According to UNESCO, "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions."
OER are not like regular textbooks. Instructors and students have permission to use, copy, keep, share, and modify them ... for free!
Unlike commercial textbooks, whose use is governed by copyright or--for online commercial textbooks--license agreements, OER (that are not in the public domain) employ a Creative Commons license that conveys more rights to instructors and students than permitted by U.S. copyright law or commercial license agreements.
Long description of The 5 Rs of OER:
Retain: keep the materials in any form;
Reuse: use the content in its unaltered form;
Revise: adapt, adjust, modify, improve or alter the content;
Remix: combine original or revised content to create something new; and
Redistribute: share copies of reused, revised or remixed content with other people.
A short list of OER's benefits:
OER help address the problem of the cost of attending college by reducing textbook costs. While instructors cannot do anything about the cost of tuition and student fees, they can relieve students' financial pressures with respect to textbooks.
Research has shown that open textbooks provide tangible benefits compared with their commercial counterparts. Instructors and students report finding OER textbooks on the whole to be as good as or better than commercial textbooks. Students whose classes rely on OER are more likely to remain in those classes and to enroll in more credits over time.
Instructors can tailor OER to meet their specific instructional needs. Teach classes your way: use an OER in its entirety; remove chapters you don't want to teach from an OER textbook; or combine parts of multiple OER textbooks to make your own, customized textbook.
Open Pedagogy is a teaching and learning movement that moves away from the "disposable assignment": tests, quizzes, and papers that are used once, graded, and then forgotten. In Open Pedagogy, instructors guide students in creating durable, malleable content, which can be reused or built upon by other (even future) students. For more information, be sure to check out the Open Pedagogy section of this guide.