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Open Education Resources (OER)

OER vs Open Access

  • OPEN ACCESS: OA items are online, free to access, and free to read, BUT carry traditional copyright restrictions per the original copyright holder.

What does this mean? You can use item in teaching, research, and learning, BUT no variations of the material can be reproduced without permission from the copyright holder.

  • OPEN EDUCATION RESOURCES (OER): OERs, a type of OA, are teaching, learning, and research materials that are online, free to access, and free to read AND may be used with varying degrees of freedom to create new OER content via Public Domain or Creative Commons licenses.

What does this mean? You can use, recreate and/or redistribute OER works according to the original item's content license. There are progressive levels of Creative Commons licensing, so you must pay close attention to what permissions each individual item provides.

The 5 Rs

The 5R permissions are what make OER different from material which is copyrighted under traditional, all-rights-reserved copyright. ​

Another way to frame this is that "open" in Open Educational Resources doesn’t simply equate to being "free"; in fact, it can more accurately be described as:​

open = free + license/permissions (the 5Rs)

Why Open Education Matters - Videos

The 5 R's

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 licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Reuse - 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)
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - 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)
5R's: This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at
definition/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

More About OERs

June 2017: Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 810 (SB810), which requires that Texas higher education institutions share searchable information with students about courses that use OER. The full text relevant to course marking is copied below.


SECTION 35.  Section 51.451, Education Code, is amended by adding Subdivision (4-a) to read as follows:

(4-a)  "Open educational resource" means a teaching, learning, or research resource that is in the public domain or has been released under an intellectual property license that permits the free use, adaptation, and redistribution of the resource by any person.  The term may include full course curricula, course materials, modules, textbooks, media, assessments, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques, whether digital or otherwise, used to support access to knowledge.

SECTION 36.  Section 51.452, Education Code, is amended by amending Subsection (a) and adding Subsection (d) to read as follows:

(a)  Each institution of higher education shall:

(1)  for each semester or academic term, compile a course schedule indicating each course offered by the institution for the semester or term to postsecondary students;

(2)  with respect to each course, include with the schedule a list of the required and recommended textbooks that specifies, to the extent practicable, the following information for each textbook:

(A)  the retail price;

(B)  the author;

(C)  the publisher;

(D)  the most recent copyright date; [and]

(E)  the International Standard Book Number assigned, if any; and

(F)  whether the textbook is an open educational resource;

(3)  except as provided by Subsection (b), at the time required by Subsection (c)(2):

(A)  publish the textbook list with the course schedule on the institution's Internet website and with any course schedule the institution provides in hard copy format to the students of the institution; and

(B)  make that information available to college bookstores and other bookstores that generally serve the students of the institution; and

(4)  except as provided by Subsection (b), as soon as practicable after the information becomes available disseminate as required by Subdivision (3) specific information regarding any revisions to the institution's course schedule and textbook list.

(d)  If an institution of higher education or a college bookstore publishes a textbook list with a course schedule on an Internet website that provides a search function, the institution or bookstore must:

(1)  ensure that the search function permits a search based on whether a course or section of a course requires or recommends only open educational resources; or

(2)  provide a searchable list of courses and sections of courses that require or recommend only open educational resources.

SECTION 37.  Section 51.453, Education Code, is amended to read as follows:

Sec. 51.453.  TEXTBOOK ASSISTANCE INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS.  To the extent practicable, an institution of higher education shall make reasonable efforts to disseminate to its students information regarding:

(1)  available institutional programs for renting textbooks or for purchasing used textbooks;

(2)  available institutional guaranteed textbook buyback programs;

(3)  available institutional programs for alternative delivery of textbook content; [and]

(4)  the availability of courses and sections of courses that require or recommend only open educational resources; and

(5)  other available institutional textbook cost-savings strategies.