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Open Educational Resources Guide

This guide is intended to help students and faculty learn how to discover, evaluate, choose, and use Open Educational Resources (OER).

TEDxNYED: David Wiley on OER

David A. Wiley, a pioneer of the Open Educational Resources movement, is chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, Education Fellow at Creative Commons, and former adjunct faculty of instructional psychology & technology at Brigham Young University where he was previously an associate professor. (Source: Wikipedia)

OER Resources by Discipline

Catholic University's liaison librarians have included discipline-specific OER resources in many of their subject guides. To access OER resources by discipline, choose a subject from the list below.  

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) refers to freely accessible content, digital or otherwise, that can be used for teaching and learning -- lesson plans, textbooks, lecture notes and videos, and even full courses. In order to be considered OER, content must be openly licensed, allowing for a wide variety of uses. While licensing agreements vary, most OER allows for the following, known as the “Five Rs”:

  • Retain - users can download, duplicate, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse - the material can be used in a wide variety of ways, including in-person classes, via video, or online
  • Revise - users can adapt or modify the content to suit their specific teaching and learning needs
  • Remix - users can combine the content with other information, either original or from other open sources, to create a completely new resource
  • Redistribute - users can disseminate the content, along with any modifications or remixes, as widely as they need to (for example, share it with other instructors)

Why OER?

OER has its challenges--for example, ensuring that content that anyone can edit is accurate (Wikipedia is a great example). However, it also has many benefits for students, instructors, librarians, and researchers:

  • Learning anywhere, anytime. Consider the situation in which the Catholic University community--along with many other institutions around the world--finds itself during the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of OER ensures that instructors and students can still access lectures, textbooks, and other essential materials, all without having to set foot in a classroom.
  • Easily modified course materials. Not all OER is one-size-fits-all, but open licensing allows instructors to add, subtract, and/or combine components to fit their needs, and those of their students.
  • Support for all styles of learning. OER includes a huge variety of material that can be used to create traditional lessons, active learning activities, and more.
  • Speed. The publishing cycle for most traditional textbooks can take time, but online, openly-licensed textbooks can be disseminated much more quickly--which also ensures that information is as up to date as possible.
  • Cost savings. A study by the College Board found that undergraduate students pay, on average, $1,240 a year for textbooks (“Average estimated undergraduate budgets by sector,” 2020). At Catholic University, the most expensive traditional textbook, an accounting text, costs students $446 (“Introducing the Textbooks on Reserve Pilot Program,” 2020). Open-access textbooks and other readings are a significant savings for students, opening up the world of higher education to a larger percentage of the population. 

OER Resources at the WRLC

Catholic University belongs to the Washington Research Library Consortium, a group of 11 local institutions that partner to combine their resources and expertise.