Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources (OER)

An introduction to finding, evaluating, and using Open Educational Resources



Open Educational Resources (also known as OER) are teaching and learning resources that reside in the public domain or have been shared under a license that allow others to freely use and revise them. Open educational resources can include entire courses, course materials, textbooks, multimedia, or teaching techniques. 

Despite the rise of innovative new instructional technologies, for the average student and teacher, educational materials remain limited by high costs, copyright regulations, and technological barriers. Books and supplies were estimated to cost IU Bloomington students $1032 for the 2017-2018 academic year. This impacts students' learning: a national survey found that 65% of students will avoid buying expensive textbooks, even if they know their academic progress will suffer as a result. OER offer a solution to these issues, providing accessible content for students and increasing engagement in classrooms.

OER are always free, but free content is not always considered open. A distinctive attribute of OER is the license they are shared under and that others can update, alter, or redistribute without the need to gain permission from the copyright holder. There is a wealth of content available online that is technically free but with restricted terms of use, even within the context of a classroom. Resources that are available for free but aren't open could also be technologically or economically restricted at any point in the future.

Affordable course content, like OER, works to make educational materials more financially accessible to students. Unlike OER, however, affordable content is not always free or open. "Affordable" refers to a wide variety of ways in which the cost of the content is reduced for students. Some examples include affordable eTexts or library licensed materials. Both are important for helping increase access so selecting which to use depends on the course you're teaching and the material available.

An essential part of finding quality OER is ensuring that the content is relevant to your course objectives, up to date, and properly edited and maintained. Be sure to check out the IU Libraries guide for evaluating OER for a step by step guide.

Understanding OER Copyright: Creative Commons

In order for a resource to be considered open, it must be shared under a Creative Commons license, often allowing others do the following:

  • Retain a copy
  • Reuse the content
  • Revise or modify
  • Remix or combine parts from various sources into one
  • Redistribute the original and your revision/remix

IU Libraries staff can help you understand what the license enables you to do in your course.