Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are introduced with an open license. Anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.
The cost of textbooks is rising at a rate higher than most of other consumer goods. For students, as an alternative, OERs offer huge cost savings to expensive textbooks and access to classrooms which have limited capacity.
For teachers, OERs provide legal access to resources. An opportunity to have one’s own materials enhanced by allowing material to be modified by other faculty around the world, it makes the material used in ways never imagined. New sections and chapters can be added and enhanced creating a work stronger than the original. Textbooks have their strengths and weaknesses, OER materials allow faculty members to customize them, adapt them to local languages and use them as a basis for innovation. OERs provide a wide variety of materials from which to build a class without having to start from scratch.
OERs are not just textbook materials. They can include anything from entire course shells, to syllabi, to assignments, to presentations. OERs help improve education across the globe.
Creative Commons Public Licenses
The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.
Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources
The terms “open content” and “open educational resources” describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:
- Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
- 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)
- Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
- 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)
- 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).
While open licenses provide users with legal permission to engage in the 5R activities, many open content publishers make technical choices that interfere with a user’s ability to engage in those same activities. The ALMS Framework provides a way of thinking about those technical choices and understanding the degree to which they enable or impede a user’s ability to engage in the 5R activities permitted by open licenses:
- Access to Editing Tools: Is the open content published in a format that can only be revised or remixed using tools that are extremely expensive (e.g., 3DS MAX)? Is the open content published in an exotic format that can only be revised or remixed using tools that run on an obscure or discontinued platform (e.g., OS/2)? Is the open content published in a format that can be revised or remixed using tools that are freely available and run on all major platforms (e.g., OpenOffice)?
- Level of Expertise Required: Is the open content published in a format that requires a significant amount technical expertise to revise or remix (e.g., Blender)? Is the open content published in a format that requires a minimum level of technical expertise to revise or remix (e.g., Word)?
- Meaningfully Editable: Is the open content published in a manner that makes its content essentially impossible to revise or remix (e.g., a scanned image of a handwritten document)? Is the open content published in a manner making its content easy to revise or remix (e.g., a text file)?
- Self-Sourced: It the format preferred for consuming the open content the same format preferred for revising or remixing the open content (e.g., HTML)? Is the format preferred for consuming the open content different from the format preferred for revising or remixing the open content (e.g. Flash FLA vs SWF)?
A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)
This Guide comprises three sections.
The first – a summary of the key issues – is presented in the form of a set of Frequently Asked Questions. Its purpose is to provide readers with a quick and user-friendly introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER) and some of the key issues to think about when exploring how to use OER most effectively.
The second section is a more comprehensive analysis of these issues, presented in the form of a traditional research paper. For those who have a deeper interest in OER, this section will assist with making the case for OER more substantively.
The third section is a set of appendices, containing more detailed information about specific areas of relevance to OER. These are aimed at people who are looking for substantive information regarding a specific area of interest.
Open educational resources: conversations in cyberspace
Open Educational Resources are digitalized materials offered freely and openly for use and reuse in teaching, learning and research. They offer a solution for extending learning opportunities. The goal of the OER movement is to equalize access to knowledge worldwide through sharing online high quality content.
Since 2005, UNESCO has been at the forefront of building awareness about this movement by facilitating an extended conversation in cyberspace. A large and diverse international community has come together to discuss the concept and potential of OER in a series of online forums. Open Educational Resources: Conversations in Cyberspace provides an overview of the first steps of this exciting new development: it captures the conversations between leaders of some of the first OER projects, and documents early debates on the issues that continue to challenge the movement. The publication will provide food for thought for all those intrigued by OER – its promise and its progress.
Guidelines for open educational resources (OER) in higher education
Open educational resources (OER) are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared. These Guidelines outline key issues and make suggestions for integrating OER into higher education. Their purpose is to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation and use of OER and to bring them into the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.
Paris OER Declaration
The 2012 Paris OER Declaration was formally adopted at the 2012 World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 20 – 22 June 2012.
The Declaration marks a historic moment in the growing movement for Open Educational Resources and calls on governments worldwide to openly license publicly funded educational materials for public use.
Creative Commons Public Licenses
Creative Commons public licenses provide a standard set of terms and conditions that creators and other rights holders may use to share original works of authorship and other material subject to copyright and certain other rights specified in the public license below.
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