In the BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide, we’ve shared our definition of open educational resources (OER): “teaching, learning, and research resources that, through permissions granted by the copyright holder, allow others to use, distribute, keep, or make changes to them.”

OER are teaching resources that have an open-copyright licence (such as one from Creative Commons), or they are part of the public domain and have no copyright. Depending on the licence used, OER can be freely accessed, used, re-mixed, improved, and shared.

Are open textbooks OER?

Open textbooks are a subset of OER, and while we focus much of our effort on creating, assessing, sharing, and supporting open textbooks, there are many types of OER available, such as:

  • Online courses
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Presentation slides
  • Syllabi
  • Course outlines
  • Supplemental materials, such as quizzes and assignments

Why should I use OER?

One of the driving factors for the adoption of OER, such as open textbooks, is they are free. But cost savings is not the only benefit of using OER – they are an essential part of an open pedagogy, and can be used to create a powerful learning experience for your students. Studies have revealed a “positive relationship between the use of OER and student academic achievement” [PDF] and suggest that OER may help to decrease withdrawal rates while increasing overall student grades.

Former BCcampus Director of Curriculum Services, Paul Stacey, shared a comprehensive article on the Economics of Open, which provides an abundance of reasons to choose and use OER.

OER can:

  • Increase access to education
  • Provide students with an opportunity to assess and plan their education choices
  • Showcase an institution’s intellectual outputs, promote its profile, and attract students
  • Convert students exploring options into fee-paying enrollments
  • Accelerate learning by providing educational resources for just-in-time, direct, informal use by both students and self-directed learners
  • Add value to knowledge production
  • Reduce faculty preparation time
  • Generate cost savings – (this case has been particularly substantiated for open textbooks)
  • Enhance quality
  • Generate innovation through collaboration