Skip to main content

OER Guide: Home

Guide to Open Educational Resources

What are OERs?



There is no one, standard definition of Open Educational Resources (OER).  EDUCAUSE defines OER's as, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are any resources available at little or not cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings, and other learning content; simulations, games, and other learning applications; syllabi, quizzes, and assessment tools; and virtually any other material that can be used for educational purposes" (EDUCAUSE. May 27, 2010. 7 Things You Should Know About Open Educational Resources.

The Worldwide OER Movement

To provide students with easy access to educational materials that are low cost or free to the student.  "Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared" (OER Commons & Open Education The Future of Education, Co-Created With You).

OER New News!

Big Flickr Announcement: All CC-licensed images will be protected

Affordable College Textbook Act Reintroduced in Congress
This Bill Would Significantly Reduce Higher Education Costs and Support Student Success

ED Grant Allows UC Davis to Lead Expansion of Open Textbooks
A $4.9 million grant will enable the University of California, Davis and a consortium of other institutions to build out a set of open textbooks intended for chemistry and career and technical education (CTE) courses.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

The Instructional Technologies Committee of the ACRL Instruction Section published a Tips & Trends article on Open Educational Resources.  Authors Rashelle Nagar and Jill Hallam-Miller have followed it up with interviews with three OER advocates.

OER Consortium Projects

Interested in other OER projects? 

View Higher Education Today: Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon and MIT OpenCourseWare

Why Evaluate OERs?

Evaluating OERs

The same criteria you have used to evaluate your previous course materials are applicable to OERs. However, there are unique criteria you will want to consider when choosing OERs for your courses. This guide highlights three common OER evaluation criteria.


Similar to traditional course materials, many OERs go through peer-review to ensure the quality of the resources. OER collections often state their peer-review processes as well as provide the reviews online. It is important to note whether or not an OER has gone through peer-review when evaluating the resource.


OERs should be accessible to all students. Guides and tools are available to help you evaluate the accessibility of OERs.


For an online resource to be considered an OER, users must be able to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute it. Even though educators may be able to access an online resource, it does not mean that the creator has given them permission to adopt or adapt it for their courses. It is important to review the copyright and permissions of the resources before using them. If you do not see a clear permissions statement, you may need to contact the copyright holder and/or link to the resource without editing and/or uploading it.

source: Charles C. Sherrod Library

Creative Commons, BY, NC

Why Open Education Matters

View this video to get a sense of why some students are not purchasing their textbooks and how there are other valuable online resources to share with your students that are not copyrighted:

*Faculty Concerns about OER's

Q: As a faculty I depend on the test banks that publishers provide with a textbook adoption. Do OER or Open Textbooks provide test banks? And if they're open, what's to prevent a student for getting access to them?

A: Many open resources do provide test banks (PowerPoint lectures, and other supplementals we're used to getting from a publisher). To answer the question about "protected resources" we went to Nicole Finkbeiner, Associate Director of Institutional Relations, Rice University's OpenStax CollegeFinkbeiner says"In terms of "protected" resources such as test banks, you have to find a way for students to not be able to access these. And, you don't want to openly license these because then you have no way to combat them being published. At Rice University’s OpenStax College, our website is set-up so faculty have to first register for an account and then request faculty access prior to being able to download them. We check every single account to ensure the right official email is used, they are in fact teaching a course where they would need the resources, etc. Sometimes we even call the department chair directly to make sure we should be providing access, so this is definitely a labor-intensive process, but I think it is worth it to protect the resources.

  • Faculty should also be very careful not to post any protected OER resources in a public environment, such as a website."

Q: I am nervous about letting go of my textbook because I don't know if OER/Open Textbook authors will keep the resources up to date. How can I trust that the resources I select will be kept current and accurate?

A: It's true that adopting open resources in place of a traditionally published textbook involves a change in how you think about your course textbook. Adopting OER involves a feeling of ownership of the course resources that you might not experience with a traditional textbook. Because of the open licensing you are free to update the material as you see fit, as long as it has the appropriate Creative Commons licensing. Due to the open nature of these resources, collaboration with other instructors (within our outside this institution) or with your students to improve the open resources you use is a common occurrence, and means the work of updating is spread across many people instead of sitting solely with you. Yes, it's a shift of perspective, but it's an exciting one, full of potential.

  • There are a growing number of open textbooks that have the kind of publisher services faculty expect, with regular updates, printed and bound copies available for purchase, test banks and other instructor supplementals.

*Read more FAQs at Kirkwood Community College Libraries, Cedar Rapids, IA.