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.

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:

Open Pedagogy

Open pedagogy refers to a set of innovative teaching approaches and practices made possible through the use of OER in the classroom. The "5R permissions” (i.e. retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute) associated with OER offer new and exciting possibilities for student-centred instructional design. In the words of David Wiley in "What is Open Pedgogy?," traditional course assignments are far too often “disposable” in the sense that they “add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away” (2013). Open pedagogy, though, fosters the development of new kinds of “renewable assignments” that invite and empower students to make a meaningful contribution to public discourse and knowledge beyond the classroom walls. A few examples of open pedagogy in practice include student projects to publish in open course journals, collaboratively develop their course syllabus, update and edit Wikipedia entries, or remix and adapt online instructional videos.

For more ideas and examples, check out this video of a keynote talk from SFU OER grant recipient Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin (School of Publishing) where he describes why and how he practices open pedagogy as a “starting point for giving students a sense that their knowledge is a public good.” And you can also browse through additional case study examples from other institutions in the Open Pedagogy Notebook.

If you're interested in undertaking an in-class publishing project using open source journal and monograph publish software at SFU, please contact SFU Library Digital Publishing 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. For questions about open licensing, contac the SFU Copyright Office at