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Here you will find an extensive collection of web-based class activities. These articles provide collections of links to interactive online tools organized around instructional themes and activities. Specific ideas for use in adult education are provided, along with examples and step-by-step instructions.

Introduction to OERs

by Diana Vera-Alba
ESL Faculty & OER Coordinator, San Diego College of Continuing Education
OTAN Subject Matter Expert
posted February 2023

What Are OERs?

Clipart of character sorting through media typesImage by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

Open Educational Resources, or OERs, are openly licensed teaching and learning materials. Creative Commons licenses specify how the author/creator would like their resources to be used. In order for a resource to be considered "open" and a true OER they must allow the user the ability to use the 5 R's: Revise, Remix, Reuse, Retain, and Redistribute. A common misconception about OERs is that they are copyright free. On the contrary, OERs benefit the author as they allow the creator to retain their copyright with the added bonus of allowing their downstream users special permissions on usage. These special permissions are defined in the Creative Commons licenses.

What Are Creative Commons Licenses?

Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

Creative Commons licenses were created in 2001 to allow authors/creators the ability to share their works with specific permissions, digitally and globally, while still retaining their copyright. There are 6 Creative Commons licenses that specify how an author/creator would like downstream users to adopt, use, transform, and share their creative works. Some of the licenses contain minimal restrictions which allow users to make changes or remixes (combine two or more resources together), while other licenses are more restrictive in that they impede the user from making changes or revisions. Only 4 of the 6 licenses contain the 5 R's.

What Do the 6 Creative Commons Allow the User To Do or Not Do?

Creative Commons LogosImage by Alexander from Pixabay

Each of the 6 Creative Commons licenses allow the author/creator to define how they would like their creative works to be used. The licenses are identified by a series of icons and acronyms listed below:
(Images retrieved from creativecommons.org)

  1. CC BY: Creative Commons by Attribution
    Creative Commons by Attribution Logo

    1. Users can copy, distribute, display, perform and remix the creative work and must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users can use the creative work commercially (for profit).
  2. CC BY SA: Creative Commons by Attribution & Share Alike
    Creative Commons by Attribution & Share Alike

    1. Users can copy, distribute, display, perform and remix the creative work and must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users can distribute the author/creator's work or remixes ONLY under the identical license (share alike).
    3. Users can use the creative work commercially (for profit).
  3. CC BY NC: Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial
    Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial

    1. Users can copy, distribute, display, perform and remix the creative work and must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users cannot use the creative work commercially (no profit permitted).
  4. CC BY NC SA: Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial & Share Alike
    Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial & Share Alike Logo

    1. Users can copy, distribute, display, perform and remix the creative work and must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users cannot use the creative work commercially (no profit permitted).
    3. Users can distribute the author/creator's work or remixes ONLY under the identical license (share alike).
  5. CC BY ND: Creative Commons by Attribution & No Derivatives
    Creative Commons by Attribution & No Derivatives Logo

    1. Users must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users can ONLY copy, distribute, display or perform verbatim copies of your work (no changes to the original work).
    3. Users can use the creative work commercially (for profit).
  6. CC BY NC ND: Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial & No Derivatives
    Creative Commons by Attribution & Non-Commercial & No Derivatives Logo

    1. Users must give the author/creator credit as requested (attribution).
    2. Users cannot use the creative work commercially (no profit permitted).
    3. Users can ONLY copy, distribute, display or perform verbatim copies of your work (no changes to the original work).

What Are the Benefits of Using, Creating, and/or Adopting OERs?

There are many benefits! Below are some benefits of using, creating and/or adopting OERs for educators, districts, and especially for students.

  1. Using OERs allows for expansion of equitable access to materials for all students. As educators we know the barriers that our students face. We want to do everything possible to help our students achieve their goals and dreams. By adopting and using OERs in your courses you are removing some of those financial barriers for students.

  2. Students and Districts can save money by using OERs as they are usually low to no cost for districts and students. For example, students wouldn't have to purchase a textbook as OERs replace the traditional costs. There may be minimal duplicating costs, but most OERs are available in electronic format which means they can be shared with students in a downloadable format or posted and displayed in a Learning Management System (Canvas, Google Classroom, etc.).

  3. You can use the most updated materials without having to wait for publisher revisions. OERs can be updated, adapted and changed with minimal effort (based on the Creative Commons license permissions). Materials can be modified to better align with your course student learning outcomes.

  4. The OER community is an innovative group of people who are all about sharing their knowledge and ideas, for the betterment of our craft. As an OER creator, you have a great community who can guide, support, and encourage you along the way. This community is a wonderful network of collaborative peers who are happy and eager to assist you as well as share their resources with you. In addition, there are many repositories, libraries, and sites, like OER Commons, with wonderful resources at your fingertips.

  5. Students, educators and districts have access to high quality resources. When searching for OER materials in sites and repositories, such as Merlot, OpenStax or OER Commons, you can easily filter for peer reviewed materials that have been rated and vetted. In addition, most colleges and universities around the world have adopted OERs as they have seen the benefits, especially for students.

Summary

With the development of Creative Commons licenses, there's a sharp increase in the use and adoption of OERs. Most colleges, universities and organizations around the world dedicated to education, including Unesco, promote the use of OERs to allow for equitable access to educational materials for all students. We hope this introduction to OERs helped to demystify OERs and piqued an interest to use and adopt these fabulous resources.

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.