Open Educational Resources

UW‐Madison has identified the adoption and production of Open Educational Resources (OER) as a priority within the Educational Innovation Initiative.

Defining Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources, more commonly referred to as 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. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge (Hewlett Foundation n.d.).

OER formats include both digital and traditional (printable) formats, though digital formats are clearly gaining ground given how easy they can be placed on accessible platforms and shared within the public sphere (including between instructors).

OER components (sometimes deemed ‘learning objects’) range in size and scale from homework exercises, podcasts, infographics and visualizations, through to e-textbooks, open access online courses (including MOOCs) and learning support resources of a course-like nature. Some examples include:

  • Images
  • Videos, video tutorials or lectures
  • Elements of courses
  • Audio podcasts, tutorials or lectures
  • Interactive games and simulations
  • Infographics
  • E-books/open texts
  • Quizzes
  • Whole courses (e.g., MOOCs)

What is Re-purposing?

5R Legal Permissions:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

What are the benefits of OER?

Textbook affordability
With textbook costs skyrocketing over the last decade (at the rate of 3-4x Inflation and a 812% increase since 1978), faculty and students alike are looking for affordable alternatives.

Equal access to knowledge
OER have significant potential to help campus further embody and enact the Wisconsin Idea through the sharing of our teaching resources across the state, the nation and the world.

Transformed teaching and learning
David Wiley defines OER Related Pedagogy as the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R activities. You can view examples of these activities and read more about how open education can flip the classroom.

Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Instructors can create or adapt materials that promote inclusion through the use of diverse images, examples, perspectives, and worldviews that more readily reflect the lives of today’s students.

Increased retention and student success
Students can access materials on the first day of class or prior to, eliminating the need to borrow from classmates, illegally download, or drop courses due to an inability to afford materials. Additionally, research shows that students using OER perform the same or better than with a traditional textbook.

Support of Academic Freedom
Instructors have the ability to personalize learning materials under the 5R Legal Permissions, presenting the opportunity for new pedagogical and intellectual avenues.