Skip to Main Content

Open Access and Open Education

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning, research, or teaching materials that are freely available with an open license. They are either in the public domain, or published with a Creative Commons license that legally enables users to freely engage in the "5 Rs":

  • Retain - copy and own the resource (e.g., download a copy)
  • Reuse - publicly use the resource (e.g., in a presentation or syllabus)
  • Revise - adapt or modify the resource (e.g., translate it or update content)
  • Remix - combine the resource with something new (e.g., adapt material for a podcast)
  • Redistribute - share copies of the resource (original, or modified) with others (e.g., distribute as a class reading)

If a resource is not free, or openly licensed, it is not an OER. For example, students can download a PDF of an article from the library - but journal and database subscriptions are not free-to-access, and may be cancelled if the library faces budget cuts. Even if materials are accessible, they do not inherently grant users permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, or redistribute. As Abbey K. Elder shares in the OER Starter Kit, there are some fundamental differences between OERs, and materials commonly thought of as OERs:

Material Type Openly licensed Free Modifiable
Open Educational Resources Yes Yes Yes
Free online resources, under "all rights reserved" copyright No Yes No
Materials paid for by the library No Yes No
Open Access articles and other resources Yes Yes Maybe
Ask A Librarian