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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides resources and tools for faculty wishing to implement open educational resources (OER) in their courses.

What Is OER?

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

They "are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open unlocklicense. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt, and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video, and animation." (Definition by UNESCO)

The 5Rs of OER

The 5Rs of Openness

An open license permits users of a resource to participate in the 5R activities of OER:

  • Retain: Make, own, and control your own copy of content
  • Reuse: Use the content as-is
  • Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
  • Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
  • Redistribute: Share your copies of the original content, revisions, or remixes with others

Read more about defining “open” in OER.

Why Use OER?

Benefits for Students Fixing the Broken Textbook Market Report

Textbook costs have risen 82% since 2006, as a result, according to a 2014 survey of 2039 students at 156 campuses across 33 states -

  • 48%   take fewer or different classes
  • 65%   choose to not buy textbooks
  • 94%   report concern that grades affected>

​- ​Using OER can provide tremendous cost savings for students as well as impact student success and completion rates. 

- OER provide students with day one access to free course materials.>

Research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks. 


Benefits for Faculty

- Faculty enjoy more freedom in selecting course materials, and can customize these materials to fit the specific needs of their students and goals of their classes. 

- OERs provide clearly defined rights to users, so faculty are not faced with interpreting Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines.


Why are OER important to students and faculty? 

OER materials are available to students on day 1 of class, avoiding delays due to financial difficulties, and enhancing student equity. Faculty determine their revision schedule, thereby avoiding publisher pressure to change editions. Students benefit from reduced textbook costs.

What is the quality of OER?

Textbook quality varies for both open and commercially published materials. Just as with selecting a commercially produced textbook, faculty must evaluate the quality of a particular OER.

Do faculty have to use OER?

No. Using OER is not a requirement for MtSAC faculty, but faculty are encouraged to explore possibilities for open content that provide a more cost-effective alternative to the students.

Will my course transfer to other colleges and universities if I use an open textbook?

"For UC, it's fine to use assembled materials or Open Educational Resources, so long as they're as stable and publicly available as published textbooks (and not a list of links)."--Nancy Purcille, Transfer Articulation Coordinator, University of California, Office of the President

"Same for the CSU."--Ken O'Donnell, Senior Director, Student Engagement and Academic Initiatives and Partnerships, CSU Office of the Chancellor

Shouldn't I worry about "giving away" my intellectual property?

"It is becoming increasingly evident that, on the teaching and learning side, educational institutions that succeed are likely to do so predominantly by understanding that their real potential educational value lies not in content itself (which is increasingly available in large volumes online), but in their ability to guide students effectively through educational resources via well-designed teaching and learning pathways ..." Read more

Can I use OER with Canvas? 

Yes! In fact many of the materials in Canvas Commons are OER. Due to the open licenses of OER, Canvas can be easily integrated into Canvas.