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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide to educational material that are freely available to use, adapt, share, and reuse.

Resources for Faculty and Teaching Assistants

Want to learn more? Join our faculty workshops!

Join us for a series of four discussions and interactive workshops centered on OER. Consider attending all four, or join us for those that align with your interests and needs. All sessions will be recorded and shared with those unable to attend.  Registration is requested. Questions?  Please feel free to reach out to Judy Thomas (jet3h) or Bethany Mickel (bbm9u).

Introduction to OER:

Interested in learning more about OER?  This workshop is intended for those looking for open alternatives to traditional materials or for those hoping to learn more about the possibilities of open education.  

Select one of the sessions to learn more or to register:
October 1: 2-3pm
October 28: 9-10am

Finding, Evaluating, and Reviewing OER:

Join us for a hands-on session where we will briefly review the landscape of OER and then focus on strategies for finding materials that meet your needs.  In addition, we'll review how to review a textbook from the Open Textbook Library and receive $200 renumeration for your effort.

Select one of the sessions to learn more or to register:

October 8: 2-3pm
November 5: 3-4pm

Intellectual Property & Copyright OER:

In this workshop, learn about Creative Commons licenses and how to fairly incorporate copyright content, including student work, in OER.  We'll also discuss intellectual property and its role in reuse, remixing, and creation of OER. 

Select one of the sessions to learn more or to register:

October 15: 2-3pm
November 11: 9-10am

Open Pedagogy:

How does open pedagogy apply to OER?  In this workshop, we'll examine examples of how some faculty are applying this high-impact approach to creating a more active and inclusive classroom.  There will be plenty of time for discussion and sharing of practices. 

October 22: 2-3pm or December 3: 2-3pm

Select one of the sessions to learn more or to register:

October 22: 2-3pm
December 3: 2-3pm

Benefits for Instructors

  • Academic freedom: Open licenses make it far easier to adapt, update, and tailor existing OER to fit specific course content quickly and with the full protection of the law—something NOT possible with textbooks.
  • Inclusive Pedagogy: Open educational practices empower faculty to create a safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environment that embraces all learners and provides equal access to opportunities and information.
  • Better learning outcomes: research shows "students achieve the same or better learning outcomes…while saving money”  (2019 OER Report)


Benefits for Students

  • Improved access: Enable students to engage with your content before, during, and after your course.
  • Academic success: Many studies show that students are doing as well or better with OER, across different fields.
  • Cost savings: The 2018 SERU survey shows that the majority of UVA students have concerns about the cost of their education; the Library’s 2019 Student Survey, further confirmed that 3 out of 4 UVA students find alternatives or choose to not purchase required materials at all.



“Can I do that?” by Abbey Elder, Helen McManus, and Jamie Hazlitt (2020) is licensed CC BY 4.0


Why OER Matters in Practice

  • Allow you to localize and customize content, making your materials reflect the identities and lived experiences of your learners.
  • Make your materials accessible for all students.
  • Protect student and institutional privacy from violation or commercialization.
  • Avoid being locked in to a specific publisher, platform, or provider.
  • Easy fit with your LMS, YouTube channel, or whatever solution works best.
  • Reduce the impact of the digital divide in this and every moment.

Student Engagement with Course Materials

A positive student perceptions of course materials has been shown to have a positive impact on student performance. If students perceive a textbook to be valuable, they are more likely to use it and improve their performance.

Dozens of peer-reviewed and published studies have tracked the perceptions of OER by thousand students and faculty members. Of note:

  • In no instance did a majority of students or teachers report that the OER were of inferior quality.
  • Across multiple studies in various settings, students consistently reported that they faced financial difficulties and that OER provided a financial benefit to them.
  • A general finding seems to be that roughly half of teachers and students find OER to be comparable to traditional resources, a sizeable minority believe they are superior, and a smaller minority find them inferior.

