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Introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Please join the ASU Open Educational Resources Working Group as we celebrate ASU Open Education Week March 14-18, 2016. Details about two events at the end of this post!

In this post I’d like to introduce the concept of OER and describe some of the opportunities OER present for faculty members and higher education staff. It is certain there are faculty members already using OER, even if they have never heard them defined this way. If you would like to explore more about OER with me, please don’t hesitate to contact me at my email address:

History and definition of OER

There are a variety of definitions of OER in circulation, for purposes of this post, I’ll define open educational resources as follows.

Open educational resources (OER) are digitally stored content materials explicitly openly licensed (using Creative Commons or other open licensing standard), where the creator/author grants permission for download, storage, adoption, adaption, and re-sharing as part of any learning experience. Open educational resources can be used by instructors and learners at no cost. Content types may include video, audio, text, images, illustrations, animations, and simulations.

As an affordance of Internet-enabled formats, development and use of OER has been growing and flourishing since about 2002. Key players in the history of OER are UNESCO, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with their OpenCourseWare initiative, Creative Commons – bringing an easy-to-understand licensing system to OER, and massive open online course platforms such as edX, Coursera, Udacity, and Future Learn. The Open Education Consortium at the link that follows here: OER Consortium is a key hub for global open initiatives.

Awareness of use of OER

A common theme in open educational resource (OER) literature is that faculty members and higher education institutions are still at very early stages of awareness and adoption of OER. According to Allen and Seaman (2014), among U.S. faculty members, 66% had heard of OER but did not know much about using them, 34% had not heard of OER at all, and only 5 percent were able to define OER, or confirm that they were using them in courses.

Many faculty members are described as unintentionally using open resources in their work. For example faculty members that are using YouTube videos, Wiki articles and other freely available Internet resources, but do not necessarily think of them as OER. Recent literature points to three factors that contribute to a lack of awareness and adoption of OER, including:

  • a traditionally solo-work culture among faculty members that inhibits sharing of OER (Rolfe, 2012);
  • little or no centrally defined policy or professional development related to awareness and use of OER (McGreal, Anderson & Conrad, 2015); and,
  • few research-based models that have been used to measure faculty member intention to use OER (Perkins, 2011).

Motivation to use OER

Two key motivating factors are cited in the literature related to use of OER. The primary motivator is the potential for use of OER to reduce student textbook costs. According to a large-scale, survey-based student study, Florida Virtual Campus (2012) found that 64% of students surveyed had not purchased required textbooks for their courses. In textbook-centric courses, these students were significantly less likely to achieve positive outcomes. Use of OER is described as a key potential strategy for higher education institutions and faculty members concerned with issues of access and equality.

A second motivating factor for use of OER is described as alignment with an Internet-enabled paradigm shift in how and where people find information. Widespread development and sharing of OER was not feasible before the affordances of the Internet were introduced. The staggering amount of content contained and transmitted across Internet-enabled channels has fundamentally altered how people communicate, share knowledge, and learn in the 21st century.  

Supporting Use of OER

While the motivation and success of early OER initiatives is encouraging, there are also some challenges. Lack of awareness of OER is a fundamental barrier to using them. In addition, searching for and finding OER related to a faculty member’s discipline requires some knowledge about sources and license types. There are several large repositories where faculty members may begin to explore OER. University librarians are also a great source of support and information. Improvements to repositories and expansion of search options are recommended in the literature, and peer review may be an important element.

The Open Education Professionals Network provides a spectacular page of Open Educational Resource links at the link that follows here: Open Educational Resources

Call to Action at ASU

I believe there may be interest, goodwill, and great capacity among faculty members at ASU to explore expanded use of OER in our on-ground and online courses. As with any education-related innovation, it will involve some work. If this post, and some of the references included peak your interest in exploring use of OER, my personal interest is part of doctoral research. In addition to working on instructional design as lead for the Global Freshman Academy team, I am a student at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. OER will be my action research focus. Here at EdPlus, interested team members, in partnership with the ASU Library and Graduate Student Professional Association are exploring Open Access and Open Educational Resources as part of current and relevant research in higher education teaching and learning. Let me know if you’d like to know more! The link that follows here is a link to our current library page about OER: ASU OER Library Page

Faculty members, instructional designers, librarians, and ASU staff members are all welcome to attend a Webinar on OER – this session will also be recorded and appended to this article by March 20.

OER Webinar- March 17
Eventbrite Invitation – Please RSVP at the link that follows here: OER Eventbrite
When: Thursday, March 17, 12noon to 1pm
Where: Adobe Connect link:

In addition to this event, on Friday, March 18, 2016, the ASU School of Art and ASU Libraries will be co-hosting an Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Meetup. Wikipedia is one of the ultimate open educational resources of our time. More information about this event can be found at the link that follows here: ASU Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Meetup


  1. Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2015). Grade level: Tracking online education in the United States. Retrieved from References for more Exploration
  2. Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2014). Opening the curriculum: Open educational resources in U.S. higher education. Retrieved from
  3. Atkins, D. E., Seely Brown, J., Hammond, A. L. (2007). A Review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Retrieved from
  4. Bliss, T., Robinson, T. J., Hilton III, J., & Wiley, D. A. (2013). An OER COUP: College teacher and student perceptions of open educational resources. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Retrieved from
  5. Butcher, N., & Hoosen, S. (2012). Exploring the business case for open educational resources. Retrieved from
  6. Carey, K. (2015). The end of college: Creating the future of learning and the university of everywhere. New York: Riverhead Books.
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  9. Creative Commons (n.d.). About page. Retrieved from
  10. Deimann, M., & Farrow, R. (2013). Rethinking OER and their use: Open education as Bildung. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(3), 344-360.
  11. Fischer, L., Hilton III, J., Robinson, T. J., & Wiley, D. (2015). A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of postsecondary students. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 27, 159 – 172.
  12. Florida Virtual Campus. (2012). 2012 Florida Student Textbook Survey. Tallahassee, FL. Retrieved from
  13. Institute of Educational Technology, Open University U.K. (n.d.). OER impact map. Retrieved from
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  21. Perkins, R. A. (2011). Using Rogers’ theory of perceived attributes as a framework for understanding the challenges of adoption of open educational resources. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 18(1), 59-66. Retrieved from
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