, etc.) for your course and spent hours trying to figure out the copyright issues associated with that resource?  Perhaps you couldn't find any Terms of Use listed with the resource, or perhaps no author information was listed, so you didn't know who to contact to obtain permission to use the resource in your course.

Wouldn't it be nice if that resource somehow said, "I'm free to use with limited strings attached, and you don't need to ask for my permission because it is already granted"?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are the answer to that need.

Millions of learning resources are available for others to freely use. There are all kinds: full courses; course materials; modules; activities; textbooks; streaming videos; assessments; software; and many other tools, materials, and techniques to support access to knowledge.

Here is how OER is defined in more specific terms:

"Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others" (The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, n.d.).

To put it another way, OER are:

  • Materials in any medium, digital or otherwise (Format),
  • that either reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license (Conditions),
  • which permits their free use and re-purposing by others (Nature).

To see how others define OER, please visit What is OER by Creative Commons.

Now that we've had a chance to discuss the concept of OER, let's dig a bit deeper. We've just learned that, in order to be an OER, the resource should be either in the public domain or released with an open license. On the next page, we will discuss the conditions that determine whether or not material is open.