Module 1: The What and Why of OER

What are Open Educational Resources | Why Does Open Education Matter | OER vs ZTC | Assignment & Discussion

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  •  Define Open Educational Resources, and differentiate them from free resources.
  • Describe ways OER can be useful to students, educators, and the general public.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Define OER

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with intellectual property licenses that facilitate the free use, adaptation and distribution of resources.” — Open Educational Resources from UNESCO

Watch: An Introduction to Open Educational Resources by Abbey Elder

OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and many other tools, materials and techniques used to support access to knowledge. Below are some examples of OER.

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are the most visible and easily identifiable type of open resources available. Open textbooks are typically available online at no cost or can be purchased in a variety of other print and digital formats at a low cost, including hard bound copies. Below are two repositories of open textbooks.

Other Educational Resources

Open educational resources can include individual learning objects (like videos and graphics), entire programs of study, and everything in between: courses, workshops, lesson plans, web tools, lab assignments, test banks, and study guides. OER exist across almost all academic fields of study. The only requirement for OER is that they are available for free sharing and reuse among educators. The following sites search OER across repositories.

Open Courses

There are examples of full courses comprised only of OER. This may include additional tools or software that may require local infrastructure or payment, unless a free version is offered by the provider.


This module was created by Ching-Jung Chen. Portions of the content were adapted from: