Open Educational Resources (OER): CMU Libraries Champions Another Open Access Alternative

Open Book

You may already be familiar with CMU Libraries’ guide to open access (OA) and the resources it offers. This brief article focuses on CMU’s libraries to champion another form of open access: Open Educational Resources – or OERs (see the UNESCO definition).

Open Educational Resources are educational materials, such as textbooks, homework problems, and slides, that have been made openly accessible and licensed for others to reuse, remix, and redistribute. OER lower the costs of higher education by replacing commercial educational resources.

OER fits under the umbrella of Open Science, by focusing on opening up and sharing educational materials in findable, accessible, and reusable formats.

Isn’t it all about open access?
Well yes, but there’s one big difference: licensing. Both OA and OER aim to remove barriers to access, or “paywalls,” however OER has a greater focus on licensing. OER are licensed through Creative Commons Licensing, which allows the authors to retain copyright and allows others to use and adapt the work. Through these open licenses, OER provide less restrictive choices, facilitate collaboration, allow tailoring teaching and learning experiences, and offer creative pedagogical options for seamless student engagement in the process of creating information. In other words, OERs make it easier to engage with materials in ways that open access can’t.

Aren’t library resources freely accessible?
Not exactly. While it is true that CMU Libraries offer a great range of databases that contain openly accessible materials, these materials often require authentication, which limits accessibility to those not affiliated with the university. Even so, unlike OERs, open access materials are not necessarily licensed for reusing, revising, remixing, redistributing, or retaining copies. Furthermore, few vendors guarantee perpetual access to their sources because publishers, for the most part, control access and can decide to drop a journal without notice. It is not uncommon to receive “free” titles as part of a package only to discover that the title no longer exists a year later. Libraries also help fund open access publishing and subscribe to an impressive number of databases and open collections. Still, access to resources from LMS (library catalog) is ballooning despite digitization because costs for digital processing and distribution are folded into pricing (The Education Data Initiative, Average Cost of College Textbooks, July 15, 2021).

What are we doing for OER?
CMU Libraries ensure that you have access to a range of expertise to meet your needs. We currently provide access to:

But we are just getting started. CMU Libraries has an OER team dedicated to planning, development, and implementation of open educational resources (OERs) services related to programming, outreach, and engagement. If you are interested in OER, won't you join us?

For more information, contact Ethan Pullman, Open Educational Resources Specialist.

Feature image by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash