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Open Educational Resources

Learn what Open Educational Resources (OER) are, why they matter, and how to find, use, and adapt them for your teaching

What are Open Educational Resources?

Want to take a class at MIT, develop a learning module for your students, author an open textbook, publish in an open access journal, create an online tutorial, or use digital learning objects? Open Educational Resources (OER) may be just what you're looking for!

What are Open Educational Resources?

Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others

-Forward, 2017

Open Educational Resources, or OER, are digital text, multimedia, and other resources—like textbooks, workbooks, and tutorials—that are designed to be free of cost, have minimal barriers to access, and licensed to be readily reused and remixed.

OER are a critical frontier in expanding the accessibility of high-quality education, lowering the sometimes prohibitive cost of educational materials, and encouraging active participation in creation and collaboration between and among instructors, students, and educational institutions.

Educational institutions and organizations, including some of the world's most prestigious universities and colleges, are working to create and disseminate OER to support scholars and students. Watch the video below to understand more about why OER are so critical to the future of education.

Why Open Education?

Why does Open Education matter?

Ensuring equality and availability of education is a foundational value of the open education movement, and as we move into the future, addressing those issues becomes ever more crucial. Open education takes aim at many issues that complicate education. 

Outdated Teaching Materials

Traditional educational materials, like textbooks, can only be as current as their publication date. Unfortunately, the latest knowledge—especially in scientific and technical fields—rapidly becomes outdated and obsolete. Students and teachers working with outdated material are at a great disadvantage in the modern world. Open Educational Resources, on the other hand, can be updated, adapted, and improved continually, so they are never out of date.


Teaching and learning materials often carry a high price tag, which poses a painful question to many students: go without the materials, or go into substantial debt to get them. From social media movements like #textbookbroke to the crisis of student loan debt, the cost of education is a major social issue. Open education's goal of making high-quality, freely available online materials is a direct answer to the problem of costs.

Access and Equality

Cost, geography, and structural inequalities in society often combine to lead toward problems of access and equity in education. With open education, the high-quality materials are available at minimal (or no) cost, and with minimal barriers to access, leveling the playing field for students as they prepare for their lives ahead. 

OER Champions at IUP

Aleea Perry
Political Science

"It is more work initially, but just like changing any text or materials, it's worth the effort."

Dr. Perry utilizes an OpenStax textbook for her American Government class, and supplements her course with other open source materials. Frustration with the cost of a basic textbook is a primary motivator.

Also important to Dr. Perry is that she meet her students where they are, and OER adoption means her students have access to course materials 24/7.

Veronica Paz

"I created my website and materials for several classes. They are all OER and I share them on my website via Creative Commons."

Dr. Paz's enthusiasm for teaching extends to developing her own website of original class materials. She shares what she creates through a Creative Commons license.

Her work can also be found on the international online repository MERLOT.

Kelly Heider
IUP Libraries

"OER give me the freedom to customize my lesson plans and differentiate my instruction to meet the ever-changing needs of my students."

Dr. Heider has been using open access materials since she first began teaching public high school in the mid-1990s. She continues to use them now as IUP's Education Librarian.

OER provide the flexibility she needs to teach undergraduate and graduate students from various backgrounds and disciplines how to discover, produce, value, use, and/or create information.

Nancy Evans
Student Success

"Anyone using OER has complete control of what they want to use. Faculty may not find a specific textbook or course material that fits their needs; they can remix materials from several sources to satisfy their requirements."

Ms. Evans first became interested in OER while teaching the IUP Community about how to navigate copyright when using images, audio, and video.

The accessibility and affordability of OER is important to her, not only as an instructional design specialist, but a parent of an IUP student.

Crystal Machado
Professional Studies in Education

"Students can use web-based tools to save and curate resources. I want them to consume and produce materials that others can use."

Dr. Machado is using OER this semester in three sections of ACE 103. She adopted OER for many reasons, including the fact that they are free, web-based resources that the students can readily use.

Students in the course read and interact with the resources, using them to respond to different discussion prompts.

Lucinda Willis
Professional Studies in Education

"Many books are good, but by using OER, you can create great resources collectively for less money."

Dr. Willis uses OER in several classes including School Law, Technology Apps for Educators, and Teaching with Technology. In her courses, OER are used as a jumping off point for discussions and course readings.

Rachel DeSoto Jackson
Theater and Dance

"The huge benefit is better access for students given the cost of textbooks."

Ms. Jackson has been using self-developed materials and supplementary articles, rather than a textbook, for her lectures. She does so to enhance student access to the materials.

She finds that students benefit greatly from having a greater level of access to materials and her ability to structure her syllabus around the materials rather than a textbook.

Jacqueline McGinty
Professional Studies in Education"

"Although they take time to find and implement, OER offer free, high quality resources that can be adapted for different purposes and are easily available."

Dr. McGinty uses OER in all of her courses for course readings, demonstrations, and activities. She finds that the high quality of OER, along with the diversity of choice, low cost, and easy personalization make them an excellent option for students.