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Open Educational Resources

An introduction to Open Educational Resources and Copyright.


Are you interested in OER but have no idea where to start? Or maybe you are ready to create you own OER and want to share. This guide is a great starting point for learning how to both use and create your own. It was developed as a part of the September 2020 Creative Commons Certificate Course of Librarians and was funding through a North Dakota University System OER Faculty Stipend.

What does Open Mean?

iconOpen Access

Open Access literature is freely available and openly licensed so everyone can access the information instead of the traditional publishing model. In the traditional publishing model, researchers are funded by governments and foundations for their projects. Then they submit their results to journal publishers and after peer review, their articles are published within academic journals which a generally only accessible through university libraries. These journals can be extremely expensive so only a few people are actually able to access the results. This system limits scholarly conversation and innovation.

"Open Access" by AJC1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Researchers now have a choice to publish their works openly instead of in a traditional journal. Open journals are available with the same system of peer review but without the high cost of access. This makes their research more accessible to everyone.

Importance of Open Access

Open access to research can significantly speed up innovation. This can easily be seen with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many different companies, universities, hospitals, and organizations are researching the disease and sharing their research openly so everyone can benefit in a greater understanding of the disease itself, how communities can lessen the impact, and which treatments work best, along with the creation of a vaccine. Having this research available openly allows for quicker responses to our ever-changing world.  More information is available at  UNESCO's Open access to facilitate research and information on COVID-19 webpage.

Looking outside the pandemic, Open Access is important to faculty and students. Libraries cannot afford subscriptions to every academic journal and while InterLibrary Loan does create a system where libraries can obtain a copy of almost any article for a student or faculty member, it is not always possible. Time restraints can also pay a role and force a student for faculty to pay $50-75 to a publisher in order to access a journal article immediately.

iconOpen Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials used in teaching that are both freely available and openly licensed to remove barriers for both instructors and students. While at first glance, it may seem like anything available on the open web is an OER, that is not true. While the Internet is the most-used platform for OER publishing, simply being available freely online does not mean that a resource openly licensed. OERs contain licenses that allow users to use, adapt, and share the work in a variety of ways. Only content with an open license (generally from Creative Commons) can be called an OER.

"On open educational resources -- Beyond definitions" by opensourceway is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Faculty Benefits

Faculty choosing an OER text for their courses has a lot more benefits than simply saving students money. David Wiley refers to the 5R permissions that help determine what resources can be considered an OER.

  1. Retain: Have you ever used a video on Youtube in a class only to have it disappear when you want to use it again? With OER you have a right to retain your own copies of the work without making potentially illegal copies.
  2. Reuse: While educational exemptions to U.S. copyright law do give exemptions to using materials in class, there are questions when you reuse the same materials over and over, such as copying and sharing the same article with a course for multiple semesters. With OER you are able to use these sources over and over again.
  3. Revise: Textbooks are generally lengthy and some of the information inside can be out-of-date even as it is being printed. With an OER textbook, faculty can update the text as they see fit or remove content not covered in their course.
  4. Remix: With traditional textbooks, an instructor may like some chapters in one textbook but other chapters in another. As the average textbook costs $100, it would be difficult to ask students to purchase 2 different textbooks that cover the same content. When using an OER text, the possibilities to remix works into your own course textbook are endless.
  5. Redistribute: Once you have created the perfect text for your course, you can share copies with your students and depending on the licensing (see the Creative  Commons licensing page for more details), you can share your creation with the entire world.

This material is an adaptation of Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources, which was originally written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license

Student Benefits

  • Format: With normal textbooks, students have to choose at the beginning of the course whether they would like to purchase a digital, print, or even audio copy of their textbook. It is generally price prohibitive to for students to purchase multiple formats. With an OER textbook students do not have to make that choice. They can use a printed copy of the book to study in their room but use the digital copy to search for a specific content in class. If an audio version is available they can listen to their text while driving to campus.
  • Cost: The cost of higher education continues to climb and along with that, the cost of textbooks. When instructors use an OER for their course, their students have immediate access to the resource and do not have to choose between eating noodles for a month or purchasing the text.
  • Retain: Related to cost, is the ability for students to retain their text. Students can save money by either renting a text or selling it after the course is complete. This prevents students from being able to revisit the content when it relates to other courses in their academic career. When instructors use OER, students can easily retain copies of their old textbooks and make connections from one course to another.

Relationship between OER and OA

OER is a part of the broader Open Access movement. By publishing research in open access journals and teaching your courses with OER textbooks, faculty can show their students the importance of sharing knowledge widely and removing barriers to access. It helps create the social norm that information should be available to everyone and helps open the door to wider educational attainment.

"Open Educational Resources" is a derivative of the September 2020 Creative Commons Certificate Course by Creative Commons, licensed CC BY 4.0. Kelly Kornkven adapted content from the Creative Commons Certificate Course Unit 5 on CC for Librarians, by adapting the content for MSU faculty, staff and student and adding additional CC licensed graphics.

Creative Commons Certificate Course

participants in courseYou can become Certified in Creative Commons by taking part of the Creative Commons Certificate Course.