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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide to freely available educational resources, including courses, lectures, textbooks, curricula, software, and other open access materials.

What is OER?


Open Educational Resources, or OER, are freely available educational materials used by students and teachers. These materials include textbooks, courses, assignments, and lectures online that are open access because they are either in the public domain, or licensed in such a way as to provide free/adaptable use.

A definition from UNESCO:

"Open Educational Resources (OER) 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."

Use this guide to find additional help with your classes at UT, or to explore new subject matter on your own. You can additionally find more open access sites on each of the subject specific Research Guides.

Here is a useful quick-start guide on what OERs are and how to use them:


"The creation, curation, and widespread use of open educational resources (OER) is making a significant difference in democratizing access to a high-quality education." If you'd like to learn more about how OER champions higher-ed, read the CARE Framework Toward a Sustainable OER Ecosystem: The Case for OER Stewardship that lays out how OER is dismantling the traditional barriers to quality learning and teaching, such as access, affordability, and inclusion.


OER and Open Access


Open Access (OA) scholarly materials are any digital publications that are free to use. You probably have come across some freely available journal articles on the web from open access collections. These were published under the OA model, so they typically have re-use rights (are free of copyright and licensing restrictions.) Because they are free, OA journals are published differently than traditional subscription journals. Read more about that on the Scholarly Communication Guide. For current controversies and misconceptions about OA, see the Predatory Open Access Publishers Guide.

For a more comprehensive discussion about OA, here is a book by Peter Suber called Open Access, accessible on the Internet Archive.

OA scholarship is similar to Open Education Resources because OERs are by nature open access. The difference is that OERs are materials specifically used in the classroom (K-12, undergrad, and graduate) such as lesson plans, textbooks, sample syllabi, video lectures, adaptable educational software, and other course materials.

How can I use OERs?


You can use an OER in a lot of creative ways as long as you provide attribution, that is, link back to the original source (cite the author). This means you can access these resources for free, use them in your class in a presentation, or use them as a teaching tool.

From Opencontent.org: The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

What Students can do with OER


Below are some resources to get started with learning about OERs and how to advocate for them at your college or university:


What Faculty can do with OER


Here are some resources to get faculty started with using OERs in the classroom:

I still don't get it. So what? Isn't everything on the Internet free?


Most scholarship isn't free.

What you see on the internet is mostly unvetted information (blogs, personal websites), or news sites from established print or digital magazines and newspapers. When you are enrolled as a student at UT or any other college or university, you gain access to thousands of books, articles, videos, software, and other resources that you wouldn't have access to otherwise. The institution pays for these resources.

That said, there is a growing movement to provide free and open materials to everyone via the internet. Why? The cost of textbooks are prohibitive, and affording college is a challenge to many people around the world.

OERs allow students to save money, and they can be a valuable way to supplement your education. They help teachers to construct quality curricula.


This guide was adapted by many other OER guides, including: The New School, Arizona State University, Virginia Tech, Elon University, Furman University, and others

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