Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any format that reside in the public domain or have been released with an open license that permits access, use, repurposing, and/or redistribution by others with limited or no restrictions (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007).
OER can include full courses, course materials, textbooks, interactive materials such as simulations and role plays, databases, software, apps (including mobile apps), websites, videos and any other materials useful for teaching or research.
OER are specifically designed by their creator/s to be free, openly available, and are often licensed to be re-used, re-mixed, and re-distributed. Open is not just about low cost (though that is an important benefit of using OER) but about the ability to take what others have created, customize it for your specific educational needs, and then share your creation with others.
OER can come in a variety of forms:
Primary sources - Images, video, and sound recordings. Some sources are in the public domain, while others have been licensed as open by their creators. In addition, many texts that are in the public domain are available online/electronically.
Learning content - created content that ranges from individual lectures, animations, and assessments to complete courses and textbooks.
The open resource movement has been around for a while, starting with static learning objects (about 2000), and transitioning to OER that allowed for revision and reuse. Today, it is the ever increasing cost of textbooks and materials for students that is pushing the OER movement forward. Textbooks and learning materials cost students approximately $1,200 per year.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students didn't purchase a textbook because it was too expensive. Through the use of OER, the cost of student materials can be drastically reduced. OER also give instructors the ability to customize the materials, creating the "perfect" textbook instead of being bound to traditional print resources.
The price of college textbooks continues to increase. A survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group finds that students are opting to skip the books even if their grades suffer. The group said open textbooks—written by faculty members, peer-reviewed, and available free online—could help make textbooks affordable again.