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Open Educational Resources: What are OER?

What is OER?

"Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." - William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Introduction to Open Education Resources

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

OER are educational materials that are specifically designed by their creator/s to be openly available, and are often licensed to be re-used, re-mixed, and re-distributed.  Open is not just about low cost (though that is an important benefit of using OER) but about the ability to take what others have created, customize it for your specific educational needs, and then share your creation with others.  

OER come in a variety of forms:

  • Primary sources - Images, video, and sound recordings.  Some  sources are in the public domain, while others have been licensed as open by their creators.   In addition, many texts that are in the public domain are available online/electronically.
  • Learning content - created content that ranges from individual lectures, animations, and assessments to complete courses and textbooks.  

Why OER?

The open resource movement has been around for a while, starting with static learning objects (about 2000), and transitioning to OER that allowed for revision and reuse. It is the ever increasing cost of textbooks and materials for students that is now pushing the OER movement forward.  Textbooks and learning materials cost students approximately $1,200 per year.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students didn't purchase a textbook because it was too expensive.  Through OER the cost of student materials can be drastically reduced.  OER also give instructors the ability to customize the materials, creating the "perfect" textbook instead of being bound to traditional print resources. 

How to get started

The first step is finding OER, and that is what this guide is designed to do, so check out

  • the Open Textbooks page, which will link you to repositories of open and free textbooks you can customize and adopt for your courses.
  • the Finding OER section, which will help you navigate through some different sources for OER, as well as tips for finding openly licensed images.
  • the adopting and evaluating OER page, which will give you some basic guidelines to use when deciding to adopt OER and how to assess the different OER available to you.
  • the Creative Commons and copyright pages, which are helpful if you have questions about open licensing (Creative Commons Licensing) and the ins and outs of copyright.

PLEASE NOTE:  While this guide is specifically designed to introduce OER to faculty and staff at ICC, don't forget numerous electronic resources are available to you through the ICC Library.  

Read More about OER

Study finds use of open educational resources on the rise in introductory courses

Open Textbooks Could Help Students

The Cost and Quality of Open Textbooks:

What Are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Understanding OER in 11 Videos

Go to the video playlist on YouTube to view each video individually or watch all 10 videos continuously below.


Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, Illinois Central College (ICC) Library Guide on Open Educational Resources is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Material in this LibGuide is adapted from:

Defiance College, Pilgrim Library Research Guide on Open Educational Resources by Lisa Crumit-Hancock. Permission to use granted with attribution. 

Lansing Community College (LCC) Library Research Guide on Open Educational Resources (OER) by Regina Gong licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The University of Oklahoma Libraries Research Guild on Open Educational Resources by Jen Waller and Cody Taylor licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. All linked-to content adheres to its respective license.

Austin Community College (ACC) Library Services Guide on Open Educational Resources by Carrie Gits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License