Skip to Main Content

Open Educational Resources

About OERs

Open Educational Resources 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. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The 5 Rs of Open

In order for a resource to qualify as an Open Educational Resources, users should be able to:

  • Reuse – 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 – adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)
  • Retain – make, own, and control copies of the content

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

OERs are often published using Creative Commons licenses.These licenses are a simple, standardized way for anyone to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.

Why OERs

The ability to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute learning materials in a highly flexible and customizable way, has a number of tangible benefits for both students and instructors, including:  

Benefits for Students

  • Increased affordability of education: If students can access a resource more easily (i.e. with reduced financial and and other technological/access barriers), they are more likely to use it and learn from it.

"The average cost of undergraduate textbooks and supplies is $200.00CAN per course.  This cost increases on average at a cost of 6%-7% per year and sometimes more" (source: BCcampus Open Textbook Project).

  • Affords greater flexibility: creating, sharing and publishing more accessible learning materials that have been specifically tailored to a specific course fosters a positive learning experience and provides the flexibility that students expect in the digital era.

Benefits for Instructors

  • Why re-invent the wheel? Reusing existing OERs frees up time that can be spent on other aspects of the teaching and learning process. Their use can help faculty expand the range of teaching materials used in academic programs encouraging new and creative learning approaches.
  • Raising profile: Showcasing learning objects, whether as digital collections or as individual learning objects such as podcasts or videos etc., can help raise the instructor’s profile and impact.
  • Greater flexibility in course design: OERs can be integrated into both face-to-face and online courseware in a highly flexible and adaptable way to address specific course learning outcomes.  
  • Value for money: Increased use of Library-licensed or owned resources in print or digital format.
  • Internationalization: OERs contribute to a global knowledge commons supporting international development.

Creative Commons License

This guide has been created by the Queen's University Library and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license unless otherwise marked.  Sections of this guide have been adapted from the Open Access Educational Resources Guide by Ryerson University licensed under CC/BY 4.0