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What Are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources Defined

Open educational resources, also known as OER, are freely available educational materials licensed to permit copying, sharing, editing, retaining, and using (Ernst, Cohen, & Kaufman, 2018).

Free vs. Open

At Bucknell, we have many options for providing "free" educational resources to students. For instance, students can borrow textbooks and other materials that have been placed on course reserve in the library. Some assigned course readings, including books and journal articles, are available through library databases. Some course materials may be available as open access content on the web. In these cases, students have free access to the materials.

But these resources are not open. To be open, a resource must contain a license that gives users certain permissions. We refer to these permissions as the "5 Rs" (Wiley, 2014).

The 5 Rs

According to David Wiley (2014), the 5 Rs give us the following permissions:

  • Retain - we can make and keep copies of the material
  • Reuse - we can use the material for various purposes
  • Revise - we can customize and edit the material
  • Remix - we can create new works from the material
  • Redistribute - we can share the original or derivative works

So what's the difference between OER and Open Access?

Anita Walz, Associate Professor and Assistant Director for Open Education and Scholarly Communication Librarian at Virginia Tech created a one-page document that shows how OER are always open access, but open access materials may not always be OER.

Finding OER

A small sampling of open content collections:

Search engines:

Learn More

Are you ready to learn more about open education and open educational resources?

Contact Jill Hallam-Miller, Interim Director of Research Services and Information Literacy, to find out when we're hosting OER/Open Education workshops or to talk about finding or adopting open educational resources for your courses.

Why Open @ Bucknell?

During Open Education Week 2018 (March 5-9), we posed the following question to students via a whiteboard near the library cafe: "If you didn't have to pay so much for textbooks, what could you do instead?" Here's what our students told us...

Pay for gas to go home on breaks.
Have more money to buy food and other necessities throughout the semester.
Afford clothes
Invest my textbook money in a savings account.
Not have to constantly worry about finances.
See my mom in person.
Not have to constantly worry about finances.
Buy other essentials for life on campus.
Not pick classes based on textbooks.
Send money to my family at home
Be able to eat.
Be able to pay full tuition to go to Bucknell.
Buy food to eat.
I would still have to afford the ridiculous prices for food here.
Buy better food.
Sleep 8 hours.
Be in slightly less crippling debt.
Have money to go home.
Travel more than I do now.
Travel more often.
student comment
See things more positively. It's hard to when you're always struggling.
Buy a new phone and spend more on my hobbies.
Eat three meals a day.
Buy clothes instead.
Don't have to take out loans.
Buy more food and basic necessities.
Ease Mom's pressure on tuition.
Not struggle to live off of 700 dining dollars a semester.
Be able to afford my meds and eat healthy.
Buy my wife a diamond ring.
Buy a newer car.
Quit one of my four jobs on campus.
Put more money into making music.
Not cry as much as I do now.

And Because...

The high cost of textbooks causes students to make choices that may impact their academic success, as shown in the table below. This information, compiled by Ernst, Cohen, and Kaufman (2018) comes from the 2012 Florida Student Textbook Survey (Florida Virtual Campus, 2012).

Florida Student Textbook Survey data table

And Also Because...

More reasons to embrace open education and open educational resources...

  • Remove financial barriers to education
  • Ensure day-one access to course content
  • Customize and remix course content
  • Innovate in pedagogy - students can engage in new ways with course content

(Ernst, Cohen, & Kaufman, 2018; SPARC, 2018)

Using OER? Tell us about it!

Subject Librarian

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Eloise Stevens
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Impact of OER Adoption


Ernst, D., Cohen, S. F., & Kaufman, S. (Sept. 2018). Open Textbook Network: PALCI master training deck [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

Florida Virtual Campus. (2012). 2012 Florida student textbook survey. Retrieved from

SPARC. (2018). Open education. Retrieved from

Wiley, D. (2014, Mar. 5). The access compromise and the 5th R. Message posted to

Each of the works above, except Florida Virtual Campus, is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Florida Virtual Campus is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

This guide contains a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. It is freely available for modification through the LibGuides community.