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E. H. Butler Library, Buffalo State, The State University of New York

Affordable Learning Materials Initiative: Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are OER?

Defining OER

OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES (OER): Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits repurposing by others.

Open educational resources, or OER, are openly licensed materials created by instructors like you on a range of disciplines and subjects. Unlike traditionally published materials with strict copyrights, OER are published on the web and are designed and licensed for others to edit and reuse them.

The idea behind OER is that education is about sharing and building on the ideas of others. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel or stick with whatever a publisher makes available. OER allow you to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute a variety of course materials (see "The 5 R's of OER" section for more information).

OER might be textbooks, worksheets, assignments, tests, presentations, simulations, or even full courses. And unlike copyrighted content, you can take these materials and keep or change as much or as little as you want.

OER Course Designation

All SUNY campuses abide by the following definition to determine whether a course qualifies for OER designation:

  • Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits repurposing by others.
  • A SUNY OER course/section provides students a cost effective alternative to traditional textbooks. The majority of materials in this section reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits repurposing by others.
For the purposes of this policy, "majority" is understood to mean 51%.

Why use an OER?

Because they are licensed for open access, OER's remove barriers for both faculty and students. Faculty are free to customize OER content to fit their course. Students are free to access OER content from anywhere, at any time, from day-one of classes till a refresher is needed years later (learning is a lifelong activity).

In addition to improved accessibility, there are many other reasons for faculty to use an OER:

  • Reduce the cost of course materials
  • Give learners the opportunity to begin the semester better prepared
  • Tailor educational resources to the specific course content
  • Better match course content to learning outcomes
  • Network and engage with faculty peers at other institutions 
  • Make learning more engaging by using OER on collaborative platforms (annotation and interactive Q & A's)

The 5 R's of OER

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)

It is crucial to note the distinction between "Free" and "Open"; without the 5 R's, free content is not actually open. "Fauxpen" materials can include library materials, some rights reserved materials, and other content that feels open but is not.

This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.

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E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State
1300 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878 6300
Fax: (716) 878-3134
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