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Open Educational Resources

OER Defined and Examples

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that can be freely used or reused at no cost.  Educators and professionals create OER and retain their copyright, and then add Creative Commons licenses that allow free reuse without permission or repurposing.  In its OER definition, the US Department of Education includes materials in the public domain (free of copyright protection) or those with licenses that allow such use.

OER purports to enhance learning through the use of curated materials that are readily or openly available to students.  OER can be free or available at a lower cost than commercial textbooks, assisting in college or textbook affordability initiatives.  Instructors can select a variety of materials such as multimedia to either substitute for or supplement a textbook.  Students can learn from a variety of materials and in different formats.  

Types of Learning Materials and Resources

OER can include any of the following types of learning materials:

  • Textbooks, journals and other published works (print or electronic form)
  • Images:  art, photography, clip art
  • Videos and multimedia (sound recordings, podcasts)
  • Primary sources
  • Learning objects:  simulations, slides/ PowerPoints, practice problems, tests, or quizzes
  • Courses, courseware (syllabi, test banks), or course cartridges
  • Web pages
  • Data or data sets:  from STEM, business or social science research

The 5 Rs of OER

OER allows educators to apply the 5Rs for its educational materials in the following ways:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage).
  • 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 material 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).

Examples of OER

Are you not sure how OER can be used?  OER can be used as course materials or assignments in all disciplines or course levels.  Here are some examples used by faculty and instructors:

  • A first year experience course is using OpenStax's College Success book that is freely and openly available in lieu of a $55.00 textbook.
  • A physics professor and teaching assistant are assigning a NSF-funded PhET Interactive Simulation on gases to introduce its laws and to provide interactive exercises for students. 
  • A literature professor includes a link to Internet Sacred Texts Archive in her course materials.  Since sacred texts like the New Testatment, Torah, or Upanishads are often referred to in her assigned readings, the link is provided so students can refer to these sources.
  • An art professor assigns students to view select paintings and other forms of art on museum web pages such as Van Gogh Museum and Museum of Modern Art collections.
  • A social sciences professor assigns his graduate-level students an open dataset in ICPRS's data repository where they download it and execute statistical analyses using SPSS.

Is OER the same as Open Access?  It is easy to get the two confused or think they are the same thing, but they have some subtle differences:

  • Definition:  Open Access is a publishing model, while OER are materials for educational purposes.  
  • Origin and Purpose:  Open Access was initiated through conversations between scholarly publishers, professional societies, academics, and governmental bodies to make scholarly research more available.  OER started largely among educators who wanted to share their learning objects or materials, and those who wanted to use them as materials.
  • Types of Works:  Open Access is widely used for published books, articles, and various types of scholarly or creative output.  OER can actually include an Open Access work when used for teaching purposes, or it could incorporate slides, recordings, simulations, and other types of learning objects.

Content credit:  Shannon Dew and Erik Christensen (2022, May 18).  Embracing OER: Tips, tricks and strategies [PowerPoint].  Florida Virtual Campus OER Virtual Conference.  Content has been expanded and revised.

FAU and Florida OER and Textbook Affordability Initiatives

Florida Atlantic University

State of Florida

The State of Florida is interested in adopting textbook affordability and other measures to encourage the use of free and low-cost learning materials to support student learning and decrease their costs of education.  See the following links for additional information on its past and current initiatives.

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