Marking Courses as Low Cost or Affordable


Marking Open and Affordable Courses helps higher education institutions across the country implement course marking for open and affordable educational resources by summarizing relevant state legislation, providing tips for working with stakeholders, and analyzing technological and process considerations.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first section provides high-level analysis of the technology, legislation, and cultural change needed to operationalize course markings. The second section presents case studies for those interested in how others have implemented course markings. The intended audience for the book is administrators, librarians, campus store managers, instructors, registrars, and other professionals interested in open and affordable resource course marking at any size or type of institution, including community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research institutions. 

This volume is not only novel in content but also in its creation. Each part in the monograph-like first section was collaboratively written by groups of 3-4 authors and led by a section leader who coordinated with the 3 editors. Overall, 30 authors contributed to the creation of the content.  Additionally, 30 reviewers participated in a semi-open peer review using Hypothesis, an open source web annotation tool that allowed them to interact with other reviewers. Reviewer identities, annotations, and summative assessments were shared with authors, who submitted final edits based on reviewer feedback in Spring 2020.  

Librarians can help faculty discover open course content and assist those interested in adopting, adapting, and creating OER for their courses. In addition, the Library funds course enrichment projects and funding for course enrichment projects and open textbook reviews.

To integrate OER into your course, follow these steps:

Six Steps to OER

"Six Steps to OER" by Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) Librarians, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Before use

Before deciding to adopt OER resources, it is important to evaluate them to determine if they will meet your needs.  The following criteria are important to consider when deciding if a particular OER is right for your purposes.

Clarity, Comprehensibility, and Readability

  • Is the content, including any instructions, exercises, or supplemental material, clear and comprehensible to students?
  • Is the content well-categorized in terms of logic, sequencing, and flow?
  • Is the content consistent with its language and key terms?

Content Accuracy and Technical Accuracy

  • Is the content accurate based on both your expert knowledge and through external sources?
  • Are there any factual, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  • Is the interface easy to navigate?
  • Are there broken links or obsolete forms?

Adaptability and Modularity

  • Is the resource in a file format which allows for adaptations, modifications, rearrangements, and updates?
  • Is the resource easily divided into modules, or sections, which can be used or rearranged out of their original order?
  • Is the content licensed in a way which allows for adaptations and modifications?


  • Is the content presented at a reading level appropriate for higher education students?
  • How is the content useful for instructors or students?
  • Is the content itself appropriate for higher education?


  • Is the content accessible to students with disabilities through the compatibility of third-party reading applications?
  • Is you are using Web resources, does each image have alternate text that can be read?
  • Do videos have accurate close-captioning?
  • Are students able to access the materials in a quick, non-restrictive manner?

Supplementary Resources

  • Does the OER contain any supplementary materials, such as homework resources, study guides, tutorials, or assessments?
  • Have you reviewed these supplementary resources in the same manner as the original OER?

 List adapted from CCCOER Review Guidelines:


OER Evaluation Checklist



Sample Rubrics and Evaluation Checklists

Checklist for Evaluating OER developed by ACC Instructional & Faculty Development Department for evaluating OER under consideration for adaption.

Achieve OER Rubrics developed to help determine the degree of alignment of Open Educational Resources (OER) to college- and career-ready standards and to determine other aspects of quality of OER.

OER Evaluation Criteria from Affordable Learning Georgia, a six component checklist.


Faculty Reviews

These books have been reviewed by faculty from a variety of colleges and universities to assess their quality. All textbooks are either used at multiple higher education institutions; or affiliated with an institution, scholarly society, or professional organization. The library currently includes 706 textbooks, with more being added all the time.


Guidebook to Research on Open Educational Resources Adoption

A guide to assessment of OER adoption from the Open Education Group, including its impact on cost, student outcomes, use of resources, and perceptions of OER.



The Review Project offers a summary of all known empirical research on the impacts of OER adoption from the Open Education Group that can help inform the design of future assessments.

Creative Commons (CC) licensing is at the center for the OER movement and it allows creators to specify more flexible forms of copyright allowing others to copy, distribute, and use their work. One condition of all CC licenses is attribution.



