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Open Educational Resources

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Open educational resources (OER) are copyrightable works useful for educational purposes that exist in the public domain or under a copyright license that provides free and perpetual permission to retain, revise, remix, reuse, and redistribute (collectively known as the “5R Activities''). The term “Open Educational Resources” was originally coined at a 2002 Forum on Open Courseware organized by the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO; UNESCO, 2002). OER comprise the foundational component of the broader concept of Open Education and may include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, and any other copyrightable physical or digital tools or materials used to support access to knowledge (Hewlett Foundation, 2022). Creative Commons provides the most commonly used legal schema for granting an open license to a copyrightable educational resource (Creative Commons, 2020a, 2020b; Kimmons, 2018). Instructional techniques that utilize or rely on OER are generally classified as Open Educational Pedagogy, Open Educational Practices, or OER-Enabled Pedagogy (Wiley, 2013, 2015, 2017).
Keywords: 5R Activities, Copyright, Creative Commons, OER, Open, Open Education, Open Educational Resources, Open Learning, Public Domain

The concept of open educational resources only exists and has relevancy in the legal context of copyright law. Where copyright law does not exist, there is no need for a concept like OER. As such, OER is fundamentally a legal construct, built on the idea of legal rights or permissions and requirements granted by creators to intended users.

The most commonly accepted set of permissions are the 5R Activities, developed and defined by David Wiley. These include permission to retain, revise, remix, reuse, and redistribute copyrightable works (Wiley, n.d.). Wiley describes each of these permissions with examples:

In addition to permissions, creators of OER often reserve some rights and requirements on the use of their works that are less than the “all rights reserved” restrictions of full copyright but more than the “no rights reserved” status of works in the public domain. The most widely used international schema for reserving these rights and notifying users of their existence is a standard set of six copyright licenses developed and maintained by Creative Commons (Creative Commons, 2020a; Kimmons, 2018; cf. Table 1). To release a work under one of these licenses, authors simply need to append the desired symbol and link to their work.

Table 1

The Six Creative Commons Copyright Licenses

Name Short Name Symbol and Link Description
Creative Commons Attribution CC BY CC BY icon This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA CC BY-SA icon This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If a reuser remixes, adapts, or builds upon the material, they must license the modified material under identical terms.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC CC BY-NC icon This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA CC BY-NC-SA icon This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If a reuser remixes, adapts, or builds upon the material, they must license the modified material under identical terms.
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives  CC BY-ND CC BY-ND icon This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives  CC BY-NC-ND CC BY-NC-ND icon This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.

Four of the six Creative Commons licenses are used in the legal creation of OER: CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC-BY-NC, and CC-BY-NC-SA because these licenses allow for all of the 5R Activities. The last two licenses, CC-BY-ND and CC-BY-NC-ND, do not allow users to remix or revise a work, and thus violate these core elements of the definition of OER.

OER is the subject of much academic research, with widely varying goals and approaches. A large corpus of research is built on a framework first described by (Bliss et al, 2013; Open Education Group, n.d.) known as the COUP Framework, which explores the impact of OER through the lenses of Cost, Outcomes, Uses, and Perceptions. Several meta-analyses of OER research have been published as well, exploring the overall impact of OER across various metrics and in various contexts (Colvard et al., 2020; Grewe & Davis, 2017; Hendricks et al., 2017; Hilton, 2016; Ikahihifo et al., 2017; Jhangiani & Jhangiani, 2017; Martin et al., 2017).

Policy related to OER has been implemented throughout the world at many different levels of governance, including institutional, municipal, regional, national and international (Idaho State Board of Education, 2021; SPARC, n.d.). Such policies typically incentivize the adoption and use of OER by educators. In 2019, UNESCO adopted a Recommendation on OER that requires all member states to “monitor policies and mechanisms related to OER using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches” (UNESCO, 2019).

Related Terms

OER-Enabled Pedagogy, Open Education, Open Educational Practices, Open Licensing, Open Pedagogy, Open Textbooks

References

Bliss, T. J., Robinson, T., Hilton, J., & Wiley, D. (2013, February 8). Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://edtechbooks.org/-IouJ

Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Park, H. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2).

