What is OER?


 A buzzy term that’s in the air of academia; wafting through conferences and popping up in job descriptions – but what is it?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources which are materials that aid in teaching (textbooks, lesson plans, slide decks, images, modules, activities, etc…) that are free (or very low cost) and allow users (both students and educators) to make changes without asking permission. The OER community uses the “5R’s” to determine if something is OER.

  • Reuse
  • Remix
  • Revise
  • Retain
  • Redistribute

If someone is able to freely access a resource and they are allowed to change aspects of that resource, combine it with another resource, keep that it forever, and redistribute it with changes, then that resource is an OER.

5R’s. By Kiersten Merke/Auraria Library. CCO Public Domain


The benefits of using OER are many, including lowering costs to students, empowering educators to adapt materials to meet the needs of their classes, and creating a community of collaboration. As the costs of higher education continue to rise, assigning an affordable/free OER textbook is a direct way that faculty can lower the cost of attendance for students. In a 2017 study, 85% of students either delayed or skipped purchasing course materials and 91% of them cited cost as the reason for their decision. With OER, the course materials are freely available from the beginning of the course, thereby obliterating any need to waffle about whether or not the course materials are necessary. Additionally, the text can be far more vital to the course because the faculty can tailor it exactly to the needs of their course. No more skipping chapters or clarifying an outdated section. A win-win for everyone.


OER is made possible by Creative Commons licenses which grant the user many rights with very few caveats. They range in permissiveness from CC BY which only requires the user to give attribution to CC BY NC ND which prevents the user from making derivatives or from sharing anything commercially. These licenses are covered in a Copyright and Fair Use class that the Strauss Health Sciences library offers on a monthly basis. Come check it out!

OER is an exciting and emerging field that continues to break new ground. Check back every month for a new post about OER!

This was written by Ellie, you can contact AskUs with questions.