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Open Educational Resources

OER Defined and Examples

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. Unlike fixed, copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights (OER Commons, CC BY-SA).  The US Department of Education includes in its definition that OER are materials in the public domain (free of copyright protection) or ones that are available for use by intellectual property licenses that allow free use or repurposing by others, such as Creative Commons.

Rather than buying a textbook where only a few chapters are used, students can read a variety of materials assigned by their instructor that better address learning and teaching objectives.  Instructors have the option to include materials that better address topics that are related but not included in a commercial textbook.  OER purports to enhance learning through curated materials that is more readily available to students, and also promote learning materials that are free or available at a lower cost than commercial textbooks. 

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

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?  Regardless of your discipline or level of course, OER can often be used as course materials or assignments.  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 exercises for students to try. 
  • A literature professor includes the URL to Internet Sacred Texts Archive in her course materials.  She assigns students to read excerpts that are referred to in many literary works, and students have immediate access to these primary sources.
  • An art professor assigns students to view paintings and other forms of art on museum web pages such as Van Gogh Museum and Museum of Modern Art collections because they are readily available.
  • A social sciences professor assigns his graduate-level students to pick an open dataset in ICPRS's data repository so they can try various types of analysis by statistical software.

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

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 its past and current initiatives.

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