UNESCO, an early proponent of Open Educational Resources, defines them as: "any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation." Typically OERs are licensed under a Creative Commons license which allows free use and re-use with appropriate attribution.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the inflation rate of college textbooks at 87.5% from January 2006 to July 2016, far outpacing the inflation rate of other tracked educational costs, 21%, as well as college tuition costs, 62.7%. Research on the utilization of OER and the impacts on the costs of higher education and student learning outcomes led by a team from Brigham Young University has shown that adoption of OER can significantly reduce student costs and has a positive impact on student learning outcomes (Hilton III, Robinson, Wiley & Ackerman, 2014 and Robinson, Fischer, Wiley, & Hilton III, 2014).
This guide offers assistance in locating high-quality open access textbooks and other educational resources.
These are links to some of the best and largest repositories of OER materials. Your Liaison Librarian can assist in locating and evaluating discipline specific OER repositories.
There is a growing body of research on the impacts of OER: cost savings for students, increased student retention, improved learning outcomes, and increased faculty & student engagement. Here is a brief list of recent OER research publications:
Fischer, L., Hilton III, J., Robinson, T.J., & Wiley, D.A. (2015). A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 27, 159-172. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12528-015-9101-x
Hilton III, J.L., Robinson, T.J., Wiley, D., & Ackerman, J.D. (2014). Cost-savings achieved in two semesters through the adoption of open educational resources. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,15 (2), 67-84. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1700
Nagle, C., & Vitez, K. (2020). Fixing the Broken Textbook Market, Second Edition (p. 20). U.S. PIRG Education Fund. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Fixing-the-Broken-Textbook-Market_June-2020_v2.pdf
Pawlyshyn, N., Braddlee, D., Caspar, L., & Miller, H. (2013). Adopting OER: a case study of cross-institutional collaboration and innovation. EDUCASE Review, 2013 (11). http://er.educause.edu/articles/2013/11/adopting-oer-a-case-study-of-crossinstitutional-collaboration-and-innovation
Robinson, T.J., Fischer, L., Wiley, D., & Hilton III, J. (2014). The impact of open textbooks on secondary science learning outcomes. Educational Researcher, 43 (7), 341-351. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X14550275
Shear, L., Means, B., & Lundh, P. (2015). Research on open: OER research hub review and futures for research on OER. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. http://www.hewlett.org/sites/default/files/OERRH%20Evaluation%20Final%20Report%20June%202015.pdf