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Open Educational Resources and Affordable Learning

A guide to discovering, evaluating, and using low cost textbooks and other course materials.

What are OER?

Infographic: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others." (Hewlett Foundation)

The open license of OER is important because it allows you to use materials in more ways than simply reading them. The "5 Rs of OER" illustrates those expanded rights:

Retain OER content indefinitely 

Reuse OER as it exists currently

Revise OER by modifying it to fit the needs of your courses

Remix OER by combining open sources

Redistribute OER to students and colleagues

Read more about how open rights work on the Copyright & Creative Commons page of this guide.

 [5Rs Image by Ed Beck/CC BY 4.0, based on David Wiley's 5Rs]

Why use OER?

Reasons to use OER for instructors:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are adoptable -- you can use existing textbooks, lab materials, teaching notes, and more.

OER are adaptable -- you can customize them for your course or teaching style.

OER can be all digital or printed, or offered in both formats as you/your students prefer. They can even be interactive and incorporate graded quizzes or multimedia materials.

OER can be integrated into Blackboard courses.

Reasons to use OER for your students:

OER can lower barriers to and minimize costs of course materials for students.

OER can be retained forever so students don't lose access when their textbook rental ends or they sell their book on the resale market. 

OER Course

If you want a crash course in "Understanding OER" and more, check out the SUNY OER Community Courses:

Link to SUNY OER Community Courses


Open Access vs OER?

How are "Open Access" and OER different?

There are a number of related campus initiatives that use the word "open." SUNY Oneonta has a robust Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative that is running parallel to the College’s push towards Open Access to scholarship. A common question is: “What is the difference between Open Access and OER?”

  • Open Access is defined as free, immediate online availability of research articles and other scholarly content. The intention of open access is to make scholarship and research widely available.
  • An Open Educational Resource is defined as a teaching and learning material (such as a textbook) that has been shared with a permissive license allowing for anyone to use, revise, and redistribute it. The purpose of OER is to provide free, reusable teaching and learning materials.


SUNY Oneonta’s Open Access policy is a "rights retention policy."  Campus authors retain copyright of their works, and allow post-peer review article drafts to be shared in an open access repository. The open access policy does not require authors to license content it in a way that would allow for others to reuse or build on their work.

Open Educational Resources

Open Access

  • Materials for teaching and learning
  • Scholarly works that document and advance scholarly conversation
  • Free public access plus the permission to customize
  • Free public access
  • Formats: Textbooks, courseware, assessments, simulations, educational videos
  • Formats: Peer-reviewed journal articles, scholarly books, data and other research outputs