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Open Educational Resources (OER) & Textbook Equity

What is OER?

Open Education Resources Logo

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching and learning resources licensed for free use and repurposing. OERs can be full courses, software, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.

Open Educational Resources are broadly considered to meet the "5Rs Framework," meaning that users are free to give attribution to the source and:

  • Retain: Content can be saved & copied;
  • Reuse: Content can be reused in its unaltered form;
  • Revise: Content can be adapted, adjusted, modified or altered; 
  • Remix: The original or revised content can be combined with other content to create something new;
  • Redistribute: Copies of the content can be shared with others in its original, revised, or remixed form.

OERs are any type of educational material that’s freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse. They are not the same as public domain materials. Most of the time, someone still owns the copyright, but they have chosen to openly-license the content.

Benefits of OER

When a course uses free course materials like OER, it can:

  • Improve student learning outcomes
  • Improve student advancement through college and into careers
  • Decrease D/F/withdrawal rates by as much as 29%, particularly for Pell-eligible, part-time, non-white, and international students

OER also:

  • Ensure a more affordable education
  • Narrow the gap between formal and informal learning
  • Can enhance pedagogy, supporting multimodal and participatory learning 
  • Allow for better representation of diverse topics and images from a diversity/equity/inclusion/social justice standpoint
  • Enhances institution's public image as we share OER created by UNI faculty, staff, and students
  • Can be used as-is OR modified, added to, and edited as instructors wish to fit their own course learning objectives, teaching style, etc.
  • Offer opportunities for lifelong learning

To review evidence related to the impact of OER, see Open Ed Group annotated bibliography.

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