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OER: Open Educational Resources

Defining OER

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. [1]

Why use OER?

According to SPARC:

  • Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education. 
  • Students learn more when they have access to quality materials.
  • Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning. 
  • Better education means a better future. [2]

How do I know if a resource is open?

The key distinguishing characteristic of OER is its intellectual property license and the freedoms the license grants to others to share and adapt it. If a lesson plan or activity is not clearly tagged or marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not OER.[2]

[1] Definition from the Hewlett Foundation
[2] Adapted from SPARC Open Education

OER vs. OA vs. Public Domain

There are different degrees of OPEN and it's important to understand the basic tenets of each. All open educational resources (OER) are open access (OA), but not all OA materials are OER. 

  • Open Educational Resources (OER):

    • depending on the licensing applied, allows educators and learners to engage in the 5Rs
      • Retain
      • Revise
      • Remix
      • Reuse
      • Redistribute
  • Open Access (OA): 

    • free, permanent, full-text access to scholarly and scientific materials
    • allows for sharing content with no license requirements
    • does not allow for the alteration or reuse of materials
  • Public Domain or CC0:

    • no longer has copyright protection, or never had it to begin with
    • can be re-used, changed, etc. without permission or giving credit

Always check the licensing applied to any resource that you have found before you use it.  

Toolkits, Tutorials, etc.

About this Guide

This LibGuide was created by Angela Davis, Instruction and Web Services Librarian, as part of professional development sessions held for the faculty of Pitt Community College on September 26 & 27, 2018.