Education Week defines OERs as: "Materials for teaching or learning that are either in the public domain or have been released under a license that allows them to be freely used, changed, or shared with others. OER(s) may include everything from a single video or lesson plan to a complete online course or curriculum and also include the software platforms needed to create, change, and share the materials."
Students often choose to borrow textbooks from the library or rent them from the bookstore in lieu of purchasing the textbook. For those that do purchase textbooks, many attempt to regain their money by selling the books back to the bookstore or online after the course is over. OERs are free and available. Students can take their materials with them after class ends, which means that they will always have access to learning materials for future use.
Textbooks and educational materials are often covered by stringent copyright restrictions, which does not allow reuse in other contexts or modifications or derivations. With OER, students and instructors can re-use and re-purpose the materials not just during the class, but in the future as well.
OERs also are free and available online, which means that anyone can access and use them. When an instructor makes their teaching material openly available, they can teach far beyond their own classroom. Students can also access these materials, whether they are supplementing a course they are already taking or starting out on an educational journey.
By creating and adopting OERs, students and teachers can connect around the world, opening up networks of learning and enhancing collaboration opportunities.
One of the hallmarks of OERs is their reusability and the fact that they save time.
OERs are generally offered with Creative Commons licenses that allow the content to be freely reused and remixed with attribution to the original author. This means that you can take a great resource and tweak it to fit your class's needs.
OERs include not just textbooks, but also lesson plans, assignments, exams, and in-class activities. OERs are created by instructors from all around the world and shared with others teaching similar topics. Instead of creating course content all on their own, instructors can take advantage of high-quality course materials already made by others. Instructors can then spend more time on their personalized lectures, feedback, and one-on-one assistance for students.