1 What are open educational resources and why should I use them?

Victoria Volkanova

What is OER?

The term OER (Open Educational Resources) was first defined by UNESCO in 2002 as “any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license” and can “range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.” Many are high-quality and peer-reviewed resources that can be modified and repurposed to meet specific course learning objectives and student needs.

These permissions are often referred to as the 5R Activities of OER:

  • Retain: Make, own, and control your own copy of the content
  • Reuse: Use the content as-is
  • Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
  • Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
  • Redistribute: Share your copies of the original content, revisions or remixes with others

What is AtlanticOER?

AtlanticOER  is made up of CAAL- CBPA (Council of Atlantic Academic Libraries) members.  Atlantic OER provides access to a free online publishing and hosting platform for regionally developed Open Educational Resources (OERs). It promotes a sense of regional collaboration, where educators can freely and easily create or adapt materials for their course needs, while saving students thousands of dollars and providing real value to both students and educators. OER Atlantic uses Pressbooks as its online content and courseware development platform. Our regional implementation of this platform is the AtlanticOER Pressbooks Network.

Why use OER

Over the last 20 years, textbook costs have increased at three times the rate of inflation, making them 200% more expensive. Furthermore, standard publishing industry practices such as bundling of content, using access codes to control access to ancillary materials, and frequently updating textbook editions, have virtually eliminated the used textbook market (U.S. PIRG, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” 2014). Traditional, commercial textbooks often have restrictions around electronic availability and usage, making them largely inaccessible in an alternative teaching delivery environment.

Using OER instead of commercial textbooks or other traditional materials will:

  • Reduce student costs
  • Ensure students have access to required course materials from the first day of class
  • Allow content to be customized to the unique structure or content of the course
  • Improve accessibility for students with perceptual disabilities
  • Enable equal or improved learning outcomes (Jhangiani et al. 2018, Allen et al. 2015)

Research findings demonstrate “that replacing traditional textbooks with open textbooks may help to offset some of the financial hardships students face while improving students’ engagement and satisfaction with their assigned textbook.” (Cuttler, 2019) Replacing traditional textbooks also leads to equal or improved learning outcomes (Jhangiani et al. 2018, Allen et al. 2015).


The Why Use OER section was modified from the University of Guelph OER LibGuide https://www.lib.uoguelph.ca/using-library/faculty-instructors/open-educational-resources

Cuttler, C. (2019). Students’ Use and Perceptions of the Relevance and Quality of Open Textbooks Compared to Traditional Textbooks in Online and Traditional Classroom Environments. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 18(1), 65–83. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475725718811300


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OER Toolkit Copyright © 2021 by Victoria Volkanova is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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