Open Educational Resources


Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a copyright license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

by Hal Plotkin

Open Educational Resources (OER) offer higher education governance leaders a cost-efficient method of improving the quality of teaching and learning while at the same time reducing costs imposed on students related to the purchase of expensive commercial textbooks and learning materials. Leading scholars around the world are already participating in the OER movement even without support from most higher education institutions, including community colleges. Higher education governance officials, particularly boards of trustees and senior academic governance leaders, have a tremendous opportunity to harness the advantages of OER for their institutions. Full guide on the CC wiki.


OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Its free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through our partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations.

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State Policies Supporting Open Textbooks:

California Free Digital Textbook Initiative:  In May 2009, … California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas will work with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and State Board of Education President Ted Mitchell to develop a state approved list of standards-aligned, open-source digital textbooks for high school math and science. The initiative reviews existing free digital textbooks against California’s rigorous academic standards to identify which free textbooks are standards-aligned and may be used in California’s classrooms. The first phase of Governor Schwarzenegger’s digital textbook initiative focused on high school geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science digital textbooks. In August 2009, the Schwarzenegger announced that 16 free digital textbooks for high school math and science classes met at least 90 percent of California’s academic standards, and four met 100 percent.

See also the State of Washington’s OER Project, and the Utah Open Textbook Project. The International Association for K-12 online learning issues period reports on state policies supporting OER.  The most recent is here.


OpenCourseWare Consortium: The OpenCourseWareConsortium is a worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing OpenCourseWare and its impact on global education. We serve as a resource for starting and sustaining OCW projects, as a coordinating body for the movement on a global scale, and as a forum for exchange of ideas and future planning.

Connexions is a dynamic digital educational ecosystem consisting of an educational content repository and a content management system optimized for the delivery of educational content. Connexions is one of the most popular open education sites in the world. Its more than 17,000 learning objects or modules in its repository and over 1000 collections (textbooks, journal articles, etc.) are used by over 2 million people per month. Its content services the educational needs of learners of all ages, in nearly every discipline, from math and science to history and English to psychology and sociology. Connexions delivers content for free over the Internet for schools, educators, students, and parents to access 24/7/365. Materials are easily downloadable to almost any mobile device for use anywhere, anytime. Schools can also order low cost hard copy sets of the materials (textbooks).

Other sources:

Open Course Library



See also, this report on best practices in fair use for incorporating third party materials into open courseware.