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Open Educational Resources (OER)

What is an educational resource?

What is an Open Educational Resource? Let's forget about what 'Open' means for a minute and start with 'educational resources'.

What do we mean by educational resources?

Some obvious examples that might immediately come to mind might be textbooks or lesson plans. But really, educational resources could include anything, in any format, that is used as a pedagogical tool, for the practice of teaching. This might include, but not be limited to:

  • textbooks
  • educational videos
  • podcasts
  • self-directed online tutorials
  • exams and essay prompts
  • lesson plans
  • marking rubrics
  • lectures
  • courses or modules

UNESCO definition of OER 

"OERs 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”. 

What are 'OPEN' educational resources?

Open educational resources are educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone and available under a license that allows users to use, remix, improve and redistribute. Sharing ideas and resources and collaborating on projects as part of a community is key to the Open Education movement.

Definition from University of Texas Introduction to OER for Language Teachers, CC-BY 4.0

Educational resources that are Open provide users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the following 5R activities:

Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
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)
Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
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)

From Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources by David Wiley, published in his blog, licensed under a CC BY license

Benefits of OER

OER offer financial and pedagogical benefits.

  • they can improve student performance and satisfaction
  • Increase access to educational materials for a wider range of learners
  • give instructors the flexibility to customize materials specifically for their students' needs
  • encourage educators to engage in critical reflection of educational resources
  • help students and educational institutions save money

 [From University of Texas Introduction to OER for Language TeachersCC-BY 4.0]

Getting started with OER

This Open Educational Resources (OER) Library Guide created by staff at the Library in the University of Galway is a great place to get started with OERS.

There are many textbooks, guides, presentations, and online resources available to help you get started. We recommend the following resources: 

Open Education Handbook (Open Education Working Group)

The OER Starter Kit (Abbey Elder / Iowa State)

Introduction to OER and Open Licensing webinar (Catherine Cronin, Lee O'Farrell, Jennryn Wetzler / National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education)

Learning more about OER

Rebus Community Office Hours is a series of webinars on OER-related topics including thinking about peer review for OER, adapting OER for your unique context, and much more.