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Affordable Course Materials and Open Educational Resources (OER) for Faculty: What are OER?

An Introduction to Open Educational Resources

Open Textbook Network

Important Features

  1. OER can either be in the public domain, or under a more lax intellectual property license.
  2. OER can be revised, remixed, added upon, translated, and then shared again to meet different needs.
  3. OER can take many forms, such as: syllabi, lesson plans, videos, software, tests, teaching techniques, group activities, writing prompts, textbooks, learning modules, experiments, simulations, and course designs. There are no platform restraints.

Source: The Review Project

UC San Diego educators actualize the university's stated mission and values when using open educational resources in instruction. The Library contributes to our strategic priorities when we support our instructors and students by providing information resources that are accessible, affordable, and sustainable.


Hoping to learn more? 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 conclusion is: 

Once adopted, OER provide the permissions necessary for faculty to engage in a wide range of pedagogical innovations. In each of the studies reported above, OER were used in manner very similar to the traditional textbooks they replaced. We look forward to reviewing empirical articles describing the learning impacts of open pedagogies.

OER is Sharing

OER is Sharing by Giulia Forsythe on flickr        

Why Use OER?

There are many reasons instructors might want to use OER: 

Free and Legal to Use, Improve and Share

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been creating
  • Tailoring educational resources to the specific content for your course
  • Expands opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and learning by allowing instructors to integrate and revise multiple educational resources
  • Redefines "traditional" learning by often incorporating multi-media or scenario-based education
  • Allows instructor to go beyond the confines of "teaching to the book"

Network and Collaborate with Peers 

  • Access to educational resources that have already been "peer reviewed" by other experts in your field
  • Many resources have a review or annotation feature so instructors have more in-depth knowledge of the resource and its quality quickly
  • Makes learning and teaching more collaborative

Lower Educational Cost and Improve Access to Information

  • Reduces the cost of course materials, particularly textbooks so that all students have access and aren't as financially burdened
  • Find and access information instantly on virtually any topic, and can access with various devices.
  • Gives learners the option of looking at course content openly before enrolling.
  • Can reduce the students bear, sometimes increasing graduation and retention rates

Moving Your Course Online?

If you need to move a class online, whether immediately or with some time for planning, you need to consider copyright and licenses before placing content on a course management system (CANVAS is the one we use here at UC San Diego).

Reminder #1: You can not always post content online just because you have access to a resource or the system is password protected!

Reminder #2: Don't have time to dig though licenses and fair use assessments? Use Open Educational Resources - all types of content and ancillaries!

1. Link to library licensed content such as journal articles or do a fair use assessment if you want to post the actual content. Be sure to remind the students they need to create an acct on VPN to get access to library licensed/paywalled content remotely.

2. Locate an open educational resource (OER) : all are open access and Creative Commons licensed so that you can post the actual content immediately.

We have guides and expertise in these areas: