Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources, commonly referred to as OER, are any type of educational teaching and learning materials available online for free.

The idea behind these open materials is that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt, incorporate and combine them with other materials, and re-share them. These open materials include full textbooks, course modules, articles, research, syllabi, lectures, assignments, tests, projects, lab and classroom activities, audio and video content, animations, games, and even simulations. This allows faculty to create a course that wouldn’t require students to purchase or spend money on common learning materials such as textbooks and or digital/online subscriptions.

Benefits of using OER

  1. Decreases Educational Expenses for Students

The price of textbooks has increased significantly over the last decade, in fact, according to NBC, the price has increased by 73% since 2006. College students already face the burden of high tuition fees (that keep increasing every year), boarding costs, travel costs, etc. Some students risk not purchasing the required textbooks because the cost is more than their financial aid. Many students tend to rent textbooks, or purchase older editions, used, or electronic textbooks as alternatives.

Using open resources may take some time to customize and incorporate into your course(s) and learning goals; however, once that process is done, your students will all be able to access the learning materials regardless of their financial situation.

  1. Expands Learning Access

Open educational resources that are made available through the internet allow students to learn or read information on almost any topic, teachers can share their wealth of knowledge with students in different parts of the world, and learners who didn’t have any access to such materials may not be able to obtain them. Increasing the use of OERs in your courses may then lead to more and more open materials available online.

  1. Flexibility to Make Continuous Improvements

Unlike textbooks and other static sources of information, which cannot be easily updated once published, OERs can be improved quickly through direct editing by users or through incorporation of user feedback. Professors can use an existing OER and even make changes to it to fit their course needs.

For example: a professor teaching Politics could actually add content about the latest news on healthcare or .

Educators also have the option to change the OERs to local languages and cultures and use them as the basis for innovation and research. OERs thus act as living textbooks that can constantly be updated with new information and technological developments.

  1. Increases Student Engagement

Incorporating a variety of teaching materials and mediums (video, audio, digital, and text) make it possible to reach many different learning styles and keep students engaged. There are many different type of leaners out there, some learn best by listening to a podcast or a lecture, some prefer reading text, some prefer watching a video or a tutorial, and others learn best kinesthetically (learning by doing). A variety of teaching materials will allow you to reach more students and increase engagement, participation, and activity.

If variety is not possible in your course, then just using open-source textbooks may increase student engagement. Studies have found that this helps to improve success in a very basic way—more students actually get the book. This in turn translates into increased engagement and a higher completion rate. A 2012 study in the European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning found that when it came to physically buying the required textbook less than half of the students actually bought it. However when the switch to free, digital textbooks and OERs were used, the percentage of students accessing the course material nearly doubled. This also led to a decrease in D’s and F’s, as well as a reduction in the number of course withdrawals. Also, higher grades were correlated with courses that used open textbooks.

Using Open Education Resources in the Classroom

Here are some suggestions when adopting an open textbook:

  1. Locate a book that fits your subject content, teaching style and students.
  2. Plan in advance how you intend to use that textbook while teaching your course in class.
  3. Modify the class material to match this plan.
  4. Separate a number of open-licensed textbooks into smaller segments and insert them into the lessons in Blackboard.
  5. Text, illustrations and photographs from the textbooks can also be added into presentations without the need to obtain specific permission from the copyright-holders.

Below is a list of OERs by course disciplines:

General Disciplines:

Social Sciences:

  • Making of America, books – (Digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.)
  • OAPEN – Open Access Publishing in European Networks –;brand=oapen (Digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.)
  • Openstax – Rice University – (OpenStax College offers students free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses.)
  • Teaching Commons – (Teaching Commons brings together high-quality open educational resources from leading colleges and universities.)


  • Openstax – (OpenStax College offers students free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses.)

English and Literature:

  • Humanities Text Initiative – (Full text of thousands of prose and poetic works. Created by the University of Michigan.)

Here is a list of OERs gathered by the Pace Library:

OER Videos:


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Posted in Course Technique, Learning Materials, Open Educational Resources

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