Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources (OER)

An overview of Open Educational Resources
Licensed e-books, online journals & magazines, streaming media, and other digital resources available through the Hoffman Family Library subscriptions are not considered OER. These resources are restricted to Goodwin students, faculty, and staff, and they are already-licensed materials that do not allow for customization and re-use or redistribution the same way as OER. Although library online resources are not "open," they are available at no extra cost to students. 

creative commons logoOpen educational resources depend on licensing that allows the copyright owner to freely distribute their materials under certain terms. The CC license puts certain restrictions on materials; there are different permissions associated with each license. Before using OER materials for your class, examine the CC license for attribution details and rights for re-mixing or adaptation.

SPARC logo SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge. SPARC members are primarily academic and research libraries promoting open access to materials. 

Open Education Group logo

Read The Review Project, a summary of empirical research studies on the impact of OER adoption from the Open Educational Group.


Information in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. © 2020, UMGC. It has been modified to reflect Goodwin.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open educational resources (OERs) are free digitized materials offered to educators, students, and self-learners under a Creative Commons (or other "open") license that allows users to copy, use, adapt, and redistribute for educational and research purposes. 

 Works in the public domain also fall into the category of OERs and are free to use by the public. 

 Retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute

The 5Rs of OERs 

To encourage educators to embrace the openness of OERs, a framework known as the 5Rs was established to define the rights of open content and provide guidance on how to use these resources. These rights are maintained by open licensing organizations such as Creative Commons, enabling creators to claim how their work can be used publicly. 


Make and own copies of the resource indefinitely. 


Use the resource in a variety of ways. 


Adapt, modify and improve the resource 


Combine the resource with other resources to create a new work. 


Share the resource with others 


Source: David Wiley. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.




Brief History of OERs 

When OERs were introduced to the education world in 2002, skeptics questioned whether an open resource model would work. Faculty, college administrators, and others were concerned about whether OERs could match the quality and authority of textbooks and supplemental materials published by established textbook providers. 

 In the following years, as more organizations and institutions started open publishing programs and Creative Commons began its licensing platform to certify and kick-start the open licensed model, some educators still questioned how effective OERs could be and whether they could live up to their promise as free or low-cost replacements for traditional textbooks. 

Today, evidence is starting to mount that OERs can positively impact the educational system, from K-12 through postgraduate programs. And these impacts are both financial and performative. 

Why Use OERs? 

Many educators, academic leaders, students, policymakers, and others initially advocated using OERs in higher education because of the cost savings for students and families offered by open resources. The expense of traditional textbooks and supplementary materials continued to rise throughout the 1990s and 2000s, costing students, on average, $1,240 per school year, according to The College Board (2019). 

Research showed that many students took fewer classes to afford their textbooks or did not purchase some textbooks at all, hoping to keep up by borrowing other students' materials or purchasing used editions. In a survey of 21,000 students in 2018, 64.2 percent of responders indicated that they did not purchase a required textbook for a class due to price, and another 42.8 percent said that they took fewer classes due to the high cost of textbooks and other learning materials (Florida Virtual Campus, 2018). 

 Many faculty and college administrators began to view the textbook dilemma as an accessibility issue, in which low-income and underserved students were increasingly at a disadvantage with their better-off peers, who could afford the textbooks more easily. OERs were seen as an effective way to ensure that all students, regardless of economic status, had the resources they needed to succeed. When Goodwin began transitioning to OERs, the issues of costly textbooks and college accessibility contributed to the decision. 

Benefits of OERs Beyond Cost Savings 

As OERs became increasingly available during the 2000s and expanded worldwide, higher education institutions began to adopt OERs into their courses—even offering "zero textbooks" classes. With the growth in OERs, educators began to realize that the benefits went beyond saving money for students. 

 Driven by innovative faculty, educators began adapting OERs for their purposes, creating original course content that involved and engaged students in ways textbook reading and practice did not. In the process, teachers began to assess the materials and learning outcomes of their courses more deliberately because they now had the freedom to adapt, modify, and correlate those resources in a more targeted way. 


College Board. (n.d.). Trends college pricing - College Board research.

Florida Virtual Campus, Office of Distance Learning & Student Services. (2018, December 20). 2018 student textbook and course materials survey.