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.OER for You and your Students: Start Here

Why OER?

To save students money. The cost of textbooks is a barrier that can be lowered, to make getting an education more affordable.

What is OER?

Definitions vary, but ideally, Open Educational Resources (OER) are those resources that allow the 5 R’s

Why are these OER textbooks free?

Legislatures, charitable foundations, and passionate participants have provided the money, expertise, and time, to create free OER textbooks for the good of the community.

What is the easiest way to use OER?

Treat all resources as fully copyrighted resources; just link to them and use them as is.

However, using OER that allows the 5 R’s gives you the flexibility of editing, making multiple copies, and mixing resources to create materials tailored to your classroom needs. 

How do I find a Free OER Textbook?

The free OER textbook is nice, but what about all the supplementary resources, like text banks, and exercises?

Many of the free OER textbooks have working groups and fans that share the supplemental resources they create to complement the textbook. When everyone pools their best efforts, everyone gains. Ask a librarian or CIE contact for assistance.

What if I cannot find a free OER Textbook that works for my course?

When I find an OER textbook I want to use, what comes next?

You need to talk to your department to see if the textbook meets the learning objectives for the course, and find out if everyone who teaches that course is willing to work with you to switch to the new free OER textbook.

If I am going to take advantage of the flexibility of OER, what do I need to know?

  • For each work you use, you should provide alternative formats if available.  (pdf, html, etc.)
  • You need to add an attribution or citation to give credit where it is due, to all excerpts
  • You need to follow the license requirements

Terms to understand:

If you change the material significantly, then you should add your attribution information and submit the new version to OER Commons.

  • Modified works submitted to the OER commons, or used in a classroom, must have attribution/citation information that would enable a person to re-search for the version used to create a new version.

Accessibility and Usability

Accessibility and Usability is essential.  Follow the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

  • Present concepts using a variety of audio/visual, text, and project work.  
  • If you design your materials with possible sensory impairments in mind (add captions to videos, and make electronic documents accessible for screen readers) then students do not need to ask for accommodations – they are already built in.
  •  Even people without obvious impairments can benefit from the variety of ways a concept is presented.

Consider alternative methods of assessing students.  Some people can demonstrate their understanding or skills better when they can choose among essay, power-point, video, or other project presentation. 

Consider having students create OER/open-licensed templates or exercises that can be used and modified by other teachers and students.  Add these to OER Commons.

Get rid of throw-away assignments and have students do something they, or others, can use again in the future. 


Always feel free to contact your Library at for more information.

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