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Open Education Resources (IU Indy)

What Are Open Educational Resources?


There is an internationally agreed on definition of 'open educational resources' supplied by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, which states:

Open Educational Resources are learning, teaching, and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation, and redistribution by others.

Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible online teaching and learning materials. They can be videos, textbooks, quizzes, learning modules and more. This guide collects the best-of-the-best OER and organizes them by college and department.

This guide is intended to introduce faculty and librarians to Open Educational Resources.  It points toward resources that either provide or promote the use of Open Educational Resources.


Specifically, Open Educational Resources (OER) are any copyrightable work (or in the public domain) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend) be retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.

Advantages of OER

Open Educational Resources provide advantages to students, faculty, and the institution.  Among them are these:

  • Materials are available to students at no cost
  • Materials are available immediately upon course registration
  • Students retain permanent access to learning materials
  • Research shows that classes which use open educational resources have lower DFW rates, higher GPAs, and better student retention.

Creative Commons/Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of Open Educational Resources by providing copyright licenses that provide both protections for the content creator and permissions for those wanting to use that creator's content.  It is the application of a Creative Commons license that most clearly identifies an Open Educational Resource.  

There are currently six available Creative Commons licenses to choose from.  They are:

  • Attribution (CC BY)  This license lets you distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the original work, even commercially, as long as you credit the original creation.  This is the most accommodating of licenses offered.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike  (CC BY-SA)  This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon the original work even for commercial purposes as long as you credit the original work and license your new creations under the identical terms.  This license is often compared to 'copyleft' free and open source software licenses.  All new works based on the work should carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.  This is the license used by Wikipedia.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs  (CC BY-ND)  This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the original work.
  • Attribution-Noncommercial  (CC BY-NC)  This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon the original work non-commercially.  Your new works must be non-commercial and acknowledge the original work, but you don't have to license your derivative works on the same terms.
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)  This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon the original work non-commercially, as long as you credit the original work and license your new creations under the identical terms.
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)  This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing you to download the original work and share it with others as long as you credit the original work.  You can't change the original work in any way or use it commercially.

Syllabus Review

Have a syllabus? Do an OER Syllabus Review.

Use the ISBN of Your Current Textbook to Find Free Alternatives

Search for an open educational resource

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