Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are materials offered freely and openly for educators and learners to use in teaching, learning and research.

On this page:

Why should I consider using OER in my class?

There are numerous benefits to incorporating open materials.

  • Motivation: By having students develop or work with OER projects in your course, they can both learn content in a more authentic way and may be more motivated knowing their work will have a positive impact outside the course.
  • Collaboration: By building on or creating new resources within and across disciplines, you can contribute to improving these valuable resources.
  • Time and effort: By adapting and revising content that already exists, you can build on the work others have already done.
  • Cost: Replacing textbooks and other for-profit materials can save students money and help ensure equal access to all students.

Attribution for bullets listed above: [CC licensed content, Original “Understanding OER”. Provided by: SUNY OER Services. Located at Project: OER Community Course. License:CC BY: Attribution

What makes a resource open?

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  • Retain - the right to make, own and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store and manage).
  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website or in a video).
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language).
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mash-up).
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a student).

The material above is based on original writing by David Wiley, published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

OER adoption and pedagogy

OER pedagogy goes beyond OER adoption by having students create, revise and remix their class materials.

Evidence supporting OER

The cost of textbooks is prohibitively expensive for many students. The Florida Virtual Campus (2012) survey of 40 post-secondary institutions demonstrated the significant impact that textbook cost had on students: 63 percent of students did not purchase a required textbook due to the cost and 35 percent reported taking fewer courses due to high textbook costs. If students did not have to purchase textbooks, they would be able to afford to work less and focus more on school (Martin, Belikov, Hilton, Wiley, & Fischer, 2017). By selecting OER in place of traditional textbooks, professors can have a direct financial impact on their students and improve students’ success in their course.

There is evidence that OER is as effective as traditional textbooks (Hilton, 2016). Students generally perform as well or better on exams using OER instead of copyrighted textbooks. They may also enroll in more credits each semester, decreasing their time to graduation.

Unlike traditional texts and articles, using OER enables students to have continued access to classroom materials after the course is over. Instead of being incentivized to sell or return their textbook at the end of the course, students can take OER with them to advanced coursework or for post-graduation use, increasing the influence that the course has on their future. 

Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons licenses dictate whether a resource can be revised and remixed, as well as whether it can be used by commercial entities.