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OER and other Open Resources: Introduction

Open Educational Resources (OER) are all the rage today. What are they and how can you use them?

Open Source....what is it?

This guide serves to provide you with a starting point in deciding if open source is suitable for your classroom environment and links to many of the resources available.  This guide is only meant to provide information, it is not to be taken as legal advice.


Open Source Definition from the OER Commons website: Open Education Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials freely available for everyone to use, whether you are a teacher or a learner. This includes full courses, modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.

The Texas Education Code, (TEC) §31.002 defines Open-Source Materials as electronic textbooks that are available for downloading from the Internet at no charge to a student and without requiring the purchase of an unlock code, membership, or other access or use charge, except for a charge to order an optional printed copy of all or part of the textbook. The term includes a state-developed open-source textbook purchased under the TEC, Chapter 31, Subchapter B-1. 

OER vs Open Access vs Library Resources

OER (Open Educational Resources), Open Access, and Library Resources all offer text/assignment materials that are free or low cost for students.  The difference can be important for you as instructor.

OER: For material to qualify as OER, it has to not only free to access, but users should also be able to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the content. 

Open Access: This can be any material that freely accessible.  This includes material out of copyright, but also material that has been published as open access. Material published as Open Access can still be under copyright and cannot be edited without permission.

Library Resources: The library subscribes to many online resources which are free to access on and off campus by PAC students, faculty, or staff.   Copyright and fair use restrictions apply and this should be kept in mind when using library material in class.  All our streaming videos come with permission to show in class or assign to all students.  Most of our ebooks now allow for an unlimited number of simultaneous users and can be used as textbooks; however, we still have many that can only be viewed by 1 - 3 users at a time.

Creative Commons

Since works don’t have to be registered or display a © anymore to indicate they are under copyright, the need arose to indicate when an author/creator wants to make their work available with less restrictions.  OER publications generally have a Creative Commons license.  There are several levels of CC license:

  •  CC0   -  CC0 – No rights reserved/Public domain.  Author/creator waives their copyrights and places the work in the public domain
  •  - CC BY – Allows for others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit author/creator for the original creation.
  • CC BYSA – Allows for others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit author/creator and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  •  - CC BY-ND – Allows for others to reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to author/creator.
  • - CC BY-NC – Allows for others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge author/creator and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
  • - CC BY-NC-SA – Allows for others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as they credit author/creator and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  • - CC BY-NC-ND – Allows for others to download the works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

For more detailed information on Creative Commons visit

The Five R's of OER

One of the distinguishing characteristics of "true" OER is that in addition to being openly accessible to all, users can also change them. You should be able to:

  1. RETAIN – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  1. 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)
  1. REVISE – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  1. REMIX – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  1. 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)

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Subject Guide

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Susan Puccio
1400 W. Villaret Blvd
San Antonio, Texas 78224

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