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Open Educational Resources (OER): About OER

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?


Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.

By creating, adapting, and sharing open materials, faculty can provide an equitable and affordable course experience for students. Case studies have shown that OER adoption increases student engagement, improves retention, and allows for greater equity of outcomes.

This video, created by Abbey K. Elder at Iowa State University, provides an excellent introduction to what OER is, why faculty should consider using OER during the course development process, and how to get started using them. Her "Introduction to OER" video playlist explores additional topics in OER.


Open Access vs. OER

Open access (OA) refers to freely available information available online. It is most commonly used in terms of scholarly publishing, though OER materials fall under the OA umbrella. PLOS is a well-known OA publisher

Authors publishing works under OA licenses from traditional publishers often retain the vast majority of their rights under U.S. Copyright Law, only allowing for their work to be shared without modification. Our Open Access guide may help if you want to publish an article via an OA model.

In contrast, the creators of OER explicitly grant permission for the public to remix their content to better suit the needs of their audience's intended use under Creative Commons license terms.

Getting Started with OER

Library Services is eager to assist faculty and instructional designers with finding appropriate OER materials to include in their courses. We know that it can be overwhelming -- and exhausting! -- to search for the perfect content for your course.

Your Library Liaison can help with:

  • finding OER, low-cost, or library-licensed materials;
  • providing rubrics for evaluating the appropriateness of OER material;
  • advising on Creative Commons and copyright issues;
  • teach information literacy concepts via OER;
  • and more!

Don't be shy! We love this stuff.


This material was adapted from "Introduction to Open Educational Resources" by Abbey K. Elder, published in The OER Starter Kit. It was published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.