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Open Educational Resources & Open Access

Find information about open educational resources such as open textbooks, open courses, images, Creative Commons, and more

What is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) is a form of publishing in which works have "free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of [...] articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself" (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).

Open access is particularly important in the context of research and education, as it ensures that knowledge is promptly available to users, without embargoes or access costs.

What are OERs?

Open educational resources (OERs) are free materials that are in the public domain or use a licence (usually a Creative Commons licence) that establishes how they can be shared, distributed, revised, or remixed. OERs can include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, n.d.).

True OERs should be made in ways that allow adaptations, granting anyone the ability to build or modify the original content as long as credit is given to the creator. To meet this requirement, OERs should comply with the "5Rs of Openness" (Wiley, 2014) : retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

The 5 Rs of OER

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • 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)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • 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)
  • 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)

To know more:

How OA and OERs relate to each other?

OERs and open access are closely related, but they are not exactly same thing. Open access can be viewed as a broad group containing various forms of freely accessible works, including items in the public domain, OERs, free cultural works, materials that are fully copyrighted (depending on licencing terms), and also items that have a NonDerivative licence -- in other words, works that are not authorized to receive modifications.

OERs, on the other hand, are a type of open access resource that is licenced in a way to allow modifications to the original work. This means that NonDerivative licences do not apply to OERs. The image below helps illustrate these concepts:

"Mapping of terms to copyright licenses" is in the Public Domain

Why use OERs and Open Access?

Open Access can offer several advantages to faculty and students. Probably the most obvious advantages are cost, ease of access to research, and better communication/distribution of knowledge. 

  • Open access works are free to the user; faculty, students, and the public can download, retain, and use open access materials without concerns about paywalls, technical restrictions, or geographic barriers. This also means distribution of knowledge is fair, since any student or researcher, in any part of the world, can have access to important research that would have been inaccessible because of ever increasing fees or embargoes. Since authors of open access works retain their copyright instead of transferring them to a publisher, they can also choose to distribute their works in various forms.
  • Cost is also one of the main advantages of using OERs. Faculty can use and distribute an open resource in class without adding a financial burden to students. In fact, studies and tools indicate that OERs help reduce costs for students, which in turn may contribute to increase student retention.
  • OERs are meant to be flexible, which makes them interesting from a teaching and learning perspective. Instructors may decide to use only a portion of a source, adapt sections of it, embed interactive content and custom exercises, or remix it with another source; this means course materials can be modified to serve various pedagogical goals, increasing engagement and also providing alternatives for collaboration with other instructors or professionals, and even with students in the creation of new and unique content.
  • OA and OERs offer interesting opportunities to transform students intro creators of knowledge. By participating in open pedagogy projects, students can practice what they learned in class, engage in research practices, make adaptations to content, and exercise control over their creation. It is also a good way to make students exposed to the principles of open licencing.


Budapest Open Access Initiative. (2002). Read the declaration.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (n.d).  Open Educational Resources.

Wiley, D. (2014). The Access compromise and the 5th R. Improving learning.