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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide to understanding and finding Open Educational Resources, with information on current efforts at Fresno State.

About Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources?

There are many definitions, for example:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. ... OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared. (OER Commons)


Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. (UNESCO)


Common to these definitions is the idea that OER are not only available at no cost, but that they can be modified, reused, and shared. David Wiley has described the permissions that define an open resource with the "5 Rs:"

The 5Rs of Openness

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • 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)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • 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)

Note that OER are not limited to textbooks. They can include any kind of teaching and learning materials from problem sets to complete course designs.

Why OER?

The most common reason driving interest in OER is to reduce the cost of course materials.

  • Since the late 1990s, textbook costs have increased at about three times the rate of inflation.
  • In 2019, librarian Vang Vang conducted a survey of Fresno State students that revealed:
    • 77% of Fresno State students report that they have decided against buying or renting the required textbooks or instructional materials for a course they’ve taken because they were too expensive.
    • Nearly all of these students said they were concerned that not buying or renting the required textbook or instructional materials would hurt their grade in the course but they did it anyway.
    • 54% of Fresno State students said the cost of required textbooks or instructional materials impacts which course they decide to take.

But the 5 Rs create many other advantages for OER:

  • Because students can retain materials, they will have access to them between terms of a year-long course, for future courses that cover relevant topics, when they are studying for GREs or other exams, and in their professional lives.
  • Because OER can be reused, revised, and remixed, faculty can adapt and customize OER content: updating sections as needed, omitting sections that aren't relevant to the course, or combining multiple resources.
  • If your textbook includes examples or scenarios, will your students see themselves represented? You can revise and remix to make sure your course materials are culturally relevant.
  • OER open the door to Open Pedagogy and Open Educational Practices, where students may have the opportunity to develop their own OER including their own voices.
  • You and your students are free to redistribute and share new and revised content.