Open Educational Resources

There are only 17 576 three letter combinations of the 26 letter English alphabet available. One of these acronyms is OER, which can mean many different things to many different people. In fact the Free Dictionary lists 31 different definitions:

In the context here, OER refers to Open Educational Resources. OERs are educational materials that are in the public domain or provided with an open license or otherwise made freely available. It could include written materials (books), audio materials (podcasts and music), photographs, drawings and other illustrative works, or video materials.

On another level, OERs can also include software such as operating systems (Linux, developed at various locations, including Berkeley CA and Helsinki, Finland) , web browsers (Firefox, developed at Mountain View/ San Francisco CA), application software, such as KiCad (from Grenoble, France) and FreeCad (Ulm, Germany), as well as learning management systems, such as Canvas (Salt Lake City UT), LON-CAPA (East Lansing MI) and Moodle (Perth, Australia).

There is even open hardware, which more often than not consists of technical drawings and descriptions of products that can be made on 3D printers, laser cutters and other forms of automated equipment. While it can be extremely important in certain teaching situations, hardware will not be discussed further in this weblog post.

No matter how much content is stored on a bookshelf, or inside a computer, content only becomes meaningful when it is used. Thus, there has to be some form of Open Educational Practice (OEP) developed to use open content, OER, to support learning.

OpenContent was one of the first manifestations of open materials, which was developed by David Wiley (? – ) in 1998. OpenContent is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities. The 5Rs found on the OpenContent website as a framework for assessing the extent to which content is open:

  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 open content 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).


Creative Commons (CC) is a global body that provides open-copyright licences, so that authors can give permission to share and reuse creative works, with the conditions the author chooses. CC began life as an American non-profit organization, founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig (1961 – ), Hal Abelson (1947 – ) and Eric Eldred (1943 – ). It engulfed Open Content in 2002. As of May 2018 there were an estimated 1.4 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses, including Wikipedia, along with over 415 million Creative Commons licensed photographs on Flickr, founded in Vancouver in 2004.

Open Content is an invitation to stakeholders, including students, to be part of the teaching process, and the co-creation of knowledge.