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Open Educational Resources

Defining OER: The 5 R's

The term OER describes any copyrighted work (excluding software, which is described by the term "open source") that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5 R 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, 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 open content 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)

Attribution: Lumen Learning CC-BY 4.0

What are OER?

blue box with words: open educational resourcesOpen Educational Resources (OER) are 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 (via UNESCO).


OER are NOT just textbooks.  Examples include case studies, assignments, assessment tools, software, simulations, videos, workshops, lab manuals, test banks.

Open vs. Free

Some confuse the term, "free" resources with "Open" resources. 

  • Freely available (no cost) educational resources on the internet are protected by copyright and restricted in their use
  • Open (OER) resources are licensed to permit free (no cost) use and repurposing with a Creative Commons license.

ALL OER have a Creative Commons license.
You can learn more about Creative Commons licenses here: Licenses – Open Education College of DuPage (

Are Open Educational Resources Effective?

Yes! OER are contributing to many students having equitable access to course materials on the first day of class and are supporting student retention and completion of coursework.

Take a look at this 4-minute video summarizing research findings on the effectiveness of OER course materials.