Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

1.2: OER - The What and Why

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)


    Open Educational Resources

    “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.”

    – UNESCO


    Consider this short video to learn more about OER.

    One or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here:

    (UNESCO) Open Educational Resources Concept: What is an OER? (0:58) [CC BY]

    Video Transcript

    Benefits of OER

    1. Free (or low-cost if printed) and thus affordable
    2. Can be used and shared with an unlimited number of students without fear of copyright infringement [1]
    3. Customizable and adaptable with few restrictions to meet student needs, teaching methods, curriculum, and recent developments
    4. Can be combined with other content and interactive or multimedia elements to provide richer teaching and learning opportunities
    5. Offer first-day, remote and continued access since most OER are digital, do not require an access code, and do not expire
    6. Contribute to success and completion by easing students’ financial burden without having a negative impact on their learning[2]
    7. Can be an opportunity for engagement and participation by co-creating knowledge with students in the form of renewable assignments rather than limiting their role to that of consumers of information[3]

    The adaptation of existing OER and the creation of new resources are also opportunities to make course materials more accessible, inclusive, and representative for learners. This kind of flexibility rarely exists in traditional textbooks. Because OER are not created to satisfy a commercial market, they can address topics and include perspectives that would otherwise be neglected.


    Consider this short video to learn more about the benefits of OER.

    One or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here:

    (UNESCO) Open Educational Resources and Innovation: Why OER (1:17) [CC BY]

    Video Transcript

    Open educational resources are somewhat different from open learning, in that they are primarily content, while open learning includes both content and educational services, such as specially designed online materials, built-in learner support and assessment.

    David Wiley is one of the pioneers of OER. He suggests that there are five core principles of open publishing, better known as the 5Rs:

    • Reuse: The most basic level of openness. People are allowed to use all or part of the work for their own purposes (for example, download an educational video to watch at a later time);
    • Redistribute: People can share the work with others (for example, send a digital article by-email to a colleague);
    • Revise: People can adapt, modify, translate, or change the work (for example, take a book written in English and turn it into a Spanish audio book);
    • Remix: People can take two or more existing resources and combine them to create a new resource (for example, take audio lectures from one course and combine them with slides from another course to create a new derivative work);
    • Retain: No digital rights management restrictions (DRM); the content is yours to keep, whether you’re the author, an instructor using the material, or a student.


    Review the following Principles of OER as they expand on the original 5R’s as described by David Wiley.

    An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

    Promoting Accessible and Inclusive Learning

    As mentioned above, OER reduce and in many cases eliminate the cost of expensive commercial textbooks and other learning materials. This makes education more affordable for learners who might otherwise struggle to access post-secondary education.

    “Adaptability and affordability are two major aspects of what makes an open educational resource attractive to students, but there is another facet that should be considered when you are developing or adapting an OER for your course: perspective. In particular, you should ask yourself how the perspectives being represented in your OER might affect the inclusivity of your course environment.”

    – Ariana Santiago

    Indeed, educators who embrace OER can adapt and modify the content so they can accommodate a variety of cultural backgrounds and principles of universal design for learning (UDL). OER offers the opportunity to provide flexible and customizable resources to address the needs of all students. OER that incorporate UDL principles makes it possible to designing resources that benefit people of various learning backgrounds and abilities. With open licenses, OER provide access to editable files for the development of multiple formats which can be difficult to obtain for proprietary materials. While OER benefits all students by reducing educational cost barriers, they can especially benefit students with disabilities who often face greater financial difficulties. Finally, OER offers the opportunity for collaborative creation across institutions, countries, and the world to ensure the OER developed incorporates the expertise and experiences of people both creating and using the resources.

    Module 3: Accessibility focuses on measures you should take to make OER accessible.


    Reflection – Think about how these OER benefits might apply at your institution and share your thoughts in a Padlet.

    One or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here:

    1. BCcampus, (2020), “The New Normal: Using OER to re-open education,” CC BY 4.0.
    2. C. Hendricks et al., (2017), “The Adoption of an Open Textbook in a Large Physics Course: An Analysis of Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perceptions,” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18(4), CC BY 4.0; R.S. Jhangiani et al., (2018), “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks,” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9(1); H.M. Ross et al., (2018), “Open Textbooks in an Introductory Sociology Course in Canada: Student Views and Completion Rates,” Open Praxis 10(4), CC BY 4.0; V. Clinton & S. Khan, (2019), “Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis,” AERA Open, CC BY-NC 4.0.
    3. Canadian Association of Research Libraries, (2020), “The Time is Now for Open Educational Resources,” CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

    1.2: OER - The What and Why is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?