Open Educational Resources (OERs) at Saint Mary's College

This guide is an introduction to Open Educational Resources and how to find, evaluate, use, and adapt OER materials to help reduce textbook costs.


What are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

  • Teaching and learning materials: online courses, textbooks, worksheets, streaming videos, tests, software, etc.
  • Licensed to be shared freely and repurposed by others

What are the benefits of using OERs in my class?

  • You can customize the materials with the content that's right for your class (and up-to-date!)
  • Students can contribute to course materials (Learn more: Open Pedagogy)
  • Your students don't have to pay hundreds of dollars for textbooks and lug them around in print, which means they're equally or more likely to do the homework, stay in your class, get good grades, afford rent and food, and graduate. (Learn more: OER research summaries)
  • Learn more: Why OERs at SMC?

So this stuff is just free online?

  • Yes. Free as in gratis (no cost), and free as in libre (open, without restrictions on modification/sharing).
  • Some faculty create these resources for their own use and then share them with the world; some get grants or stipends to create open educational resources.
  • Learn more: Finding OERs

But the quality must be worse than commercial textbooks, right?

  • Just like commercial textbooks, some OERs might be better for your particular needs than others, but in most studies, students and faculty rated their OER textbook equal to or better than their typical commercial textbooks. Many go through editorial oversight and/or peer-review, and many come with ancillary products like study guides and test banks just like commercial textbooks do.
  • Learn more: Evaluate OERs

Can I create OERs?

Sample Open Educational Resources

English Composition I textbook
Principles of Accounting Vol. 1
The Missing Link: An Introduction to Web Development and Programming
Biological Anthropology Laboratory Activities

The 5 R's of OER

Within the bounds of Creative Commons licensing there are 5 key points to consider when using OERs:

  1. Reuse - Content can be reused in its unaltered original format - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  2. Retain - Copies of content can be retained for personal archives or reference - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  3. Revise - Content can be modified or altered to suit specific needs - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - Content can be adapted with other similar content to create something new- 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 - Content can be shared with anyone else in its original or altered format - 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)

OERs include a wide range of materials: assessments, assignments, books, case studies, courses, journals, primary sources, reference materials, simulations, tutorials, tests, and textbooks.

This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.