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UALR Collections & Archives Research Guides

Ottenheimer Library | Sequoyah National Research Center (SNRC) | Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC)

Discovering Open Educational Resources (OER)

What/Why/Who

Open Educational Resources are educational materials and resources that are publicly accessible meaning that they are openly available for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute.

You may already be familiar with open access journals and books. These materials are not "free". Someone had to create them and costs were borne by some party. But the author or publisher licensed the content so that any member of the public may access it and possibly re-use or re-format it. 

OER is similar in that the individuals who create these resources are licensing the content so that it is publicly accessible and may be re-purposed by others for educational applications.

OER include:

  • Learning content: full courses, course material, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals.
     
  • Tools: software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and online learning communities.
     
  • Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.

Thanks to Steven Bell at Temple University for creating the original version of this section and for making it available to all by using a Creative Commons license. 

OER is a movement in education that seeks to counter costly, commercially produced learning content, typically textbooks, with publicly accessible content that is licensed so that it can be freely distributed and shared. Here is an official definition from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: 

Digital materials offered freely and openly for educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research. OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use, and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences.

Educators and learners as well as learning institutions are driving its development. OER provides an alternative to the rising costs of education. It alleviates the burden of student debt while providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to afford or access materials. For example, in some countries like South Africa, many educators and learners are tapping into OER as the only source for textbooks.

OER provides an opportunity to try new ways of teaching and learning, many of which are more collaborative and participatory.  

Thanks to Steven Bell at Temple University for creating the original version of this section and for making it available to all by using a Creative Commons license. 

Educators across the K-16 spectrum are taking advantage of OER to (1) move away from traditional textbooks and (2) improve learning by introducing students to more varied and current learning content. In higher education, faculty are adopting OER as a way to save their students money but also increase the likelihood that students will acquire and read learning content. 

If you include free online courses, another type of learning content included in the definition of OER, almost any citizen of the planet who is taking advantage of a free online course, a Kahn Academy Video, an educational video - they are all using OER.

Who isn't using OER. Too often faculty at higher education institutions are not aware of the existence of OER. Academic librarians are joining forces to help create more awareness at their institutions.

Thanks to Steven Bell at Temple University for creating the original version of this section and for making it available to all by using a Creative Commons license. 

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Creative Commons License Information

Creative Commons website

Licensing types include:

More about OER

Open Education Week

Open Education Consortium

Open Textbook Library – A component of Open Textbook Network

Creative Commons Education/OER

EDUCAUSE Library - Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Education Resources at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Open Educational Resources at University of Maryland University Libraries

Open Educational Resources at University of Massachusetts, Amherst Libraries

OpenOregon Educational Resources - Oregon Statewide Education Library Resources

BCcampus OpenED

A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) - UNESCO Commonwealth of Learning