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OER For Faculty

OER are any type of educational material that are freely available for teachers and students to use, adapt, share, and reuse.

Definition of OER

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources...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. 

Source: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

For more definitions of OER, see the Creative Commons Wiki

NAU President on OER

NAU President Cruz Rivera recorded the following introduction for the March 29, 2024 Facilty Showcase on OER. He discusses the importance of OER to students, through savings and increased engagement.

Important Features of OER

  1. OER can either be in the public domain, or under an intellectual property license that permits free use and repurposing.
  2. OER can be revisedremixedadded totranslated, and then shared again to meet different needs.
  3. OER can take many forms, such as: syllabi, lesson plans, videos, software, tests, group activities, writing prompts, textbooks, podcasts, learning modules, experiments, simulations, and course designs. There are no platform restraints.

Source: The Review Project

Why Use OER?

There are many reasons instructors might want to use Open Educational Resources: 

OER save students money

  • The cost of textbooks rose 1,500% from 1970 to 2014 (at 3 times the rate of inflation). Many students do not purchase textbooks because of the cost; a 2016 survey of 22,000 college students showed that due to the high price of textbooks, 66did not purchase a textbook, 48% took fewer courses, and 26% dropped a course. OER textbooks are available for free!
    Partly because of the shift to OER and other digital materials, spending on course materials, as well as the average cost of textbooks, have fallen since 2016. But undergraduates at 4-year public universities still spent an average of $1240 on books and supplies in 2020-21.

OER improve access to information

  • Because OER are free, students do not have to worry about buying, renting, or borrowing them. OER are online and are accessible from various devices. OER are not subject to stringent copyright restrictions, and so they may be reused and shared.

OER are free and legal to use, improve, and share

  • OER usually have Creative Commons licenses that allow content to be reused and remixed. Faculty members can save time and energy by adapting resources that have already been created to fit the needs of their classrooms.

OER facilitate networking and collaboration 

  • Many OER have already been "peer reviewed" by other experts in your field.  Many resource collections have a review or annotation feature to facilitate quick understanding of their content and quality. Faculty can join in by reviewing OER and/or creating their own!


There have been multiple studies on faculty implementations, misunderstandings, acceptance of, and evaluation of OER. The Review Project has curated a number of empirical studies published in scholarly journals on the topic. Their general conclusions: 

Across multiple studies in various settings, students consistently reported that they faced financial difficulties and that OER provided a financial benefit to them. A general finding seems to be that roughly half of teachers and students find OER to be comparable to traditional resources, a sizeable minority believe they are superior, and a smaller minority find them inferior.

In total, more than 25,000 students have utilized OER materials across the studies that attempted to measure results pertaining to student efficacy. These students results were compared with approximately 100,000 students using traditional textbooks. While causality was not claimed by any researcher, the use of OER was sometimes correlated with higher test scores, lower failure, or withdrawal rates. In only one efficacy study did more students do worse than did better, and even in that study the majority of students achieved the same results as their peers using traditional textbooks.

This guide adapts and reuses major portions of the University of Montevallo OER guides, with permission.