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Open Educational Resources (OER): A Guide for Instructors


Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.

  • Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource
  • Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly
  • Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
  • Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
  • Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others

Source: Creative Commons. "Open Education." Accessed October 22, 2021.

OER proponent David Wiley summarizes how you can use OERs with his "5 Rs":

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, own, store, and manage)
  2. 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)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)

Source: Wiley, D. (2014). An Open Educational Reader (Ed.). Montreal: Pressbooks.

Great care must be taken to ensure that copyright laws are not being broken when incorporating an OER into your course. It should always be presumed that a resource's use is restricted unless it contains a Creative Commons License or explicitly states that it can be used for educational purposes.

This video provides a brief introduction to Creative Commons licenses and explains some of the rights that can be granted.

Even if a resource does not have a Creative Commons License, it could possibly fall under fair use (please note that such a resource would not be considered an OER). Here is a checklist to help determine if you are within your rights to use a copyrighted resource (Note: It is strongly recommended you check with the Libraries to make sure you are applying fair use correctly): 

Have copyright questions?

Contact the UNL Libraries copyright experts:

Paul Royster
University Libraries Coordinator for Scholarly Communications
322 Love Library

Sue Ann Gardner
University Libraries Scholarly Communications Librarian/Cataloging and Metadata Librarian
322 Love Library

As with any other resource, OERs should be carefully evaluated before being included in your course. There isn't one standard OER evaluation tool, but here is a list of OER evaluation checklists and rubrics. 

Accessibility and OERs

In order to ensure your course materials are accessible to all learners, all OER evaluations should include an accessibility review. Here are some resources to help you determine the accessibility of your OERs.

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