Open Educational Resources for Teaching and Learning: OER Home

What are Open Educational Resources?

  Banner heading reading Open Educational Resources

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost, and without needing to ask permission. Unlike copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights" (OER Commons, 2020).

OERs might include educational materials such as textbooks, lecture notes, curricula, tests, or other media, and can extend to whole modules, software, and full courses. The aim is that this material can be used, copied and shared (and in some cases adapted) with an open licence, legally and freely, although some form of attribution may be required. 

Benefits of using OER

Adopting a resource like an open textbook to supplement the resources in teaching can have many benefits. Open textbooks offer:

  • an affordable option for students who commonly feedback on the high costs of textbooks
  • the opportunity to make text/s or resources available online without barriers, supporting group work and assigned reading, as well as creating an inclusive classroom
  • easy integration into the online reading lists
  • the choice of using sections of multiple texts to tailor reading lists to better suit teaching

Adoption of OER aligns with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The 5R's

According to David Wiley, the 5R's are activities that are made possible in OER because of their open licence:

"The terms “open content” and “open educational resources” describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is either (1) in the public domain or (2) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  2. Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  3. Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  4. Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  5. Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)"

Thinking about these activities helps us to understand how OER might be created and used. The 5R's are also helpful when considering how to interpret and engage with open licences and attribution. 

Licensing and attribution of OER

Being aware of the licensing employed by Open Education Resources (OER) is essential to making effective and ethical use of these resources. OER are shared through Creative Commons Licences. Open licences do not mean that anything is possible, some rights are still reserved and should be observed. 

Before considering OER for use in teaching and learning first check the licensing restrictions. Although by definition OER are available to freely use and share in non commercial contexts, attribution is always required. Any planned modification or adaption to the work or the licence is also subject to licensing restrictions.

There are four licence components that are used in various combinations to create the six licensing types used. 

1. CC BY: Attribution - Indicates crediting the author of the work is required. 

2. CC NC: Non-Commercial - Indicates that only non-commercial uses of the work are permitted. 

3. CC SA: Share-alike - Indicates that the altered work must be shared under the same licence as the original work. 

4. CC ND: No Derivative - Indicates that modification or adaption of the work is not permitted. 

The six licence types and the usages allowed with each licence are summarised in the table below, which is adapted from Fotor (2015) Creative Commons: The ultimate guide (CC BY-SA).  

Creative Commons Licences
    Share & publish Credit required Commercial use allowed Modify or Adapt Change licence
CC BY Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CC BY-SA Yes Yes Yes Yes No
CC BY-NC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
CC BY-NC-SA Yes Yes No Yes Yes
CC BY-ND Yes Yes No Yes No
CC BY-NC-ND Yes Yes No No Yes


Recommended attribution

In order to correctly acknowledge work published with a Creative Commons licences four elements are suggested in an attribution statement that might be included in reading lists or teaching materials:

  • Title of the work - this should represent the title given by the original creator. 
  • Author of the work - this generally means the originator of the work, but it can also mean the institution or organisation, or the copyright holder of the work. 
  • Source of the work (how others can find it, usually a URL included in the title)
  • The licence by which it is shared by

For example:

Critical thinking in academic research by R. Wing and C. Gruwell is licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0 

The Open Washington team have also created an Open Attribution Builder tool to help form attribution statements: Open Attribution Builder licenced by CC BY 40.

Open Educational Resources Information

UNESCO OER Pages: Definitions, frameworks, publications and resources on advancing OER.

OER Commons: Hub on OER provided by ISKME, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. This site aims to progress knowledge and use of OER, and provides access to resources and courses suitable for Key Stage to University level teaching and learning. 

OA Books Toolkit: A collaboration between the University of Glasgow and Springer Nature, hosted on OAPEN, that seeks to make visible the publishing process in OA Books in order to encourage publication

Open Education Network

Open Education Network logo

Brunel is now a member of the Open Education Network (OEN). The OEN is a community working together to inspire and facilitate the use and publication of open educational resources in education. 

More information about the OEN can be found on the website

What is OER?

This short video explores some of the key definitions of OER. The Council of Chief State Schools (2016) What is OER. Available at: Shared with CC-BY NC 4.0 

Using OER in Teaching and Learning

Adopting open educational resources on your module?

You can add resources to your reading list.

If you want help or guidance talk with your Academic Liaison Librarian or get copyright advice from the Library at  

Image of books with the text Open Educational Resources

Finding OER Materials

Below are some sites that offer the ability to search for open educational resources, particularly courseware and syllabus. You will also find a list of open textbook search sites on our Open Textbook page. 
Open Washington's OER site compiles lists of link to OER courseware, images, text and audio-visual materials.  You can also visit the main site for a short course on using OER and links to resources. 
This resource, created by Isabelle Antes and Henna Punjabi at Texas State University, collates information and links on available resources, tools, repositories, research and sites that focus on open practice. To identify subject specific resources, use the Subject filter to select relevant disciplines. 

Image of books on a shelf​MIT OpenCourseware

Course syllabus and resources from MIT, including lecture videos, assignments and exams in a variety of subject areas to view and download. You can search the resource by department to find different module resources, or by type of resource. 

Image of books on a shelfROAD: Directory of Open Access Scholarly Resources  

UNESCO funded project to create a directory of Open Access publications, including journals, conferences and annuals, that have been awarded an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number). You can search for publications but not their content.

Image of books on a shelfTU Delft OpenCourseWare

Delft University of Technology have made a range of courses in the health, physical and environmental science available. Materials include video lectures and open access resources.   

Open Data

Data repositories are websites you can use to find research data to use in your own research or deposit your research data for others to use.

Brunel University London's mini site on the research repository Figshare.