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Open Education Resources (OER): About OER

A one stop shop to explore Open Educational Resource for CDU academics and students.


Robot Oer Open Educational - Free image on Pixabay

Defining OER

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are educational materials that are licensed in ways that allow us to legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs include courses, textbooks, assignments, tests, projects, software, audio, video and animation

(Definition of OER is from UNESCO and the Open Education Resource Foundation).    

The 5 R's of using OER

When you are using OER, you have the flexibility to:

1       reuse content in its unaltered/verbatim original format
2 retain copies of content for personal archives or reference
3 revise content to suit specific needs
4 remix content with other similar content to create something new
5 redistribute or share content with anyone else in its original or altered format

According to David Wiley’s (n.d.) influential definition, a true OER is one that is “either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.”

Wiley describes these 5Rs as follows:

  1. Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

Wiley’s above definitions are published with a Creative Commons Attribution licence on his blog post.

Benefits for students:

  • Helps to lower the cost of study and provides easy access to resources
  • Allows students to engage with all course materials without the need to purchase textbooks or eBook access licences
  • Supports students who may otherwise be excluded from education or are at risk of failing due to access to resources
  • They increase opportunities for collaboration. 
  • Improve student success and retention: By reducing cost and access barriers, OERs can ensure that every student in your course has flexible and timely access to course materials. Several studies have shown that OERs can bolster student success.

Benefits for academics:

  • Can help to increase student retention by reducing costs
  • OERs reduce the need to create new learning materials from scratch.  
  • They provide the flexibility to adapt and customise to meet specific requirements.
  • Resources can be selected and combined to suit specific course needs offering the ability to provide customised materials
  • Using OERs is not shown to negatively affect learning performance
  • Align with Learning and Teaching Practices: Fully customisable OERs allow you to tailor materials to closely align with your course learning outcomes and the specific needs of your students.


Through open licensing, the mission of the OER movement is to encourage the full range of the “5 Rs” permissions of use (see prior tab). Some argue that unless an open licence allows for adaptations, then the resource is not truly OER.

The image below positions Creative Commons Licenses on a spectrum from more to less open. As depicted, resources that are licensed ND (No Derivatives), are in some cases considered not to be OER.

The six creative image. Description: Six Creative Commons Licenses on a spectrum from more to less open.  From top to bottom, the most open to not open: 1. CC BY, 2. CC BY SA, 3. CC BY NC, 4. CC BY NC SA, 5. BB BY ND (not open), 6. CC BY NC ND


The Six Creative Commons Licences image is a derivative of an image in Keynote Slides (November 2014) , by Cable Green, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

All the available resources on the web that you may have access to, but that are not in the public domain, or do not carry a Creative Commons licence or other open licence, are not OER.

A library’s subscription-based resources (databases, journals, videos, and other materials), while accessible to students and faculty, are also not OER. This is because their use in education may be limited by licence agreements.

Open vs. Free Resources

Resources Student Cost Permissions/Licencing
Open Educational Resources Free Open
Library Resources Free Restrictive


Image and text a derivative of Finding and Adopting OER, by Heather Blicher, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Open access is an important concept, which is related to – but distinct from – that of OER. Open access typically refers to research publications of some kind released under an open licence that allows for their free access and use (definition from Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources, 2015).

Open access publications sometimes do not allow for adaptation and remixing. While open access articles are freely accessible, authors may retain their copyright and/or assign rights to publishers or users, so permission may be needed for copying and adaptation.

More information about Open Access:

Quick Start Guide


1) Learn about OER and its key concepts by reading through the pages of this Toolkit. Talk with one of CDU's Open Education Librarians or Digital Learning Designers to learn more.

2) Find Open Textbooks to use and adapt - a good starting point may be the Finding OERs page of this toolkit.

3) Understand creative Commons Licensing and the copyright associated with OER. The Licencing page of this Toolkit is worth reading and the Open Education Librarians can also assist in this area.

4) Find authors to collaborate with.

5) Explore the funding and support options available to you on the OER Funding and OER News pages of this toolkit.

OER Starter Kit

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   Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding OERs

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