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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).

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.  


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Melissa Foge
314 Mullen Library

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)

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)

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--found 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. 

Open Education Network

The Catholic University of America is a member of the Open Education Network, a community of colleges and universities that has joined together to advance the use of open educational resources and practices.