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Open Educational Resources

A guide for those interested in finding, using, or creating open educational resources

What is an Open Educational Resource (OER)?

As a faculty member or a student, you might think that "Open Educational Resources" (OERs) solely consist of free textbooks. While some OERs are textbooks and most are free, there's a lot more to OERs than free textbooks.

According to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, "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." 

OERs can be entire textbooks, or they can be any of the following:

  • Videos
  • Handouts
  • Lesson plans
  • Tutorials
  • Test banks
  • A lot more!

OERs aren't just a way to save students money on course materials; they also allow faculty the freedom and flexibility to customize course content to meet their needs. While not every faculty member will be able to find OERs that support his/her course learning outcomes, many are finding that OERs have a positive impact on student retention, satisfaction, and participation in the classroom. 

Please don't hesitate to ask your personal librarian if you have questions about OERs!

Open Educational Resource FAQs

Are library resources considered OERs?

While library-licensed content like ebooks and peer-reviewed articles from our databases can be offered to students at no additional cost, they are not technically OERs. The content cannot be freely shared and remixed the way OERs can. However, library resources can be a great alternative or supplement to traditional commercial textbooks. See our Electronic Course Reserves guide for more details.

Why doesn't the library just buy all the required textbooks for CSU courses?

Unfortunately, the library doesn't have the enormous funding required to purchase every required textbook. However, the library does maintain a Textbook Center that consists of donated textbooks. Books in the collection can be checked out for two hours at a time.

How can I find OERs for my subject area?

See the Open Textbooks tab of this guide to get started on your own, or please feel free to consult your Personal Librarian, who can help you find open content, if it exists, to fill a niche in your classroom curriculum.

If the content is free, it can't be any good, right?

It's natural to assume that free content is of poor quality - sometimes that is absolutely the case! However, just like the publishing process of a commercial textbook, the creation process for an OER is not free. Often significant funding goes into the creation of OERs, whether via large grant-funding agencies like the Hewlett and Gates foundations, institutional funding, or government support. There are cases, of course, where teachers who have already created instructional content decide to share it freely with others. In these cases, it's up to the subject expert to decide whether the OERs are of good quality.

Who creates OERs and how are they compensated?

OERs are created by a wide variety of instructors. Often authors are compensated upfront for their efforts, whether via large grant-funding agencies like the Hewlett and Gates foundations, institutional funding, or government support. Faculty who create OERs can sometimes present on their pedagogical experience, earning additional credit towards promotion and tenure.

How are OERs different from inclusive access?

Both OERs and inclusive access are tools that attempt to make higher education more affordable for students. Inclusive access is a publishing model whereby publishers provide a course textbook to every student on the first day of class in exchange for a course fee that students may opt out of paying (although they then no longer receive the textbook). This model allows publishers to reduce the cost of their textbooks, sometimes by quite a bit. However, it is important to note that texts that are available through inclusive access are sometimes only available for the course of a semester, and do not enjoy the flexibility of OER content that can be altered and remixed.

What is Ohio doing as a state to support the development of OERs?

In 2017 OhioLINK became an institutional member of the Open Textbook Network, a network of over 600 institutions across the globe. Several OhioLINK institutions were also awarded a large ODHE grant at that time to support the creation of open educational resources for courses frequently taught in Ohio institutions. Since then, OhioLINK initiated a series of projects, collectively called Affordable Learning Ohio, to lower the cost of college for Ohio higher education students. The projects explored by this initiative include the following:

Don't hesitate to contact your personal librarian with questions about the Affordable Learning Ohio initiative or how CSU is collaborating with OhioLINK on this effort!

Report Use of Affordable Course Content