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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides information for learning about open educational resources (OER) and curates resources and information to support OER work at Western Technical College.

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are instructional materials that are fully accessible and reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge

This is the DOERS3 definition of OER, adapted from the Hewlett Foundation definition of OER. It is reused here thanks to a Creative Commons-Attribution license.

This video is an adaptation of ‘What is OER?’ from The Council of Chief State School Officers under CC-BY-4.0. Featuring Barbara Soots, Layla Bonnot, Katie Steen and Nicole Allen

What makes something open?

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.

The 5R Activities:

  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 mashup)
  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)

Creators often use Creative Commons licenses to clearly define what is and is not allowed. 

This explanation was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Additional resources providing more information and background on OER

Why OER?

There are many reasons to explore, use, and create open educational resources. Some instructors cite affordability, others are motivated by the simple access it provides to students, and still others appreciate the pedagogical flexibility of having resources that can be easily adapted to the needs of students. 

The video below describes some of these reasons in greater depth.

"Why OER?" from The Council of Chief State School Officers under CC-BY-4.0.

Using OER for Course Texts

Generally, when selecting OER for use as a course text, instructors will:

  1. Find and adopt an existing OER
  2. Adapt one or more existing OER
  3. Create their own original resource

Other pages on this guide describe each option in greater depth. 

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