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Open Educational Resources

What are OERs?

What are OERs?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching materials which include textbooks, images, videos and worksheets. Materials can be revised, remixed, added to, translated and shared. OERs are openly licensed, which allows them to:  

  • Be tailored to the needs of specific units by e.g., incorporating multimedia or local content
  • Be easily revised to keep the content current, engaging and learner-centred
  • Be free of user limits and other licensing restrictions thereby creating equitable and universal access
  • Contribute to the promotion of inclusive education and the reduction of financial stress on students unable to afford high-cost textbooks.

OERs are also discussed in the literature as Affordable Instructional Materials or Affordable Learning Sources (AL$), as they reduce reliance on commercial textbooks, and provide inclusive access to course materials.

The open resource movement

OERs are part of a global shift towards open resources, which is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. See OER Commons & Open Education for more information.

The open resource movement encompasses open methods, open source, open data, open peer review, open access, and open education.

For more information on Open Access publishing see our Publishing Research guide:

Benefits of OERs

Benefits to academic staff

OERs give academics the ability to customise course materials, creating bespoke textbooks and unit resources, that can be updated in real time.

Advantages include:

  • Expanded access to learning. Students anywhere in the world can access OERs at any time, and they can access the material repeatedly.
  • Scalability. OERs are easy to distribute widely with little or no cost.
  • Augmentation of class materials. OERs can supplement textbooks and lectures where deficiencies in information are evident.
  • Enhancement of regular course content. Multimedia material such as videos, for example, can accompany text. The delivery of information in multiple formats may consolidate course content for the student.
  • Quick circulation. Information may be disseminated rapidly (especially compared to information published in textbooks or journals, which can take months or years to become available). Rapid availability of material increases the timeliness and/or relevance of the material being presented.
  • Showcasing of innovation and talent. A wide audience will be exposed to faculty research interests and expertise. This could impact potential students and donors, and enhance student and faculty recruitment.
  • Ties for alumni. OERs provide an avenue for alumni to stay connected to the institution and continue programs of lifelong learning.
  • Continually improved resources. Unlike textbooks and other static sources of information, OERs can be improved quickly through direct user editing or through solicitation and incorporation of user feedback. Academics can take an existing OER, adapt it for a class, and make the modified OER available for others to use.
  • Lower costs for students. OERs can be used in conjunction with My Unit Readings list to provide comprehensive reading materials at no cost to students.

Benefits to students

Researchers have found that students in courses that use OERs have better grades and lower failure and withdrawal rates than their counterparts in courses that do not use OERs.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The use of OERs supports Murdoch University's commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These free teaching resources embody sustainability, inclusivity, equity and collaboration for social good in education.

Using OERs can help the university meet the following SDGs: quality education; industry, innovation & infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities & communities; responsible consumption & production; peace, justice & strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.


Disadvantages of OERs

Although many OERs are peer reviewed, there are some that are not. The onus is on the academic to scrutinise and evaluate a product for accuracy and production quality if it is not peer reviewed. 

OER vs DRM-free

Comparison of Open Educational Resources and Digital Rights Management-free (DRM-free) resources.
  Open Educational Resources (OERs) Digital Rights Management-free (DRM-free) resources
Publication Published by a variety of publishers and authors (often teaching staff) Published by traditional academic publishers
Access Free to access online Purchased by the library (source through Library Search)
User limits Free of user limits and other licensing restrictions Free of user limits
Licensing Open licensed, so resources may be:
  • Reused and copied
  • Retained - download your own copy
  • Revised, adapted, updated, modified or tailored to include multimedia or local content
  • Remixed - can be combined with other content
  • Redistributed - copies can be shared with others, either adapted or in original form
Traditional copyright applies, so:
  • Cannot be edited and modified
  • Each user can download their own copy from the library website
  • Can be printed
Format Published in a variety of formats; textbooks, images, videos, worksheets Published in traditional ebook format