OER, Free, and Affordable Learning Materials

Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER are learning resources such as articles, books, audio recordings, images, video, software and digital tools that one is licensed to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.  Instructors  can take all sorts of interesting material out there--book chapters, images, articles--and mix them together as well as edit and augment these materials and then provide them to students as learning materials.  These materials typically are accompanied by a Creative Commons License (see below) or are widely known to be in the public domain (such as books published before 1923).  

An Introduction to OER

If you haven't had the opportunity to explore Open Educational Resources before, these videos have been designed to introduce you. You can watch an overview video of OER or learn about the Brandeis funding available for OER integration through the University Library and the Center for Teaching and Learning.  

Free Learning Materials

Free learning materials often consist of content that may already be paid for (such as articles and videos in library databases), require a log-in to access, or content that can be accessed or linked to but not manipulated or edited (an article on the Atlantic Monthly’s website).  They are considered “free” because typically students and instructors do not directly pay for them.  


Affordable Materials

Many institutions use different hallmarks to determine what is “affordable” in terms of learning materials, but a fairly common standard for learning materials is $35 or less in their total cost for the student.  However, we also realize that affordable might also work along a scale and therefore recognize that a reduction in costs to students of 75% or more is also an admirable pursuit.  Therefore, if the course materials being used were $400 and the instructor gets the price down to $100, that would be considered making the course materials affordable.  

Creative Commons License vs. Copyright

As mentioned above, OER is made possibly the use of Creative Commons licensing (CC).  With traditional copyright, an instructor must have everyone purchase the item or seek permission to use, edit, and redistribute from each copyright holder of each work they want to use.  CC licensed property is set up so that  creators can freely share  their work with others to use, edit, and redistribute with very few restrictions.  CC licenses have grown substantially since their creation in 2004 and over one billion artifacts are available under CC licenses.  


While CC licenses are powerful, they do not mean users can do anything with them.  There are a handful of limitations that creators may instill with their creation.


Attribution (by)

This option merely requires the instructor properly identify the original source they are got the content from.  


ShareAlike (sa)

This option requires the instructor to also grant a CC licenses to the content being used (especially if changed/augmented).


NonCommercial (nc)

This option prevents users from repurposing the content for commercial purposes.  


NoDerivative (nd)

This option means that users can use, copy, and share the content  but not if they want to change it, they must seek permission.  


To learn more about how these elements work, visit Creative Common’s website.