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Jun 07 2022 - 02:00 PM
Open Education Resources

blue door open with a yellow wall and trees




Even before the advent of the digital age, educators, researchers, and learners of all kinds looked for ways to open up access and availability of educational methods and resources. For example, the book Roots of Open Education in America: Reminiscences and Reflections edited by Ruth Dropkin and Arthur Tobier and published by the City College Workshop Center for Open Education in 1976 illustrates this early approach. 


In the introduction to the book by way of definition of Open Education, Lillian Webber asserts,

“the ideas of open education, after all, are about person, about difference, about continuity, about human striving to make both sense of the world and an impact on it, about potentiality and the conditions of life that nurture or suppress the flowering of potentiality, about the conditions that allow the recognition and emergence of ideas, and about the professional, theoretical, and institutional context of schooling” pg. 5


As you can tell, the grounds of Open Education were not just as a practicality of access to resources, but as an ethos and philosophy for creating educational opportunities for everyone. The contributors to the book explain different and innovative educational techniques across the world, foregrounding the possibilities in education when students are self-directed and able to collaborate with their instructor. 


With the advancement of widespread technology and access to the internet, the term Open Education has become more and more associated with materials published online that can be freely accessed, used, and shared. One of the first initiatives in the U.S. around this concept was Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), most recognizably at MIT in their OpenCourseWare project, where they began to publish their course materials and lectures openly and freely in 2001. Now, the world of Open Education has expanded and converged with other similar movements including Open Access, Open Source, and Open Data. 


Some Definitions


Open Education: a movement focused on creating more accessible entry to education resources for teachers, students, self-learners, and anyone without the ability to utilize institutional access to resources. This term focuses mostly on the promise of digital tools to equitize access to resources like online classes, lesson plans, textbooks, activities, and the whole ecosystem of educational work. Materials relating to this pursuit are often called Open Educational Resources (OERs). 


Open Educational Resources (OER)Creative Commons defines OERs as “teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities– retaining, remixing, revising, reusing and redistributing the resources.” Learn more about OERs in Higher Education specifically by reading this Guide called Free to Learn published by Hal Plotkin and made available by Creative Commons. 


Open Access: The term used to refer to academic scholarship, often peer-reviewed, and other publications made accessible without a paywall. While related to the Open Education movement, Open Access does not imply the right to retain, make changes, or remix the content available. Use the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to find relevant open access publications, or search within Educat+ and check the filter called “Open Access”


Open Source: This phrase is often referring to software packages that are both freely available to download and the source code of the software is also openly available to use or modify. Some open source software you might know about include Moodle, Zotero, and Firefox.


Open vs. Free: All open resources are free but not all free resources are open. Free resources may have creative commons diagram for determining OERadditional restrictions under their copyright that prevent them from being used in different ways, including modifying and re-sharing. It is important to pay attention to copyright and intellectual property notes and to cite where content is coming from to give credit to the original creator. If you are looking to publish or utilize these resources in other ways besides teaching and learning, definitely double check the allowances for use. Read more about copyright allowances in our blog post: What's Fair: Copyright, Open Source and Education. Check out the diagram in this post to determine Creative Commons licensing for OERs as well. Image from Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, Academic Librarians, and GLAM.



The 5 Rs of Open Educational Resources


To be considered an OER, a Resource must be available for the user to do each of these 5 things. Some resources may be free but if they restrict usage against any of these points they aren’t technically open. 


  • 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)



Open Education Resources to Explore


OER Commons Repository for publicly available teaching support resources including lesson plans, OER Commons logoworksheets, and more.


OASIS - “Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS) is a search tool that aims to make the discovery of open content easier. OASIS currently searches open content from 114 different sources and contains 440,452 records.”


MERLOT - “The MERLOT system provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers”


OE Global - “Open Education Global is a member-based, global, non-profit supporting the development and use of open education around the world”

OE Global is more of an advocacy organization, but they do have resources for understanding and finding OERs in their Featured Collections.



Books, Textbooks, and Archives


Directory of open access books - “DOAB is a discovery service for peer reviewed open access books and book publishers that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed books. Find out more below.”


HathiTrust - “Founded in 2008, HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection.”


Internet Archive - The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, people with print disabilities, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.


Open Textbook Library - “Open textbooks are licensed by authors and publishers to be freely used and adapted. Download, edit and distribute them at no cost.” 


Open Stax - “We publish high-quality, peer-reviewed, openly licensed college

textbooks that are absolutely free online and low cost in print. “


LibreTexts - a non-commercial open textbook organization initiated at the University of California, Davis that hosts nearly 400 resources and includes embedded multimedia, dynamic figures, and other tools.


Digital Public Library of America - Public domain content held by the nation's archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural heritage institution

TIP: check out their “Primary Source Sets” and exhibitions for archival records related to a variety of topics to teach on. DPLA pimary source sets



New York State Resources


New York State Education Department Open Educational Resources - Resources provided by NYED for teachers and students, including EngageNY for searching New York specific materials. 


CCNY OER Guide - City College of New York Digital Scholarship Services continues to support the legacy of the Workshop Center for Open Education with a guide to digital open education resources.


Cover photo by Roan Lavery on Unsplash


Posted in: WorkshopsLearning at the Library|By: Becca Gates|132 Reads