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User Guide to OER

Page history last edited by Chris Taylor 13 years, 7 months ago


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What is an OER?

Related Links:

HEA Engineering Subject Centre OER FAQ

JISC OER Toolkit [External link]

HEA GEES OER Glossary (MSWord doc)

An open educational resource (OER) is a type of educational resource released with an open licence. Such a licence means that the resource can be used and re-used without a fee or royalty being due to the owner, with the exact terms of reuse stipulated by the specific open licence used.


Why OER?

  • The OER approach encourages the sharing of learning and teaching resources between institutions, between academics and within communities of practice, locally, nationally and worldwide
  • It enables learning materials and resources to be shared openly without fear of copyright infringement
  • It promotes development and uptake of tools and processes supporting the release of open resources that will enhance both productivity and relevance by being customisable and adaptable by both academics and students
  • It can act as a marketing tool for potential students worldwide to view resources produced by an institution prior to applying to study there.

Creating and releasing OER

OER has no preconditions as to what does or does not constitute OER.  It could be a PowerPoint presentation of a lecture; the lecture notes themselves; a video presentation; an interactive simulation or a piece of software used to help students. The idea is that whatever you release can be taken up and used by other people - either learners or teachers - to enhance their knowledge and resources. The best resources are granular in nature so that little chunks can be extracted without difficulty.


In order to turn a pre-existing resource into an OER several steps must be gone through. These include work to ensure the resource can be given an open licence and work to enable potential users to find the resource when it is released [see Preparing, Packaging and Uploading].


Intellectual Property Rights

Ownership of the IPR of a resource needs to be established, including for all material within the resource, such as photographs or video clips, before the resource can be released as an OER. Where any element of the resource is owned by a third party, written permission for its use needs to be sought (and importantly, documented). If this is not granted then the material needs to be removed. The material can then be replaced by a suitable alternative for which permission for use has been granted. Fortunately, there are sources of materials with open licences which may be useful in this context [see IPR Clearance].



In order for potential users to find resources, and to understand the scope of a resource, it is vital to include relevant metadata. This is information about the resource, such as the author’s name, the date the resource was created and keywords, and the educational context in which the resource has previously been used, which may not be present in the resource itself. Users looking for OER will have a greater chance of finding what they are looking for if well thought-out metadata is included. Depending on the type of OER, metadata may be added directly to the resource or added when the OER is shared [see Adding Metadata to Resources for more detailed information].


Open Licensing

There are many types of open licence. Creative Commons licences are overwhelmingly used with OER, but all enable sharing of resources without payment of a royalty or fee. Further licences are available for specific types of resources such as software, where a GNU GPL licence would be more suitable. All enable the licensor to stipulate what is permissible in terms of reuse, for instance if the resource must not be changed in any way. The licensing has to be done by or with permission of the resource IPR holder. The licence should be embedded within the resource so that users can see the terms on which they can make use of the resource [see IPR Clearance].



As with all educational resources it is necessary to ensure the work strives to meet the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), in so much as ‘reasonable adjustments’ have been made to make the resource accessible. A record should be made of the decisions made, should a challenge be made in the future [see Preparing, Packaging and Uploading].

Sharing OER

The point of creating an OER is to share it for the purposes of a) maximising use of the resource and b) gathering more contributors. The OER approach is designed to encourage further development from the community and reduce duplication. Sharing can be done in different ways [see Release, Dissemination and Sustainability]. Bear in mind that many users find resources on the web simply using a search engine, not visiting a specific site, so wherever you host your OER make sure it is somewhere that the most popular search engines can find it.



Repositories that host OER are a natural choice. Some repositories are created by institutions to host their own resources. There are also repositories held outside institutions which may be general in nature (e.g. JorumOpen, Merlot) or specialise in types of resource (e.g. theses) or work on a particular theme or specific discipline. Repositories can offer the advantage of advanced searching facilities and can attract their own audience of resource users [see Preparing, Packaging and Uploading].


Web 2.0 Sites

An alternative to uploading to a repository is using one of the many (and ever increasing number of) so called Web 2.0 sites (e.g. Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare). Like repositories, these may be geared towards sharing material on a particular theme or of a particular type (e.g. video, photographs) [see Preparing, Packaging and Uploading]. Popular Web 2.0 sites can potentially draw a much larger audience to your resources than standard repositories. Web2Access can offer information on the accessibility of these sites.


Other websites

Resources can also be shared by simply uploading them to your own or any public website that will accept them.

Finding OER

OER can be located indirectly by conducting a search of the whole web using a search engine and suitable search terms. There is however the danger that this can return too much information, not all of it relevant (e.g. resources that are not open). Also, there are parts of the web that are not reached by a search engine (e.g. inside certain repositories). It can be more efficient to go directly to repositories and sites that have OER and search within them [See Finding OER - JISC OER Infokit (external link)].


Also see our Resources page for details on OERs produced through projects related to this wiki.

Using OER

When you locate an OER, the open licence attached to it will tell you the exact terms under which it is being made available, for instance, if you can make changes to it before using it or if you can use it commercially. Care must be taken to adhere to the terms of the license when using an OER as it is protected by the laws of copyright as much as any other material.


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Sections of this guide have been adapted from the HEA Engineering Subject Centre's OER FAQ, available in full here.



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