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Open Educational Resources (OERs): A Librarian Guide: Overview

Overview of the role librarians can play in OER initiatives.


"Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world."


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.

Here is a handout with more information on Creative Commons Licenses (notice that the handout has a Creative Commons License itself!):

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): 

As with any other resource, OERs should be carefully evaluated before being included in your course. The following two resources provide guidelines to assist you in selecting the right OER for your course:

Related University Libraries LibGuides

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