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Open Educational Resources (OER): Overview

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are educational materials that are freely and openly available to anyone to use, reuse, revise, repurpose, remix, and redistribute. See other definitions here.

7 Things You Need to Know About Open Educational Resources (by EDUCAUSE)

How to Use Open Educational Resources (a self-paced workshop by Open Washington)

Major initiatives

Key characteristics of an OER

  • Authorship. Originate from colleges and universities, libraries, organizations, faculty or other individuals. 
  • Formats. Typically, in digital format, including multimedia formats.
  • Platforms. No platform restraints.
  • Ownership. Either reside in the public domain or are released under an open license.
  • Conditions. Permit free use and re-purposing by others.

The 5Rs of OER

OER means that a resource is available free of cost and that five permissions (called the "5Rs") are also available free of cost.

These permissions include:

Retain Make and own copies
Reuse Use in a wide range of ways
Revise Adapt, modify, and improve
Remix Combine two or more
Redistribute Share with others





Based on David Wiley's The Access Compromise and the 5th R: CC BY

OER Licenses

OER either reside in the public domain or are licensed under an open license. You may freely use materials residing in the public domain without any restrictions. Broadly defined, an open license is a license that grants permission to use, re-use, and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions. Creative Commons licenses are most widely used by OER creators. You may freely use materials released under the Creative Commons (CC) licenses as long as you follow the license conditions, which offer various degrees of openness. CC BY is the most open license.


(CC BY Gable)

Examples of other open licenses include open publication license and GNU Free Documentation License. 

Types of OER

  • textbooks
  • courses
  • syllabi and lesson plans
  • learning modules
  • tests
  • teaching techniques
  • writing prompts
  • group activities
  • audio and video recordings
  • games
  • software applications
  • experiments
  • simulations
  • any other material used for educational purposes 

Typical OER models

  • Individual OER. Created as individual components and stored in OER repositories (e.g., in the OER Commons
  • Open textbooks. Compiled as textbooks (e.g., a collection of open textbooks in OpenStax)
  • OpenCourseWare (OCW). Organized as online courses (e.g., MIT OpenCourseWare).
  • Peer-productions. Produced by groups of individuals (e.g., Wikipedia)


This guide is licensed under   and should be cited as follows: 

"Open Educational Resources (OER)" by Salisbury University Libraries, licensed under CC BY 2.0