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Open Educational Resources (OER): Intro to OERs

What's an OER?

Open Education Resource - There's no official definition, but generally....

OPEN =Open license

  • Public domain or copyright holder has waived some rights (e.g.,Creative Commons License)
  • Do not need permission to...
    • Use
    • Distribute
    • Modify
  • Attribution to author usually required
  • Free/cheap (e.g.,cost of production for print copies)


  • Kinds of resources include
    • images
    • assignments
    • chapters
    • textbooks
    • courses
  • Format - often electronic, but not necessarily
    • e-text
    • video
    • anything


Are Library Resources OERs?

Library resources are usually not free of copyright restrictions so they cannot be adapted, copied, or distributed without the permission of the copyright holder, even for educational purposes, so technically speaking, they aren't OERs. However, since library resources are free to use and many electronic resources have unlimited users, they can fill the same needs as OERs in many situations

Affordable Learning Georgia at MGA

On This Page

Our thanks to Mary Ann Cullen at Georgia Perimeter College, who compiled much of the information in this Guide!

Open Access and Open Educational Resources

Why OERs?

Why OERs?

  • Affordable - Increasing cost of textbooks has led some students to forego buying the text at the expense of learning, often accepting a lower grade as a consequence.  Therefore, OERs can promote student learning and retention.
  • Accessible - Electronic texts are available immediately -- No more waiting for the mail or out-of-stock books at the bookstore.
  • Adaptable - Most texts are adaptable to the needs and interests of the class/ instructor
  • Currency - Texts can easily be updated and made available in less time than print publication


  • Locating/ Quality - Faculty frequently express concerns about the difficulty of finding resources, evaluating the quality of the resources they find, and the respect of their peers for the resources they choose that are not mainstream.  (This is getting much easier!....see "Where to find OERs," below.)
  • Copyright - Instructors are often uncertain what the restrictions are on various types of materials.  While librarians aren't lawyers (at least, most of us aren't!), faculty benefit from basic explanations of Creative Commons licenses, Fair Use, and Copyright.
  • Bookstores - Questions often arise about the impact of OERs on the college bookstore and the revenue they generate for the college.  The role of bookstores is changing, not only because of OERs, but because of competition from online booksellers and other factors.  Here's an example:University Bookstores Change with the TimesSome bookstores are finding ways to participate in OERs.

Where to Find OERs

There are many sources for OERs, but here are a few popular sites.  (There is often a fair amount of overlap in the materials in these sites.)

Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria

Some of the factors the ENGL 1101 textbook committee considered when selecting a text to adapt:

  • Quality of content - Of course! We did not require peer-reviewed content, but carefully examined the content for ourselves and gained approval from the textbook adoption committee before using the text.
  • Appropriateness for our curriculum. The text we chose was adaptable, but generally addressed the concepts and assignments taught in our Freshman English class.
  • License that permitted us to adapt and freely distribute
  • Ease of adaptability. Some OERs have an open license, but no apparent way to capture the content in an adaptable form.  We were really not interested in writing a textbook in html!
  • Printability. Some of our faculty expressed a strong preference for a format that would enable students to have a print book with consistent page numbers, etc.  Therefore, we opted for a linear format with some hyperlinks as opposed to an interactive, nonlinear format.
  • Accessibility - The OER should be easy to find, embed or link to in iCollege (our learning management system).  While we did not make finding an OER with ADA compliance a priority, OIT made sure the final formatting was done with universal design in mind.

Other OER projects also consider availability of supplementary materials such as exercises and exams and peer review of the content.

What's a Creative Commons License?

Many OERs use Creative Commons Licenses to communicate just how "open" the resource is.

Copyright law grants, by default, "all rights reserved" to authors (or other copyright holders) to protect their claim to a work and profits generated from it.

Creative Commons is a popular way for copyright holders to modify these rights to allow others to reuse, modify, distribute, or even profit from their works without asking permission.  The works are still copyrighted and must be cited when used as an information source in a research paper, but the author has opted to allow others to use the work within selected restrictions.  

The particular combination of restrictions is selected by the copyright holder and is usually represented in code and/or image.  For example, 


This license specifies that you may modify, distribute, and reuse the work as long as you give attribution (credit) to the original author and you use the work non-commercially.

How Can Librarians Help with OERs?

  • Advocate
    • Increase awareness of OERs among faculty and administrators.
    • Participate in conversations about OERs state-wide ....and beyond!
  • Educate
    • Lead workshops for faculty about finding and using OERs
    • Help students use software related to OERs, such as PDF readers
  • Find/Collect
    • Help instructors locate OER resources for their classes (and library resources, where appropriate!)
    • Add OERs to the library catalog and/or aggregate in LibGuides.
  • Advise - Librarians often have advanced knowledge about...
    • e-Book formats (including PDF, html, wikis, and interactive software)
    • Creative Commons licenses and other copyright issues
  • Create content - Include links to library resources and write information literacy content for faculty-created OERs.
  • Publish - Some libraries have OER publishing initiatives.  Example: PDX Scholar from Portland State U

Contact a Campus:

478-471-2709 for the Macon campus library | 478-934-3179 for the Roberts Memorial Library at the Cochran campus | 478-275-6772 for the Dublin campus library

478-374-6833 for the Eastman campus library | 478-929-6804 for the Warner Robins campus library | On the Go? Text-A-Librarian: 478-285-4898

Middle Georgia State University Library

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