Introduction to Open Access

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Open Educational Resources, or OER, “are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” [1]

“Unlike copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared.” [2]

The 5Rs of Openness

David Wiley has developed a framework for open educational resources that defines how they can be used. The 5Rs of Openness are as follows:

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) [3]

Why use OER?

The OER movement is about equity and flexibility. “The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning content through engaging educators in new participatory processes and effective technologies for engaging with learning.” [4]

Learn More

In the article “Why Openness in Education?” part of the Educause Game Changers series, Dr. Cable Green of Creative Commons and Dr. David Wiley, Shuttleworth Fellow discuss the rationale for openness in education.

OER Myths: A Basic Guide to OER, European Open EDU Policy Project

Why Give Knowledge Away for Free? The Case for Open Educational Resources?, Technology Innovation Management Review

OER Campus Promo Toolkit Beta, Community College Consortium for Educational Resources

  1. "Open Educational Resources," The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  2. "Open Educational Resources (OER) Support Equity and Flexibility," OER Commons
  3. "The Access Compromise and the 5th R," David Wiley, Iterating Toward Openness
  4. "Open Educational Resources (OER) Support Equity and Flexibility," OER Commons


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Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide Copyright © 2017 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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