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Open Educational Resources

This guide explains OERs and provides faculty members with resources to find and create Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources? 

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available, reusable documents, assessments, courses media, textbooks, and more. They are shared by universities, colleges, individual instructors, and instructional designers to both assist instructors in teaching and to ease the financial burden for resources on students. This guide will provide you with links to find OER and links to create them yourself. 

Why should faculty use or develop OERs? 

OERs have a number of benefits. They can help with

  • Student success 
  • Innovation
  • Cost-cutting 
  • Accessibility 
  • Adaptability 

Why OERs?


Top Arguments for Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Evidence and sources supporting these arguments

Innovation: Open Educational Resources (OERs) Drive Innovation on Campuses


  • Faculty involvement in OERs can generate pedagogical innovation and active learning


“According to the OPAL study (Andrade et al., 2011), educators, policy makers and institutional leaders largely agree that the use of OER:

1) leads to pedagogical changes (69%);

2) shifts education provision from content- to activity-based learning (62%); and

3) shifts the role of learners from passive receivers to active producers (64%). These results are based on an online survey administered in 2010 to educational practitioners in higher education and adult learning across the world (final sample N=581; 79% from EU member states).”


Orr, D., M. Rimini and D. van Damme  (2015), Open Educational Resources: A catalyst for innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris.


Quality: OERs Can Improve Quality of Content


  • Continuous improvement can drive high quality OER materials

“Because the Open Curriculum is licensed in such a way that we can revise materials directly, OHSU is able to engage in a highly data-driven curriculum improvement process…This information can be combined with item response theory and learning outcome analysis data to set priorities for curriculum or assessment revision empirically. This data-driven process of curriculum improvement should allow the Open Curriculum to reach a very high level of quality very quickly (p. 38).”


Bodily, R., Nyland, R., & Wiley, D. (2017). The RISE Framework: Using learning analytics to automatically identify open educational resources for continuous improvement. International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 18(2), 103-122.

Cost-cutting: OERs Are Proven to Cut Costs


  • Even at private universities, Open Educational Resources have been proven to reduce overall expenditures for students.
  • Fewer expenses can help enhance Duquesne University’s appeal to potential first-year students



OpenStax saved Rice University Students $39 million during the 2015-2016 academic year. Rice University is a private university with a population of about 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students.


Boyd, J. (2016). OpenStax already saved students $39 million this academic year. Rice University News and Media.



Customization: OERs Allow for Customization


  • OER specialists can facilitate creating course content across a variety of media: readings, podcasts, videos, online tutorials, ebooks, course reserves



“Faculty members can customize their class instruction for their students. David Wiley, open education proponent, argues compellingly in iterating toward openness’ that OERs can facilitate more meaningful, more inclusive pedagogical practices.”


The possibility to continually change and adapt an existing resource and to put it to new uses is unique to resources that

have the property of “open”. Open in this sense means that the resources do not have an inherent end. They need not follow the typical path from design to obsolescence, and adaptations and repurposing can lead them from one phase of maturity to the next. This characteristic gives them an important role in helping the educational enterprise become resilient (Weller, 2014) or anti-fragile (Taleb, 2012), i.e. to be able to benefit from changes to content, context, and teaching and learning strategies.”



Orr, D., Rimini, M, & van Damme, D. (2015). Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation. Paris: OECD Publishing.


Access: OERs Promote Better Accessibility for Everyone


  • Multimodal options can contribute to accessibility
  • Accessibility for students with disabilities can improve the overall accessibility for all students



“However a consistent result from projects investigating accessibility is that planning for use by disabled students leads to content that serves all users better; for example, making instructions clearer for dyslexic students will also make them clearer for all.”


Scanlon, E., McAndrew, P., & O'Shea, T. (2015). Designing for educational technology to enhance the experience of learners in distance education: How Open Educational Resources, learning design and MOOCS are influencing learning. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2015(1), Art. 6.


