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Open Educational Resources

Guiding the conversation

About open educational resources (OERs)

“OERS are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” 

Source: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

OERs can be legally and freely copied, used, adapted and shared. Wiley refers to this as the 5 R's of openness:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • 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 open content 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)

There are many advantages to using OERs. These include:

  • Financial savings increase student retention and satisfaction
  • Equitable access across large cohorts
  • Customizable content e.g. by geographic context
  • Multiple and accessible formats
  • Quick circulation
  • Resources can be updated more frequently as new knowledge emerges
  • Students do just as well, or better using OER than traditional textbooks (Hilton, 2016)

Hilton, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: A review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64, 573–590.

Some examples of how OER's have been used:

History - open textbook

A second year history subject required students to purchase an expensive print textbook. With the help of the library, the lecturer located an appropriate OER textbook and combined this with other library resources into their learning management site.  Student retention rates improved in this subject and were accompanied by minimal change in learning outcomes. When surveyed at the end of semester, student respondents stated that they perceived the quality of the open textbook to be the same or better than commercial textbooks used in other courses.


Physiotheraphy - labs online

Due to COVID19 social distancing restrictions, lecturers were required to postpone first semester laboratory sessions. A colleague at another Australian University shared lab recordings from the previous semester which were openly licenced. This allowed the lecturer to edit these recordings to create 'mashups' which covered key learning outcomes for unit.


Medicine - wiki creation

Students were asked to find a 'stub' or create a Wikipedia article for their first year population and preventative health assessment. This encouraged students to build their digital dexterity by developing web editing skills. It also developed information literacy skills by ensuring articles were appropriately referenced. Students added to the pre-existing body of knowledge in the area by creating an OER and making authoritative medical information more readily accessible, while also creating work that they can share with future employers.

Using an OER

Many OERs are published under a Creative Commons (CC) license. This license lets you know how the material can be used, reused, adapted and shared. You can find more information about CC in the Copyright guide.

The Open Education Licensing (OEL) Toolkit also provides tailored information about copyright and licensing when using OERs.

Publishing an OER

If you are planning to publish teaching materials as an OER you should consult the OER Licensing Checklist.Creative Commons also has a licence wizard that can help you determine the most appropriate license type. Remember OERs can only include openly licensed and public domain materials.

As with other educational resources, OERs need to be evaluated to ensure they are suitable for their intended use. Use the checklist below to assist with this process


License type

  • License permits educational use
  • License allows modification and adaption


  • The text is professionally presented, clear and understandable
  • Images, audio and videos are high quality
  • Easy to locate and navigate
  • Interactive resources promote student learning and engagement


  • Aligned with teaching objectives
  • Clearly written and right for students ability and understanding
  • Appropriately current


  • Creator is identified, qualified and reputable
  • Accurate content
  • Peer reviewed
  • Free from bias


  • Is the material closed captioned and screen reader accessible
  • Alternative formats are available (PDF or Word)

Finding OERs

Multidisciplinary collections

Search tools