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Open Educational Resources (OER): Engaging with OER

Information and resources for finding, creating, and engaging with OER

What is Open?

Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

For more information, see David Wiley's discussion of openness 

This material is adapted from Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources, which was originally written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Open Licenses & OER

What Does it Mean to be "Open"?

Unlike commercial textbooks and courseware products, OER are made available with open licenses. Licenses do not take the place of copyright -- the creator(s) still hold the rights to their work -- but open licenses allow the creator(s) to easily allow others the right to use their work under certain conditions. Creative Commons is the most common open license platform, and the most common of its licenses is the Attribution (CC-BY) license. This license simply requires the users to give credit to the creator(s), indicate how and/or if any changes were made, and provide a link to the license.

Licensing is one of the most confusing aspects of OER.  Visit our Licensing/Copyright page and the Creative Commons website to learn more about the several different types of licenses available.

Test Your Understanding:

Professor X finds two different open textbooks and uses several chapters from each book. Professor X uses the chapters in a different order than in the original books, removes some of the chapters' sections, re-orders some of the sections, edits several sections for clarity and to include the most recent research, adds additional content from other OER sources, writes a new introduction to the material, and posts the finished product on the class website (and provides the University Library with a link to the material as well) for students to use in the class. Students can now access the content for free online, download it to their own devices, and/or print as many pages as desired. Which of the 5 R's did Professor X use?

Professor X used all 5 of the Rs!

  • He RETAINED the source OERs by downloading and keeping his own copies
  • He REVISED the source OERs by editing and adapting them to better suit his needs and reflect the most current research on his topic
  • He REMIXED his source materials by combining sections from multiple OERs to create a new resource for his students
  • He REUSED his revised & remixed resource publicly in his class, and
  • He REDISTRIBUTED his revised & remixed resource by posting it online and sharing it with his university library.

Adapted from: Central Penn College, "Faculty Resources and Services: Open Educational Resources (OER)."

Videos About the 5 R's & Openness