What are Open Educational Resources?

Open educational resources (OER) are openly-licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes - without cost or access barriers. Open educational resources include textbooks, full courses, course materials, modules, streaming videos, tests, software, study aides, games, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. (source: Hewlett Foundation)

What are the benefits of OER?

Cost Savings

According to a report from the Student Public Interest Research Groups, textbook costs have risen expotentially since 2006, contributing significantly to the cost of higher education. On average, students are spending around $1,200 a year on textbooks. The cost of textbooks has risen 73% since 2006, four times the rate of inflation.

In a survey of USU students, 74% said they pay for textbooks with their own money, with the average cost per semester for all textbooks that semester ranging from $200-$600. 85% reported that they have delayed purchasing a textbook for a class. Of those that delayed purchasing textbooks, 58% said their grade was negatively impacted due to the delay.

Open Licensing and Online Access

The open licensing on OER means that students are free to use the materials as they see fit (and as licensing allows), allowing them to keep, print, and share OER with friends, or even remix and share study materials of their own.

OER are open and online, meaning they will be available to students on the first day of class and can be kept after class ends. No more waiting for books or access, as every student can have immediate and unlimited access to their course materials they need.

Academic Freedom and Pedagogy

In addition to saving students money, OER also increase academic freedom for professors. With Creative Commons licenses, instructors are allowed to adapt learning materials to their specific teaching style and the learning needs of their students.

  • OER can be remixed and adapted for specific use, making it an innovative, customizable option for your course.
  • OER are revised with new versions and content, ensuring you're teaching the most up-to-date material.
Student behind stack of books

Increase in the cost textbooks since 2006, 4 times the rate of inflation


Students spend on average $1,200 a year on textbooks


85% of USU students delayed purchasing a textbook due to cost


58% reported suffering academically due to this delay

Sources: Student Public Interest Research Groups; 2016 Student Survey, Utah Academic Library Consortium.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find an OER for my course?

There are many OER that are already developed for many courses and are easy to find. If this is not the case for your course, you can adapt a current OER to meet your need. Take a look at some of the repositories we recommend or contact the OER team for help finding, creating, or adapting OER for your needs.

How hard are they to adopt into a course?

Many OER are developed to meet a standard scope and sequence of courses. Some also include teaching resources such as PowerPoints, test banks, and homework and courseware options, making for an easier transition. Both the OER team and the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction (CIDI) at USU can help you with text selection, adoption, and Canvas integration for your course.

I found an OER, but it’s not exactly what I need.

Great! With Creative Commons licenses, you can have the freedom to adapt resources to your needs! Reach out to the OER Team for support and advice.

Do OER include teaching resources (PowerPoints, labs, test banks, homework, courseware, etc.)?

Some OER include teaching resources such as PowerPoints, test banks, and homework and courseware options. The Library’s OER Team can help you find free or low-cost homework and courseware providers.

What about quality?

To help identify high-quality materials, some OER repositories include peer reviews and ratings. For example, OpenStax offers high-quality, professionally peer-reviewed texts that are comparable to publisher texts. Open Textbook Library also features 5-star, detailed post-production peer ratings of OER textbooks, which allows you to quickly assess the quality of the text. Since access to the materials is free, you too have the option to personally review the information and assess its coverage of the course material.

What about OER revisions, errors, sustainability, etc?

Some OER providers have sustainability models that allow them to maintain, revise, and update their texts. Reach out to us for help determining how often texts in your area are updated.

More Questions?