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.

Additional resources

Learn more about OER

  • OpenEd Group
    Collection of resources related to open education, including: research on adoption and impact of OERs on educational outcomes, methodological frameworks for studying OER adoption and courses in topics related to open education.
  • Open Education Reader (Young et al., 2014)
    Free book containing a collection of annotated readings on topics in open education. Topics covered include: defining free and open, open content licenses, research in open education, and the economics of open, among others.
  • High Impact Practices for Integrating OERs into University Courses (54m,3s)
    Presentation by David Wiley on the value of OERs, how to adopt them to improve the affordability of higher education, student outcomes, and breadth of impact.

5 recommended ways to search for OERs

  • OASIS Search
    Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool developed at SUNY Geneseo that aims to make the discovery of open content easier–this tool will simultaneously search 44 different open content sources.
  • OER Commons
    OER Commons provides a robust search capability across a variety of openly licensed content types, and a variety of disciplines.
  • The Open Professionals Education Network: Find OER
    This list includes a wide variety of OER Search tools with a short description of each. As this page is an openly licensed resource with a CC-BY license, you should recognize this list itself as an OER! Feel free to copy, add, remix, and share!
  • Open Educational Resources (OER): Find OER
    This list of OER Websites and search tips from the University of Illinois includes repositories of recorded lectures, videos, open textbooks, modular components, complete courses, and other OER search engines.
  • Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)
    This utility, from George Mason University Libraries, searches across 16 OER repositories at once. You can add or remove sources to modify your search targets.


Boyle, J. (2008). The public domain: Enclosing the commons of the mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Retrieved from

Florida Virtual Campus (2012). 2012 Florida student textbook survey. Tallahassee, FL: Author. Retrieved from

Hilton, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4). pp 573–590. 10.1007/s11423-016-9434-9.

Martin, T., Belikov, O. , Hilton, J., Wiley, D. & Fischer, L., (2017). An Analysis of Student and Faculty Perceptions of Textbook CostsOpen Praxis, 9(1), 79-91.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (2012). Paris OER declaration. World Open Educational Resources Congress. Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2016, November 11). Integrating open educational resources (OER) into university courses. Genteels’ Excellence in Teaching Conference at the University at Buffalo. Video presentation retrieved from

Young, J, Woodard, S., Tonks, D., Spring, Kristian, Randall, D.,…,Gong, J. (2014).  An open education reader.  D. Wiley (Ed.). Pressbooks.  Retrieved from