Creative Commons. (2020, May 22). About CC licenses. Creative Commons. https://edtechbooks.org/-sWxp

Creative Commons. (2020, August 12). Open education. Creative Commons. https://edtechbooks.org/-PZk

Grewe, K., & Davis, W. P. (2017). The impact of enrollment in an OER course on student learning outcomes. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://edtechbooks.org/-Amq

Hendricks, C., Reinsberg, S. A., & Rieger, G. W. (2017). The adoption of an open textbook in a large physics course: An analysis of cost, outcomes, use, and perceptions. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://edtechbooks.org/-ZhIz

Hewlett Foundation. (2022, June 7). Open education. Hewlett Foundation. https://edtechbooks.org/-HuNR

Hilton, J. (2016). Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices: A review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 573–590. https://edtechbooks.org/-Hbc

Idaho State Board of Education. (2021, June 21). III.U. - instructional material access and affordability. Idaho State Board of Education. https://edtechbooks.org/-Pcu

Ikahihifo, T. K., Spring, K. J., Rosecrans, J., & Watson, J. (2017). Assessing the savings from open educational resources on student academic goals. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(7). https://edtechbooks.org/-jZct

Jhangiani, R. S., & Jhangiani, S. (2017). Investigating the perceptions, use, and impact of open textbooks: A survey of post-secondary students in British Columbia. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://edtechbooks.org/-PKAU

Kimmons, R. (2018). Copyright and Open Licensing. In A. Ottenbreit-Leftwich & R. Kimmons, The K-12 Educational Technology Handbook. EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/-eDja

Martin, M. T., Belikov, O. M., Hilton III, J., Wiley, D., & Fischer, L. (2017). Analysis of student and faculty perceptions of textbook costs in Higher Education. Open Praxis, 9(1), 79. https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.9.1.432

Open Education Group. (n.d.). The coup framework. Open Education Group. https://openedgroup.org/coup

SPARC. (n.d.). OER State policy tracker. SPARC. https://edtechbooks.org/-JCEu

UNESCO. (2002). Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries, UNESCO, Paris, 1-3 July 2002: final report. https://edtechbooks.org/-xWV

UNESCO. (2019, November 25). Recommendation on open educational resources (OER). https://edtechbooks.org/-XMBW

Wiley, D. (2013). What is Open Pedagogy? improving learning. https://edtechbooks.org/-ysk

Wiley, D. (2015). Open Pedagogy: The Importance of Getting it in the Air. improving learning. https://edtechbooks.org/-WFTB

Wiley, D. (2017). OER-Enabled pedagogy. improving learning. https://edtechbooks.org/-AFJH

Wiley, D. (n.d.). Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources. opencontent.org https://edtechbooks.org/-zDKm

Community Artifacts

Arts, Y., Call, H., Cavan, M., Holmes, T. P., Rogers, J., Tuiloma, S. H., West, L., & Kimmons, R. (2021). An Introduction to Open Education. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-GiR

George, N. S., Allen, C., Allen, N., Amaral, J., Baker, A., Batchelor, C., Beaubien, S., Clinkscales, G. E., Cross, W., Cummings-Sauls, R., Dean, K. N., Ellis, C., Francis, D., Frank, E., Gallaway, T., Green, A. G., Hare, S., III, J. H., Ippoliti, C., … Zemke, S. (2019, January 22). OER: A Field Guide for Academic Librarians: Editor's cut. OER A Field Guide for Academic Librarians Editors Cut. https://edtechbooks.org/-VLtH

Hilton, J. (n.d.). Guidebook to Research on Open Educational Resources Adoption. Open Ed Group. https://edtechbooks.org/-xivu

OER Africa. (n.d.). OER Africa. https://oerafrica.org/

Open Education Network. (n.d.). Open Education Network. https://open.umn.edu/oen/

OpenStax. (n.d.). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/

Pohl, A., Neumann, J. L., Team, O. E. R. W. M., & Mandraschhbz. (2022, March 22). OER World Map Blog. https://oerworldmap.wordpress.com/

Rebus Community. (n.d.). Rebus community. https://www.rebus.community/

TEDxTalks. (2010). TEDxNYED - David Wiley - 03/06/10. YouTube. https://edtechbooks.org/-eYiF

Suggested Citation

& (2022). Open Educational Resources. EdTechnica: The Open Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. https://edtechbooks.org/encyclopedia/oer

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