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OER (Open Educational Resources): Frequently Asked Questions

A guide for faculty on exploring, selecting, and implementing OER

How do I know that a resource is high quality and appropriate to use for a college level course?

Many OER repositories include are curated by librarians and professors, and include ratings and reviews from a community of instructors who have used them for their own classes. For example, OER Commons employs a star rating system to rate different resources:

How will using OER affect student performance?

The 2014 Student PIRGs report, "Fixing the Broken Textbook Market," reported several notable findings from their study:

  • High textbook costs continue to deter students from purchasing their assigned materials despite concern for their grades. 65% of survey respondents said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive

  • Nearly half of all students surveyed said that the cost of textbooks impacted how many/which classes they took each semester

  • Students believe that hard-copy optional, free online alternatives to the traditional textbook would improve their performance. 82% of students felt they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook was available free online and buying a hard copy was optional.

Source: Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives. Student PIRGS, 2014. 

Do I have to change and contribute to materials I find online, or can I use them as they are?

Under certain Creative Commons Licenses, you are free to remix as you choose. However, it is not required! Many OER can be used exactly as you find them. If you have created your own OER, you may choose to apply any number of restrictions under Creative Commons. 

To learn more about Creative Commons and the different types of licenses that are available, see their website at creativecommons.org.

What if students prefer to have physical textbooks?

There are low-cost OER options available in print as well. The student pays for only the cost of printing. An example of this low-cost print textbook model is OpenStax from Rice University, where you can find a collection of textbooks in Math, Science, Social Sciences, and the Humanities.