Why OER? (straw dog)

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Given the plethora of information which you can easily access on the Internet, consider the following:
  • How and why is an OER special? and,
  • Why should you take the time to create or find an OER for use with your students?


Image courtesy of Recyclethis
The aim of OER is to improve education by sharing knowledge and learning resources. By joining this international community of educators you can save time, cut costs and contribute to improving the quality of learning around the world.

With OER you are free to use, adapt, mix and share the resources, and become part of this growing community.

The four "R's" of OER

With OER you are free to:

  1. Reuse - Use the work verbatim (unaltered), without having to ask permission.
  2. Revise - Alter or transform the work to meet your needs
  3. Remix - Combine the (verbatim or altered) work with other works for enhanced effect
  4. Redistribute - Share the verbatim, reworked remixed work with others.

(Wiley, 2007)

Each of these things can be done with traditionally copyrighted material, but requires more effort and resources.

The OER movement seeks to stimulate, facilitate and catalyse growth of the pool learning resources on the Internet which circumvent barriers to access and lift restrictions on usage[1], thus improving education as a social good.

Using OER is simple and rewarding!


Image courtesy of Tom@HK

The value proposition for OER

With OER you can (for example) browse online photo galleries, select appropriately licensed images, and use them to compose a poster or other learning resource for your own classroom. The result may be shared similarly, as an OER, for others to use in their own learning design without having to ask for permission.

As another example, think about being able to take a song and combine it with video of a local event to create a documentary that can be published online. If the music and video are suitably licensed, this is both possible and legal. It is made possible because people such as yourself take the time to create and share OER.

This OER Handbook is a good example:

  • All the images have been sourced or adapted from existing images whose license is compatible with the Handbook's license (CC-BY-SA);
  • Contributors from North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific region have participated in its development.
  • We have produced the handbook in shorter time frames when compared to traditional publishing approaches, by saving time associated with copyright clearances.

This would not have been possible without free content images, and free software collaboration technologies.

The advantages of OER extend beyond remixing existing content. OER saves time, since educators do not need to generate resources from scratch. Some OER, especially OpenCourseWare, can compensate for teacher shortages, provided learners are sufficiently self-directed and have enough prior knowledge about the subject. OER is also beneficial to learners, as it can give learners opportunity to customize their learning experiences. Finally, some OER can widen access to the work of leading institutions and world renowned teachers. For example, MIT opencourseware offers syllabi from one of the world's top technical institutions and arXiv.org[2] offers access to scientific papers, often straight from the research lab.


Image courtesy of Leigh Blackall
A frame from a comic strip satire about protectionist educational development


  1. The Licensing section of the handbook provides more detail on how this is achieved.
  2. http://arxiv.org/