What Are Open Educational Resources (OER)?
Open educational resources are teaching and learning materials that are
- freely available, and
- in the public domain, or
- published with an open license that enable users to reuse, revise, remix, retain, and redistribute them (commonly referred to as the "5Rs").
KPU is Canada's leading institutional adopter of Open Textbooks and other Open Educational Resources (OER). Research at KPU has shown that students assigned open textbooks perform the same as or better than those assigned expensive commercial textbooks.
- Locate OERs to use in the classroom
- Learn how to make a resource fit your needs
- Develop your own resource
Why use OERs?
Open educational resources give educators the ability to adapt instructional resources to the individual needs of their students and course, ensure that resources are up-to-date and contextual, and ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing high-quality resources.
For students, OER has been shown to increase student learning while breaking down barriers of affordability and accessibility. These barriers include that,
- in a 2017 study in BC institutions, over half of the students surveyed shared that they chose not to purchase textbooks for at least one course in their program,
- one in five college students has skipped or deferred a class due to the price of the required learning resources,
- the cost of textbooks is rising at a rate of 4 times inflation, and
- 60% of students have delayed purchasing textbooks until they’ve received their financial aid.
For faculty, one of the main teaching benefits is that OERs can be customized. Using OER gives the freedom to remove irrelevant content, update content, and combine different resources together, contextualizing materials to a specific course's learning outcomes.
FAQs about Open Educational Resources
What is the difference between ‘free’ and ‘open’ resources?
Open educational resources are and always will be free, but not all free resources are OER. Free resources may be temporarily free or may be restricted from use at some time in the future (including by the addition of fees to access those resources). Moreover, free-but-not-open resources can't be modified, adapted or redistributed without obtaining special permission from the copyright holder.
Are all OER digital?
Like most educational resources these days, most OER start as digital files. But, like traditional resources, OER can be made available to students in both digital and printed formats. Of course, digital OER are easier to share, modify, and redistribute, but being digital is not what makes something an OER or not. This flexibility is important, because it no longer makes print and digital a choice of one or the other. OER textbooks, for example, can typically be printed for $5-50 (compared to $100-300 for traditional books) while still being available free digitally.
How do you tell if an educational resource is an OER?
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. It’s that simple. The most common way to release materials as OER is through Creative Commons copyright licenses, which are standardized, free-to-use open licenses that have already been used on more than 1 billion copyrighted works.
Can OER be high quality if it is free?
Studies at both the K-12 and higher education levels show that students who use OER do as well, and often better, than their peers using traditional resources. Also, many OER are developed through rigorous peer review and production processes that mirror traditional materials. However, it is important to note that being open or closed does not inherently affect the quality of a resource. Being open does enable educators to use the resource more effectively, which can lead to better outcomes. For example, OER can be updated, tailored and improved locally to fit the needs of students, and it also eliminates cost as a barrier for students to access their materials.
Do OER require special technology to use?
One of the great things about OER is that users have the right to turn it into any format they wish (which is almost always forbidden with traditional resources). Therefore, OER aren’t tied to a particular type of device or software, which gives students and schools more freedom in what technology they purchase. In cases where technology isn’t available, there is always the option to print.
Interested in finding, adopting, or even adapting open textbooks or other kinds of OER but unsure of where to begin? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be delighted to help.