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Open Educational Resources (OER): Introduction

Open Educational Resources 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" (William and FLora Hewlett Foundation).

OER image by Wikimedia Commons. CC BY

Why OER?

Benefits for Students

Using OER can provide tremendous cost savings for students as well as impact student success and completion rates. 

The cost of textbooks can be a financial burden on students, which not only affects student success but could also delay graduation for students who are taking fewer classes per term because of that cost, further increasing financial costs for students over time. OER provide students with day one access to free course materials, and research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.

OER allow students to have learning materials right from the start of their courses. This is not a negligible point, as the results of the Florida Virtual Campus’ 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey show: 66.6 percent of surveyed students did not purchase a required textbook because of the cost, which these students felt resulted in them earning a poor grade (37.6 percent) or earning a failing grade (19.8 percent). 47.6 percent of students surveyed also indicated that they have taken fewer courses occasionally or frequently, 45.5 percent did not register for a course, 26.1 percent dropped a course, and 20.7 percent withdrew from a course because of the cost of required textbooks.

2016 Florida Virtual Campus Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey Chart 1: Impact of Textbook Costs on Students

Benefits for Faculty

Faculty enjoy more freedom in selecting course materials and can customize these materials to fit the specific needs of their students and goals of their classes. Since OER permit adaptation, educators are free to edit, reorder, delete from, or remix OER materials. OER provide clearly defined rights to users, so educators are not faced with interpreting Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines. 


Video: Why OER? by Holyoke Community College OER Taskforce CC_BY
Video: Open Educational Resources at Santa Fe College by Santa Fe College Educational Media Studio

What does Open mean?

Open is so much more than free. Free resources are an important part of Open Educational Resources and enable students greater access to learning. In this environment, open means that instructors and students have permission to freely download, edit, share, and keep the educational resources that they have revised. These permissions to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute and retain educational resources are commonly known as the 5Rs of Open Education. These 5R rights and sharing privileges are made possible by the Creative Commons Licenses. These CC licenses are attribution tools that allow free distribution of an otherwise copy written work.

Subject Contacts

OEN member bades

Jean Shumway

Reference & Instruction Librarian
724-287-8711 ext. 8296

Gloria Sabatelli

Coordinator of Educational Technology

724-871-8711 ext. 8298

Information used on this page was borrowed from the Community College of Allegheny County library's OER pages at