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Image courtesy of Chaos in June

Open Educational Resources offer some great benefits and opportunities over completely in-house development and/or the purchase of "closed" (traditionally copyrighted) resources:

  • OER provide freedom of access for both yourself and others.
  • Because you can freely adapt them, OER encourage pedagogical innovation.
  • Because OER are available free of charge, using them can lower costs to students and organizations.
  • You and your organization may benefit from potential publicity.
  • When you share OER, you are contributing to the global education community.
  • When you share OER, you open a new method of collaborating with your students and colleagues.
  • Your OER may be helpful to future educators.
  • Your OER may be beneficial to underserved individuals in the developed and developing world.
  • Using OER puts you in control and avoids "vendor lock-in" or a situation in which you can only use one company's products.
  • OER are represented in standard formats that can be edited and manipulated with free software for a wide variety of reasons including file conversion for access on different media (e.g., on paper, CD/DVD, via mobile devices, in multimedia presentations), re-purposing for various language and educational levels, etc.

However, when embarking on an OER project, be it a small scale attempt to use OER in a course, or a large scale institutional initiative to create and share OER, there are many things to consider:

  • As with Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS)[1], volunteer contributions are significant, often by a diversity of people with limited time and institutional support.

As a user

  • Check for completeness, appropriateness and quality for your context:
    • OER developed elsewhere by others may need significant customization to be effective in your local context.
    • Because OER is generated largely through volunteer work, the topics and types of OER available varies widely. Additionally, quality control is handled differently by each site, with some sites being more selective than others. This occasionally makes the process of finding a quality OER difficult or frustrating.

As a producer

  • Ensure you have the resources required to compose, adapt, share and use the OER effectively. These may include time, money, talent, knowledge and expertise in learning design and other resources which need to be well coordinated.
  • Get support from the administration of your institution.
  • For larger initiatives, invest in the necessary resources to support the initiative including:
    • Startup funds
    • Technical support to manage servers, including appropriate security, privacy, protection from vandalism and spam, etc.
    • A small team to manage quality and check legality (copyright, accessibility and other requirements) of resources before approving for publishing.
    • Marketing and communications.
  • The Handbook for Institutions has more comprehensive guidance for large scale institutional OER initiatives.
  • Reward contributors.
  • OER typically requires Internet access (ideally high-speed). If not available, some resources are not usable and participation may be limited.
  • Technical requirements for using OER vary. Some may require you to use a particular piece of software.
  • If you want to include "closed" material in your OER, obtaining copyright clearance from the owner can be difficult and expensive.
  • Your institution may be concerned about 'giving away' educational materials created by you and other employees, and policymakers may not embrace the use of OER. It is recommended that they read the handbook for Policymakers.

A significant OER consideration is the current state of copyright. The next section will discuss how copyright influences OER.


  1. See Models and Approaches as well as the Glossary for more information


Baker, J. (Last Edited 2007, June 20). OER Introduction. Connexions. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from