Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
NPC Libraries Banner
NPC Libraries Banner

Open Educational Resources: What is OER?

Free online resources

Definition of OERs and their Importance

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are resources that are made freely available to everyone:
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)   

Including these and more:

  • Databases
  • Journals
  • Articles
  • Streaming Films
  • eBooks
  • Audio
  • Art
  • Images

How do I use OERs?

Educators can use OER or Open Access materials freely in their course as long as they Attribute the authors of the material and follow the licensing agreement (such as Share Alike if required). OER materials are an important resource for educators as they allow them to alter educational material that is under Creative Commons licensing. The difference is that OERs can be altered as long as the Creative Commons license allows for this.

How are Open Access and Open Educational Resources Related?

Educators can choose which materials they want to incorporate into their courses but keep in mind:

  • OER by definition allows users to follow the 5Rs (above) meaning they can alter the material as needed.
  • Open Access are not necessarily OER material. You can access these materials but cannot necessarily alter them. 

Why are OERs Important?

OERs are essential to education as they allow free access to quality educational material. They can replace conventional textbooks at no cost. But more importantly, they allow the instructor to alter the material as needed by their students. 

Open Education versus Open Access versus Open Source

Types of Free Online Resources
Resource Type Definition Modifiable? Purpose? Examples How can faculty use?
Open Access Any type of resource that is available without barriers and freely distributed online Only with CC license Creators wish to share their work with others in order to increase usage and access to users around the globe

streaming videos



You can link to resource
Open Source Source code that is made freely available for possible modification and redistribution Yes Creators wish to share their work with others in order to increase usage and access to users around the globe.  




You can alter code to fit your own needs
Open Educational Resources (OERs) Text, media, and digital content that is freely available and has a Creative Commons license that allows for potential modification and redistribution Yes, with CC license (may vary) Resources provided by their creator to allow users the ability to alter them.







Following the CC license you can alter the materials with attribution
OER Repository A central location where online resources, such as journals, databases, media, eBooks and other resources are stored Possibly Provides central access to a variety of resources that are Open Educational and able to be altered. 


OER Metafinder


Use this source for finding OERs
Open Pedagogy Teaching practice that engages students as creators of information rather than simply consumers of it, otherwise known as Open Educational Practices (OEPs) Possibly Provides an alternative teaching method that incorporates student work into a larger project such as an eBook or wiki, allowing the student to create a renewable product. These products can be used in the students' ePortfolios, in future courses by the faculty, and as resources for other students.  wikis developed by faculty and students Use this method of instruction as an alternative to conventional practices.


Open Access Definition and their Importance

What is Open Access?

Open access (OA) refers to free, unrestricted online access to educational material, including but not limited to research outputs such as journal articles and books. OA content is open to all, with no access fees.

How are OAs related to OERs?

OA resources are not necessarily Open Education Resources. Although they are free to use, they cannot necessarily be altered. Without a Creative Commons license, the creator retains Copyright. This means that it is illegal to alter the material.

Why are OAs Important?

These resources are important for users because they allow unrestricted access to view. The TEACH Act gives extra protection and ability for those in closed courses. You can link to these resources if they are freely available online.

How do I use these Resources?

Link to these resources in courses (closed or open), on educational websites, or other places of instruction.

Use these resources if you do not plan to alter the material in any way but instead want to simply link to the online resources.

Please view the Open Access Guide on this page.

Open Database

Library of Congress: Open Access

Contact the NPC Libraries
Contact Us Image