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A Guide to Teaching with OER, OA, Open, & Free Materials

This guide is intended to assist faculty in identifying open and alternative textbook options for specific courses.

What are Open Educational Resources?

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

...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. (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

The 5 R's are what distinguish open resources from content that is simply free.


Open access (OA) refers to online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access and free of many restrictions on use. By definition, all OERs are Open Accessbut not all Open-Access materials qualify as OERs. Sometimes the distinction may not matter: You may simply want to link to a video and don't need all 5 R's. Just pay attention to the license of the material you want to use and determine whether your use is permitted

Texas Legislation

Texas Education Code (HB 1027) and federal regulations require all course materials and their costs be available to students at the time of registration. That includes reporting of classes that use Open Educational Resources (OER) when no other course materials are reported. This allows students to evaluate OER in their textbook budgeting and ensures transparency regarding the cost of a particular course. (For these purposes, SHSU defines "OER" as materials accessible to students at no charge.)

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

Why Open Education Matters


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