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Open Educational Resources (OER)   Tags: education, learning, mooc, oer, open education, open educational resources  

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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OER Definitions

  • The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
    "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."
  • OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)
    "digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research. OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use, and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences."
    "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions."
  • Wikipedia
    "Open educational resources (OERs) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes."
  • The Cape Town Open Education Declaration
    "[O]pen educational resources should be freely shared through open licences which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement and sharing by anyone. Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms. Whenever possible, they should also be available in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities and people who do not yet have access to the Internet."
  • Wikipedia (Open Educational Resources)
    "Open educational resources (OER) are digital materials that can be re-used for teaching, learning, research and more, made available free through open licenses, which allow uses of the materials that would not be easily permitted under copyright alone."
  • The Wikieducator OER Handbook
    "The term "Open Educational Resource(s)" (OER) refers to educational resources (lesson plans, quizzes, syllabi, instructional modules, simulations, etc.) that are freely available for use, reuse, adaptation, and sharing."
  • OER Commons
    "Open Educational Resources are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse, without charge. OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license that state specifically how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared."

What is here for you?

On this section of the guide you can discover information about:

 Latest News:

3/4/14 Read the Environmental Scan of OERs, MOOCs, and Libraries,” a research report by Carmen Kazakoff-Lane. Kazakoff-Lane and ACRL


What are OER?

Along time different definitions have been given for Open Educational Resources (OER).

One of the most widely accepted is:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain and have been released under an open licence that permits access, use, repurpusing, reuse and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007).

On the Creative Commons Wiki there is a summary of some OER definitions and a table that shows common and different points in the different definitions.

table showing common and different points in different OER definitions


It can be noted from the tab that not all OER definitions include the following aspects:

·      Open copyright licence required

·      Non-discriminatory (rights given to everyone, everywhere)

·      Does not delimit “educational resources” to specific use or form (does not inlcude NonCommercial delimintation)

while ALL of them include  “Right of access, adaptation and republication".


What are Open Educational Resources (and Creative Commons)?


OER definitions are quite extensive, as they include all kinds of educationally useful materials, and therefore include many types of resources, in different media and formats.

  • courses/programmes 
  • course materials
  • modules
  • student guides
  • teaching notes
  • textbooks
  • research articles
  • videos
  • assessment tools and instruments
  • simulations
  • role plays
  • databases
  • software
  • apps

Wikipedia defines OpenCourseWare (OCW) as "course lessons created at universities and published gratis via the Internet". In OCW the reference is to course and programmes rather than on single resources.

Open Access usually refers to scholarly peer-reviewed digital journal literature (research articles), but it is sometimes also used to refer to digital books and thesis. In alternative, it refers to access to education which is free and open to all.


    History of OER

    A timeline about OERs

    OER timeline


    Project Gutenberg  was started in 1971 by Michael Hart "to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search" (“The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg by Michael Hart,” 1992).


    The Open Content term was conied by David Wiley. One role of open content in the history of OER is its popularization of the idea that the principles of the open source / free software movements can be productively applied to content.


    MIT launches the OpenCourseWare Initiative (OCW)


    The term ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER) was first adopted at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. 


    Cape Town Open Education Declaration arose from a meetin whose aim was to foster efforts to promote open resources, technology and teaching practices in education.


    The Oer Declaration was adopted during the World OER Congress in Paris in June 2012. It can be downloaded on the Unesco web site.



    Open Education is Changing the Rules

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    The resources used in this guide are released under Creative Commons Licenses.

    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Need more information about Creative Commons? Here is a basic Guide.


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