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Hamersly Library

Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable Learning: Defining OER

This guide describes high-quality educational resources that can be used to decrease material costs for courses at WOU and in higher education more broadly.

What Are the Alternatives to Traditional Commercial Textbooks?

This page outlines alternatives resources that can be used in lieu of expensive textbooks. Alternatives include open educational resources and library-licensed content, or material that is licensed by Hamersly Library and therefore available to the WOU community at no additional cost.

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online to students, educators, and the general public. They include textbooks, quizzes, class exercises, videos, and other learning objects that have been openly licensed so that others can adopt or reuse this material for their own purposes. 

To be more specific, when we say that OER are openly licensed, we mean that they can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. In practice this means:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in settings like classes, study groups, on websites, in videos, etc.
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

(See, UNESCO and OER Commons for the above definitions).

How Are OERs Openly Licensed?

Not all, but many creators of OERs choose to apply licenses indicating how others can use their work. Most commonly used are Creative Commons licenses, or a set of statements that indicate the author's wishes when it comes to citing their work, using it for commercial purposes, adapting it, and redistributing it. The OER community encourages open licenses to allow OERs to grow and improve over time while being used in local settings.


Library-Licensed Resources

While library-licensed resources are not OERs, they can be used in conjunction with OERs as a cost-saving measure. Hamersly Library licenses resources including ebooks, journal articles, and media that can be used by WOU faculty, students, and affiliates at no additional cost, depending on the licensing arrangement. If you are interested in using this material in your class, we advise exploring Primo to find resources you may be interested in and speaking with a librarian about your search.