Creative Commons offers six copyright licenses:Creative Commons specifics images



A CC license makes your work re-usable on your terms.  Creative Commons offers an abundance of information on how to license your material and what the different licenses allow in terms of usage and redistribution.  Choose a license with this tool that helps you determine which Creative Commons License is right for you.

The one condition of all CC licenses? Users must provide attribution.

Recommended OER Attribution - TASL format: “Content Title” from Encompassing Container Title, Version, by Author © Copyright date [Alternate owner if different from Author] is licensed with License [URL of license description]. Access at DOI or permalink or URL. Additional Publisher notes or licensing requirements. Examples (by Val Magno at Fox Valley TC):

  • “12 Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality,” from Introduction to Sociology 2e, by  © May 28, 2018 OpenStax CNX is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 [] Download for free at
  • Chapter cited APA: OpenStax CNX. (2018). Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality. In Introduction to Sociology 2e (Ch. 12). Retrieved from
  • Chapter cited MLA: OpenStax CNX. "12 Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality." Introduction to Sociology 2e,  20e9333f3e1d@9.6  Accessed 01 June 2018.



Find CC licensed content to reuse in the Creative Commons Search Portal

Share your work in a Creative Commons platform, like Bandcamp, Europeana, Flicker, FMAInternet Archive, Jamendo, MITOpenCourseware, PLOS, SketchfabSkillsCommons, Tribe of Noise, Vimeo, Wikimedia CommonsWikipedia, YouTube.


For a brief, informative overview of CC licensing, watch this from the Wikimedia Foundation:

Fair Use and its Factors

Copyright law regulates the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works.  A simple way to provide access to copyright-protected materials is to link to them rather than reproduce the content.  Doing so works particularly well for materials that are available in library databases as other works that are available for free (but not freely licensed) on legitimate websites.

When linking to material is not possible, the fair use doctrine of Copyright Law allows a limited amount of copying for purposes such as teaching and scholarship.  In determining Fair Use, the factors to be considered include:

  • The purpose and character of the use--including whether such use is a commercial nature or is for-profit.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


For Faculty and Teaching Assistants: What You Can Do

Often you can use works in your teaching without permission or fee.This chart highlights some of those situations. However, there are othercircumstances where permission and/or fee are required (for example, whensome types of works are included in course packs). Check with your institution’slibrary or legal office for information about campus copyright policies.

Legal Status of Work Type of Materials Exhibit materials in live classroom? Post materials to an online class? Distribute readings? Create electronic reserves?
Works not copyrighted

Public Domain Works

(US Govt, pre-1924 works, and certain others) 









Copyrighted Works

Open Educational Resources (OER) and Electronic Works with a Creative Commons License
(depends on license, but usually permitted; if not, LINK)













Copyrighted Works

Your Own Works

(if you keep copyright or reserved use rights)









Copyrighted Works

Open Access Works

(works available online without license, password, or technical restriction)









Copyrighted Works

Electronic Works Licensed by Your Institution

(depends on license, but usually permitted)






(Most licenses also allow students to make an individual copy)



Copyrighted Works

Other Works

(when none of the above apply)




if it meets either TEACH Act or Fair Use standards. If not, LINK or seek permission. 


if it meets Fair Use standards. If not, LINK or seek permission. 


if it meets Fair Use standards. If not, LINK or seek permission. 

Adapted from the brochure by the Association of Research Library, Using works in your teaching--what you can do. Tips for faculty and teaching assistants in higher education (2007)


COVID-19 Considerations

Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research


Additional Resources

Inclusive Access (IA) Basics


Q: What is inclusive access?

A: It’s a content-delivery program (often managed by campus stores; sometimes by academic affairs, information technology, or libraries) that provides students with day-one access to digital course materials from publishers and vendors at a reduced cost. The service goes by a variety of different names: inclusive access (McGraw-Hill, Wiley, Pearson, VitalSource, RedShelf), Macmillan Learning, Follett ACCESS, First Day (Barnes & Noble College), Equitable Access (University of California Davis), and Immediate Access (San Diego State), just to name a few.

