Institutions and faculty who adopt OER are motivated by their desire to improve student success and understand the potential that openly licensed, fully accessible materials have to help us increase affordability, access, and achievement for learners.


Open educational resources (OER) are freely available, fully accessible instructional materials that either reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits the use, revision, improvement, and redistribution by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support learning (adapted from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s definition).

OER are “openly licensed,” typically under a Creative Commons (CC) license, which enables the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work.

Integrating OER into your course does not have to mean creating something from scratch. The quantity and quality of available OER has grown tremendously over the last several years, making adoption and adaptation of openly licensed instructional materials an increasingly viable option for higher education faculty.



OER enable us to lower college costs

According to the College Board (2018), tuition accounts for only 40% of the overall cost of attending college at 4-year public institutions and 20% of attending 2-year public institutions. The larger costs include room and board and other living expenses including books and supplies; all of which contribute to growing debt balances, particularly for low-income students. The prices of textbooks have continued to rise faster than inflation, increasing 63% between January 2006 – July 2016 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018), with full-time U.S. undergraduate students being asked to pay more than $1,200 per year on average for required course materials (College Board, 2018).

While there is still much work to be done, OER has helped to put a dent in high textbook costs, with higher education institutions in the U.S. and Canada saving students at least $1 billion (SPARC, 2018).



The percentage tuition accounts for in the overall cost of a 4-year college degree


The average amount per year full-time students pay for course materials


The increase in textbook prices between January 2006 and July 2016


The amount OER has saved students in the U.S. and Canada


Student surveys find that the high cost of textbooks caused:


to not buy a textbook


to take fewer courses


to drop a course


to not register for a course


to withdraw from a course


OER enable us to make learning opportunities more accessible

The Florida Virtual Campus’ Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey (2016) of over 22,000 students found that the high cost of textbooks significantly impacted students’ academic choices: 47.6% took fewer courses, 45.5% didn’t register for a specific course, 26.1% dropped a course; and 20.7% withdrew from a course as the result of the required textbook cost. Similarly, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found in a 2014 survey that 65% of college students had, at some point, decided against buying a college textbook due to its high price and 48% factored in textbook costs when deciding how many or which classes to take. That means that if students choose to take a lighter course load to get around the financial burden of textbooks, they may spend a longer time in college overall – also an expensive option.

Recent research suggests that students using OER take a significantly higher number of credits than non-OER students in the semester where OER was used in the course. OER students also enrolled in a higher number of credits than their non-OER counterparts in the following semester (Fischer et al, 2015).


OER enable us to make instructional materials optimally effective

When faculty discover a problem with a copyrighted instructional materials or wish to teach concepts in a slightly different order or want to use different examples, the usage license prohibits making any of these kinds of changes. When instructional materials are openly licensed, by contrast, educators can: Retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

By capitalizing on the 5Rs of “open,” institutions can more systematically and continuously revise, remix, and redistribute instructional materials to improve student achievement.

In fact, research findings are beginning to reveal OER’s promise to impact student achievement in addition to affordability and access. In two studies conducted at Tidewater Community College, students enrolled in OER versions of a course were less likely to drop and more likely to pass the course than students enrolled in traditional versions of the same course (Hilton et al., 2016, Wiley et al., 2016).



Make, own, and control copies of the content.


Use the content in a wide range of ways.


Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content.


Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new.


Share copies of the original content, revisions or remixes with others.