What Are Open Educational Resources?

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a copyright license that permits anyone to freely use and repurpose them. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, journal articles, and any other tools or materials used to support learning.

The real power of OER comes in the “5R permissions” that entitle you to not only access these materials free of charge, but also also to make them better. Browse brief definitions of the 5Rs on the right >

For a more in depth discussion of the meaning of OER, see The Open Educational Resources Definitions.

The 5R Permissions of OER


What OER are available?

According to Creative Commons, stewards of the most popular open licenses for OER, over 880 million openly licensed materials exist online. In addition to complete courses, course materials, textbooks, videos, and journal articles, this number includes photographs, artwork, essays, newspaper articles, podcasts, and other creative works. These half billion OER cover every conceivable topic at every grade level from K Рgraduate school. A major challenge in using OER effectively is that the quality, currency, and completeness of OER vary widely. One of the primary goals in founding Lumen is to address this challenge.

Why use OER?

Open education resources can dramatically reduce curriculum costs for the institution and textbook costs for students. According to research conducted by the Babson Group, approximately half of all US institutions use OER in at least one course and over 65% of Chief Academic Officers believe that OER can save their institutions money. That same research showed that faculty are constantly looking for online resources that are easy to use, freely available, and quick to search and review. When used together with appropriate assessments and other analytical tools, OER can also lead to measurable improvements in student success..

Who is using OER?

Community colleges, four-year public schools, and Ivy League schools alike are using open educational resources to save students money and improve student success rates. In some states, system-wide or even statewide initiatives have been established to promote the use of OER. According to the Babson research, approximately half of all US institutions use OER in at least one course.

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