Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources - OER

What is OER?

The term ‘open educational resource’ is defined as a "teaching, learning, or research resource that is offered freely to users in at least one form and that resides in the public domain or has been released under an open copyright license that allows for its free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with attribution." SPARC. OER State Policy Playbook

Other Definitions:

Open vs. Affordable

Affordable resources can be defined as teaching, learning, or research resources available and low cost to students, such as library materials or low-cost textbooks. True OERs are considered open and available at no cost to all users, following the 5Rs of openness.

The 5Rs of Openness

The “5 Rs” is a framework that encourages educators to capitalize on the unique rights associated with open content. These rights include the ability to:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. 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, in a video)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. 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)
  5. 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 friend)


"The 5 Rs of Openness" by David Wiley is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license


OA vs. OER

Open Access (OA) content is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials of any medium that are used for the purpose of teaching and learning. OER are either from the public domain or have an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with no or limited resources.

The Relationship Between OA and OER

The philosophy of Open Access and Open Educational Resources are similar in their goal of promoting free access to information, but they address different parts of the information lifecycle. 

Describes published scholarly articles and data Describes materials created for teaching and learning
Materials exist in a digital, online format and are copyrightable Materials can be in any format (digital or physical) and can be modified
Accessible through a publisher (Gold OA) or a digital repository (Green OA) Can include OA if the license permits customization
Addresses affordability concerns of publishing and access to research Addresses affordability concerns of textbooks or other course content

Finding Open Access Content

Visit our guide on Finding Open Access Content for links to large repositories and other resources for free, openly available research.