Q: How do IA programs work?

A: Exact details may vary, but they generally work like this: Students get access to digital course materials on or before the first day of class. Content is usually linked in the campus learning management system (LMS). Access for enrolled students is free during a brief opt-out period at the beginning of the course. If students opt out of buying the IA content by the deadline, their access disappears. If they don’t opt out, access continues and they’re automatically charged for the content. Because opt-out rates tend to be low, publishers say they can afford to offer volume discounts. Some publishers advertise discounts up to 70%, but there is little pricing transparency. 

Q: How does IA differ from OER?

A: OER are customizable; free for users to read online or download; offer perpetual access; and allow unlimited printing, copying, and sharing. While some OER content is available through IA programs (OpenStax is a prime example), most IA content is copyrighted with all rights reserved and can’t be revised by students or instructors. IA content also isn’t free, it’s only accessible for a limited time, and it often has copy/paste and printing restrictions. Students aren’t allowed to share or resell IA content (access codes and digital rights management [DRM] may be used to ensure this).


Inclusive was developed by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) with partnership with AAC&U, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, Creative Commons, DigiTex, Student PIRGS, Open Education Global, and OpenStax.

It's a one-stop-shop for information, tools, and other resources to help administrators, faculty, students, and policymakers make informed decisions about Inclusive Access and its implications for the campus community.



  1. Understand the pricing involved. Regulations only require publishers to offer IA materials “below competitive market rates” so savings can be minimal, especially compared to rentals and used textbooks (the latter of which students may be able to resell). Pricing associated with IA isn’t always transparent. Many faculty don’t know that they even have an option to negotiate for better pricing. IA discounts may depend on the negotiating ability of the campus entities involved in the process. Pricing models should also be viewed with some skepticism. Even if discounts are available now, there is certainly potential to see price increases as more institutions become reliant on IA programs. Publishers should be continually discouraged from reverting to their former methods of pricing print textbooks.
  2. Beware of IA packages with online testing or homework system requirements. Using the online system may be the only way for students to submit their homework or take tests. In those cases, opting out of inclusive access isn’t truly an option for students. They can’t pass the class without the full package.
  3. Students and instructors need to be clear about the length of access to IA content. Access terms may vary by title. If access beyond the course term is negotiated, students will likely have to find the IA content on the publishers’ and vendors’ proprietary platforms rather than in the LMS.
  4. Consider the impact on faculty's academic freedom in course material selection involved in IA programs. Narrow or restrictive agreements can limit the number of choices available to support curricular content.  
  5. Consider issues of privacy. The digital platforms associated with IA are a veritable treasure trove of data. Publishers say the analytics enable instructors to monitor class progress and follow up with students who aren’t doing the readings or engaging with the materials. In reality, instructors may not have easy access to the analytics or use them. Institutions need to assure what information is being collected, the reason it’s being collected, and who owns and retains that information. The privacy of our stakeholders is dependent on the sensible collection, protection, and security of any data collected through IA.  
  6. Consider who is getting a good deal with IA. Inclusive access is definitely a good deal for publishers. Opt-out rates tend to be low so they sell more books. With the use of digital course materials, publishers earn revenue on every inclusive access sale. Rental and used print textbooks may be more affordable options for students, but inclusive access reduces the availability of those in the marketplace. Publishers and vendors also gain valuable market research and usage statistics from the student data collected by their analytics systems. Administrators should know how student data is being collected, used, and possibly sold. 
  7. Inclusive access may benefit students. OER and library-licensed materials offer greater advantages and cost savings, but if those are unavailable and inclusive access content is offered at a significantly reduced price, that’s preferable to paying full price for a new hardcover textbook (or trying to pass the class without the course materials). 

Source: Open Education Network All-Access Working Group, Inclusive Access Talking Points

What others are saying

Examples of completed and ongoing work by Virginia colleagues:

Virginia Commonwealth University:

Virginia Tech

VIVA (statewide consortium that funds a range of projects,  including large-scale and multi-institutional)