Open Educational Resources are educational materials and resources that are publicly accessible meaning that they are openly available for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute.
You may already be familiar with open access journals and books. These materials are not "free". As someone had to create them and cost were occurred. The author or publisher licensed the content so that the public may access it and possibly re-use or reformat it.
OER is similar in that the individuals who create these resources are licensing the content so that it is publicly accessible and may be re-purposed by others for educational use.
Why use OERs?
OER is a movement in education that seeks to counter costly, commercially produced learning content, typically textbooks, with publicly accessible content that is licensed so that it can be freely distributed and shared. Here is the official definition from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development:
Digital 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 licenses.
Educators and learners, as well as learning institutions, are driving this development. OER provides an alternative to the rising costs of education. It alleviates the burden of student debt while providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to afford or access materials. Many educators and learners are tapping into OER as the only source for textbooks.
Who uses OERs?
Educators across the K-16 spectrum are taking advantage of OER to:
In higher education, the faculty is adopting OER as a way to save their students money and to also increase the likelihood that students will acquire and read learning content.