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Open Educational Resources: Home: Understanding OER

What are open educational resources (OER)?

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources created with the intention of being freely available to users anywhere. They may include, but are not limited to, textbooks, readings, multi-media files, software, games, assessment tools, and even entire courses. Most are covered by licenses that allow for using, re-mixing, and sharing.

The use of OER in higher education is gaining momentum as a means of addressing textbook affordability for students and enhancing broad access to learning resources. For faculty, the use of OER provides more flexibility and control over easily customizable, high-quality instructional resources.

SFU Open Educational Resources Grants provide funding and staff support to faculty members who wish to integrate open textbooks or other OER into their courses.

The Faculty OER Toolkit is an introductory guide to adapting and adopting OER. Included are definitions and examples, information about Creative Commons licensing, and tips on how to adapt and/or adopt OER for classroom use.

The 5 R's of Openness

What does it mean for an educational resource to be "open"? The 5R Framework, proposed by David Wiley, defines the major characteristics of open content.

the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
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)
the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
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) 

*This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at:

Licensing (Creative Commons)

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works that are available to share and build upon legally. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. Each of their licenses is represented with a symbol that explains all the rights associated with the resource.

They maintain a page with step by step instructions for how to choose a license. Using a CC BY license is generally considered a best practice for OER creators and adaptors, as this allows the most flexible downstream uses of content for creators and end-users alike.