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Open Educational Resources (OER)

How to find, evaluate, use, and adapt OER materials for use in the classroom to help reduce textbook costs.

What are OER?

"OER are 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 and re-purposing by others." The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Open educational resources can include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, data sets, streaming media, recorded lectures, video tutorials, tests and quizzes, software, and other tools, resources, materials, or techniques used to support access to and sharing of knowledge.


Are all openly available resources considered OER?

No. The chief difference between open resources and OERs is that users have the ability to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute (the 5R's) the content for educational purposes. Other free resources like Google Books or HathiTrust are open, but they cannot be remixed by a professor for the classroom. Many resources that are licensed or paid for by the Libraries are also less flexible than OERs and are considered paid resources. These do not qualify as OERs, but may still be useful in the classroom and are accessible at no additional cost to students.

Why are OER gaining popularity among students and faculty?

  • Textbooks are expensive (and getting more expensive)
    • The increasing cost of textbooks and materials for students is now pushing the OER movement forward.  Textbooks and learning materials cost students approximately $1,100 per year.  
  • Sharing and Reuse
    • The open resource movement has gained strength in higher education over the last fifteen years. OER started with static learning objects that could not be modified, but transitioned to OER that allowed for revision and reuse.  
  • Access to higher quality choices
    • Leading universities and research institutions create freely available content for public use. Now, professors have the flexibility to access a diverse range of high quality resources to teach in the classroom, and students can find resources to learn about topics or cultivate new skills. No longer do professors and students need to rely on a single textbook or use an Internet search to find the best resources.
  • Helps retention of student knowledge after the course
    • Once the course has completed, most students no longer have access to the resources they used and learned from during their coursework. By using OER, students can refer back to those resources as they continue their education or once they are in the professional world.
  • Social responsibility 
    • Education for all, no matter income level, remains an important tenet at USC. OER enables all learners to get involved in cultivating new skills, and further their career.



Creative Commons License
This content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.