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What is OER?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources. “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere. “Open” permissions are typically defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials.” (SPARC

Examples of OER

Open Educational Resources are learning materials that are under an open Creative Commons (CC) license and can include the following:

  • Open textbooks
  • Entire online courses
  • Course materials such as lecture notes, class activities, lesson plans, etc.
  • Modules
  • Streaming videos (YouTube, Ted Talks)
  • Online study aides and games
  • Any open access materials that promote learning   

Why OER Matters

On average, students are spending around $1,200 a year on textbooks, and “since 2006, the cost of a college textbook increased by 73% - over four times the rate of inflation” (2016 PRIGs Report: Covering the Cost). When implemented in the classroom in place of traditional textbooks, OER can save students hundreds of dollars each semester!

In addition to saving students money, OER also increases academic freedom for professors. When using OER, professors are not restricted by a textbook publisher and are allowed to adapt learning materials to their specific teaching style and the learning needs of their students. 

Challenges Facing OER

  • Time- It takes time to find, evaluate, adapt, and implement OER in a classroom, time that many professors feel they don’t have.
  • Misconceptions about OER- Many professors and students think that since OER is free to use it must be poor quality. Not true! Many open educational resources contain the same quality of information as traditional textbooks. However, not all OER (just like not all textbooks) are created equal. Since the quality of OER can vary, it is important to carefully evaluate OER. Some OER come with reviews, which may help with the evaluation process.
  • Awareness- Some professors and students do not know what open educational resources are, the range of resources available, or the potential benefits.


Here at Utah State University, OER is already starting to spread across campus. Some professors have partially switched over to OER, while others have replaced their traditional textbooks entirely. USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library has an OER team dedicated to increasing awareness about OER and helping professors find and adopt OER into their courses.

USU courses that use OER.

USU's OER Support Team

The OER Support Team at USU exists to further the use of these open resources throughout campus by informing students and faculty about their options, and even compiling lists of potential resources for faculty that are interested in or curious about implementing OER into their courses.

Checkout our faculty information page to learn more about how the team can help in the search and transition.

Finding OER

A good way to search for OER is to use a trusted repository, such as Merlot ( See more repositories.  

Here are some examples of what you might find while searching for OER:

Open Text Book:  Open Course:

When searching through OER, you want to be sure and look for a Creative Commons license which will look like one of the following: 

CC Licenses
Each of the Creative Commons licenses allows for a different level of open use. The CC-BY license allows the most use while the CC-BY-NC-SA license is the most restrictive. Be sure to check what is allowed by a resource's specific CC license before using it. 

For more information about Creative Commons licenses, visit

Need help searching for OER? Have suggestions? Contact the OER Support Team!