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Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Why OER matters?

Benefits for students:

  • Free or lower cost of study
  • Easy access to resources
  • Ability to engage with all course materials without need to purchase textbooks or eBook access licences

Benefits for academics:

  • Resources can be selected and combined to suit specific course needs
  • Increases student retention by reducing costs
  • Provides customised, more relevant and engaging materials for students
  • Learning performance is not affected by the use of OER

Why choose Open Educational Resources?

Australian support for OER adoption

Australian Open Textbook Project: Textbooks as Social Justice

Open educational practices in Australia: A first-phase National Audit of Higher Education

Free textbooks for first-year university students could help improve retention rates

Students say textbooks are too expensive – could an open access model be the answer?

Is it time to offer students more choices than the prescribed textbook?

What does the literature say?

A summary of literature on the benefits of OER adoption in higher education can be found here and here.

Efficacy of Open Textbook adoption on learning performance and course withdrawal rates: a meta-analysis (2019)

The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics

Open Educational Resources Mythbusting

  • Myths surrounding the use of OERs are busted in this document, which also contains a useful summary of what OERs are and how they differ from other digital resources.

NMC Horizon Report - proliferation of OERs (p.14)

Related Guides

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Watch this short video 'Understanding OER'

Released by SMU Libraries via Youtube under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching and learning materials which have been made freely available for use and adaptation. OERs are not just textbooks - they can also be videos, images, lesson plans, worksheets, assessments, courses, software, and more. Essentially, OERs are free for everyone to engage with. How they are engaged with depends on the type of resource.

In order for something to be an “OER” it should be openly licensed and meet the 5Rs.

You should be able to:

  • Retain it (e.g. make and save copies)
  • Reuse it (e.g. use in class, in a video, etc.)
  • Revise it (e.g. adapt, alter, modify, etc.)
  • Remix it (e.g. combine to create something new)
  • Redistribute it (e.g. share copies with students)

Note that OERs are often licensed under a Creative Commons licence. You can learn more about Creative Commons and the licences under 'What is Creative Commons?' and on the Creative Commons website.

The adoption of OER “presents the opportunity for instructors to rethink their pedagogies and for institutions to shape how teaching and learning is connected to the broader institutional strategy” (2020 NMC Horizon Report).

So, what can I do with OERs? You could:

  • Translate it into a different language
  • Change it to suit your students’ needs
  • Change the format (e.g. narrate or copy to a hard drive or LMS)
  • Make a new textbook or anthology from existing works

What about Open Access? Is this the same thing?

Not quite. Open Access (OA) generally refers to scholarly outputs which are made freely available, allowing any user to read, download, copy or distribute, without financial, legal or technical barriers (AOASG).

OERs on the other hand generally refer to teaching and learning materials which are made freely available (with an open licence, of course).

However, they often go hand-in-hand because students will need to access journal articles, and current research in their field, to complete their studies.

There’s more information about Open Access on the USC Open Access Library Guide.


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