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The Basics 

Open educational resources (OER) are materials for education which are shared with an open license that allows faculty & students to do the 5 R’s: revise, remix, reuse, redistribute, and retain.

Meaning, they can be downloaded, customized to your course, saved locally, and shared back out with attribution.

Sounds simple?  Here's a few more things you should know.

OER: is not a real term.  If you are looking for these resources, use "open educational resources" or "textbook affordability".

​Only FREE & ONLINE: OER materials can be found online, but print options for faculty or students are easily available for a low cost.

Textbook Affordability means ONLY FREE TEXTBOOKS:  Actually, affordable means just that, affordable options for students.  Open education is about providing the best resources for students to be successful in their courses while being affordable.  This can be using open texts, supplementing copyrighted materials with open materials, using library resources, or other combinations that provide students with a quality, accessible education.

Affordable options are typically classified as Low Cost courses.  Each institution has its own definition of what a low cost course is.  While the amount varies, most courses classified as having low cost materials total $50 or under. 

Below are some other related terms.


Open Education encompasses resources, tools, and practices that are free of legal, financial, and technical barriers” (SPARC).  This includes open educational resources, open pedagogy, open courseware, and more.


is research that is freely available online.  It should have similar licensing, promoting others to build upon and take the research to a new level.


is the free, online availability of research data, along with the rights to use, enhance, analyze, and build upon the data for any purpose.


initially coined around software designers, platform programmers, and similar tech that allows the world at large to share products, improve them, and redistribute without cost to users.  Internet browsers like Firefox or web-design platforms such as Drupal are examples of Open Source.  While open sourcing was a front-runner in the world of open, don’t confuse these with OER.  While they fabulously open their source code to be used and modified by the public, the creators of open source systems still own the copyright to their work.

And since we're talking about affordable...

Here are some facts.

  • Americans hold over $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt.

  • Textbook prices have risen over 1,000% since 1977.

  • 5 major publishers own 90% of the $9 billion textbook market.

  • If every college student in the US has just one textbook replaced with an OER, it would save students $1 billion every year.

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