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OER and Open-Access Resources for Teaching

Learn more about finding and using Open-Access Resources, including Open Educational Resources (OER).

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) is defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as:

...any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. (View Source)


"True" OER material does not have to be 100% copyright-free or public domain, but generally must permit the 5 R's: 

  • Reuse
  • Revise
  • Remix 
  • Redistribute 
  • Retain

What is Open Access?

Open access (OA) refers to online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access (pay access) and free of many restrictions on use (copyright or license agreement)


Goal of Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the right to use these articles fully in the digital environment.  Open Access ensures that anyone can access and use the results - to turn ideas into industries and breakthroughs into better lives. From the SPARC website

OER versus OA

By definition, all OERs are Open Access, but not all Open-Access materials qualify as OERs.

Sometimes the distinction may not matter: You may simply want to link to a video or exercise in your course, and an item may allow that without allowing all 5 R's of a true OER. 

Always pay attention to the licensing of the specific material you want to use to determine whether your desired use is permitted

TEDxNYED: David Wiley Discusses OER

One of the leading educators in the OER movement sets out the rationale for open education. (TEDxNYED, Mar. 2010)

Recent Texas Legislation: SB 810

S.B. No. 810, "An Act relating to the use of open educational resources," was signed into law in in Texas in early June 2017. (See the history of this bill's passage)

This bill would increase transparency about textbook costs (including the adoption of no-cost textbooks) and allow students to make more informed course selections based on this information. 

This bill would amend the Education Code to require, among other things:

  • A university's course schedule must include information about required course textbooks, including retail price, author, publisher, copyright date, ISBN, and whether the textbook is an open educational resource (OER);
  • University or bookstore textbook lists which include a search feature must support searches for courses and sections requiring only OER materials;
  • Universities must disseminate information to students regarding the availability of courses and sections requiring only OER (as well as available institutional programs for textbook rental, used textbook purchasing, textbook buyback programs, alternative delivery of textbook content, and any other available institutional textbook cost-savings strategies); 
  • The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) must establish a grant program to encourage faculty to adopt OER and redesign courses to exclusively use OER;
  • The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) must conduct a feasibility study on a state repository of OER.

Similar legislation has previously been passed in other states as well. 

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