94 percent of high school students with learning disabilities get some kind of help, just 17 percent of learning-disabled college students do.


National Center for Learning Disabilities.


Success/Retention: OERs Bolster Success and Retention


  • Courses using OERs can help students succeed and stay in school by maximizing accessibility, availability, and multimodal options
  • There are strong indicators that Open Educational Resources help students pass classes, which in turn helps increase retention



“During the fall semester 2011, 690 students used this book. Compared with students using a traditional text in the spring of 2011, students who used the free online textbook scored higher on departmental final examinations, had higher grade point averages in the class and had higher retention rates.”


Hilton, J., & Laman, C. (2012). One college’s use of an open psychology textbook. Open Learning, 27(3), 265-272. doi:10.1080/02680513.2012.716657


“Eighty-four per cent of students surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘Having a free online book helps me go to college’.”


Hilton, J., & Laman, C. (2012). One college’s use of an open psychology textbookOpen Learning27(3), 265-272. doi:10.1080/02680513.2012.716657


Similar conclusions drawn from an OER program at Mercy College:

  • “Mercy has achieved several results from the math OER implementation:
  • Mercy math faculty reported a nearly 10 percent reduction in course failures in the first semester of using MOM.
  • Math instructors cited the availability of the free online text on the very first day of class as key to their retention efforts.
  • At pilot's end, Mercy's Mathematics Department chair announced that, starting in fall 2012, all 27 sections (695 students) in basic mathematics would use MOM.
  • Between spring 2011 and fall 2012, the math pass rate increased from 48.40 percent to 68.90 percent (see figure 3).”


Pawlyshyn, N. (2013, November 4). Adopting OER: A case study of cross-institutional collaboration and innovation. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from


Social Justice: Textbook Prices Are a Social Justice Issue


  • Marginalized student populations are often the most vulnerable when trying to cover the costs associated with attending a university with student loans









“Sure, you could be the super-prepared student who knows how to work the system and get them *all* as rentals — but not every student can be first in line at the bookstore. And the ones at the back of the line — guess their socio-economic class and first generation status?”


Caulfield, M. (2015, November 9). Asking what students spend on textbooks is the wrong questions. Retrieved from


“The net result is that rising textbook and course material costs are most noticeable among low-income, first-generation, and first-year students, all of whom represent the most vulnerable from a student success perspective (Tinto, 2006). “


Salem, J. A. (2017). Open pathways to student success: Academic library partnerships for Open Educational Resource and affordable course content creation and adoption. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(1), 34–38.

Libraries Can Act as Hubs of OERs and OER Implementation


  • Existing personnel and resources can drive implementation

“OER initiatives and university libraries share a determination to improve access to all kinds of scholarly and educational materials, both on their campuses and throughout the world. Given those dovetailing values, partnerships between OER initiatives and libraries seem not just logistically convenient but philosophically obvious.”


Libraries can offer the following OER initiative resources:


  • Infrastructure, including search and discovery capabilities, copyright expertise, data storage, metadata and indexing, IRs and preservation tools,
  • Relationships, including outreach and education, curriculum development, instructional support


Kleymeer, P., Kleinman, M., & Hanss, T. (2010). Reaching the heart of the university: Libraries and the future of OER. In Open ED 2010 Proceedings. Barcelona: UOC, OU, BYU.


“In response to the broken textbook market, libraries are becoming actively involved in the open educational resources (OER) movement. Although there is not a formal program in place, librarians at Utah State University explored a collaborative approach to integrate OER in faculty members' courses. One goal of the effort was to work closely with faculty to consider course objectives and learning outcomes when evaluating and incorporating OER.”


Davis, E., Cochran, D., Fagerheim, B., & Thoms, B. (2016). Enhancing teaching and learning: Libraries and Open Educational Resources in the classroom. Public Services Quarterly, 12(1), 22-35. doi:10.1080/15228959.2015.1108893