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JEWLScholar, Institutional Repository: Open Educational Resources

JEWLScholar is the institutional repository of Middle Tennessee State University.

What is the difference between OER and OA?

Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) are similar, the difference is their purpose.

In both cases, 'open' means reducing cost to the user and making it easier to use and share knowledge.

OA refers to scholarly literature that is freely available via an open license. They are typically found in peer-reviewed Open Access Journals and Institutional Repositories (MTSU Library offers both of these programs), which act as archives and preservation stewards of the scholarly output of an institution or organization. OA removes paywall barriers that are imposed on authors and readers of journals and is the basis of the Open Access Movement. Read more about OA here.

OER refers to teaching and learning materials tha are freely available via an open license. The OER Movement promotes use of OA works but focuses on the use of high quality textbooks that are free to students.

Additional information: Open Access Scholarly Publications as OER (a 2013 published article on rationale, common practices, and challenges of use and re-use of peer reviewed articles as OER. Available at ERIC.

Sources: Red Deer College Library, Fox Valley Technical College

What is OER?

  • Open educational resources (OER) are free teaching and learning materials that are licensed to allow for revision and reuse. They can be fully self-contained textbooks, videos, quizzes, learning modules, and more.

    Using OER in your classroom can:

  • improve student engagement and success;
  • provide immediate, equitable access to resources;
  • save money for your students; and
  • provide you a venue to use flexible, high-quality learning materials in your individualized curriculum

Source: UTA Libraries

OER Myths

Think OER are too difficult to find or complicated to use? Worried that they will take too much time and effort to implement? Concerned about copyright and intellectual property protection? The OER Policy for Europe has addressed many of these concerns on their OER Myth busting! site.


Source:    BCcampus

The 5 Rs of Open

OER differ from traditional educational resources in their licensing and permissions. Namely, the “open” aspect of OER can be defined by David Wiley’s 5R Framework.

the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
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)
the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
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)

*This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at:



When planning to use an open textbook or other OER in your course, it is important to plan ahead and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are there high quality OER available in my field?
  • Do I know how to effectively evaluate the OER available to me?
  • Do I want/need to adapt an existing OER to tailor it to my course?
  • Do I have the time and/or resources to create new OER for my course?

After asking these questions, you can decide whether to adopt, adapt, or create a new OER for use in your course. 

Adopt, Adapt, or Create?

There are various options available to faculty interested in including OER in their courses. These options are listed below: 



If there are high quality, vetted Open Educational Resources available on the topic your course covers, and you do not feel the need to edit or otherwise alter them for use in your course, you might consider adopting them for use "as is." Adopting is the simplest way or including OER in your course, and the least time intensive. 


If there are OER available on the topic your course covers, but they are dated, too broad, or contain information which is beyond the scope of your course, you may want to consider adapting the materials. After checking that the Creative Commons license attached to the materials allows for adaptation, you may choose to edit the materials to tailor them to your course. 

Alternately, if there are OER available on the topic your course covers, but no single resource is broad enough to cover the needs of your course, you may want to consider building a "course pack," a selection of various OER, free online materials, and websites which make up the resources for use in a course. These packs can be extremely versatile and adaptable resources.


If there are no high quality OER available on your topic or if you have course materials which you believe are superior to the OER available to you online, you may want to consider creating or licensing your own course materials. Creating Open Educational Resources can be as simple as openly licensing and sharing a syllabus you currently use or sharing lesson plans on OER repositories like OER Commons

Source: Iowa State University Library

Why OER?

Infographic  (PDF) on Why OER Matters by BCcampus.


General Resources

Find Open Textbooks

Find Other OER

Discipline Specific Resources



Language Learning



Social Sciences

Nursing and Allied Health

Resources for Getting Started


Guidebooks on OER

Copyright Concerns of OER

You might be wondering about your rights as a faculty member. How might OER you create or redistribute increase your impact? What copyright concerns should you have? Do OER "count" as publications? Many of these questions are still being explored. Many of these resources help explain why:

Accessibility of OER

Besides their general quality, the accessibility of OER is also an important factor to consider, especially in light of the online nature of most OER. Information about creating and evaluating the accessibility of OER is listed below.