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Open Educational Resources

A short guide to open educational resources: what they are, where you can find them, and why they matter.

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are 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. OER range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation (UNESCO, 2017).

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 either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. 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)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)

This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

OER at Dartmouth

The Dartmouth Library and DCAL have partnered on the Open Education Initiative to encourage Dartmouth instructors to use more open educational resources (OER).

Where to find OER

Why OER?

Benefits of OER

  • Unlike expensive textbooks, open educational resources are freely available online. This ensures that all students have equal access to learning materials, and that textbook costs don't present a barrier to learning.
  • OER are accessible online from the first day of the term so students don't have to wait for their textbook to arrive.
  • Research has shown that in courses that use OER there are lower DFW rates and students achieve higher grades (Colvard, Watson, and Park, 2018).
  • The 5Rs of OER mean that educators using OER can add, change, and remove content to an open resource to customize it for their students.
  • Open educational resources and practices present a way for educators to share their knowledge beyond the classroom and facilitate global sharing of knowledge.


For more information, contact Katie Harding, Teaching & Learning Librarian.