Implementing Open Educational Resources (OER) into Your Course

This article is the third part in our series on OER. You can read more about Open Educational Resources and Affordable Educational Resources in part one and two alternative models for textbooks, Inclusive Access and Equitable Access, in part two.

I’m ready to adopt an Open Educational Resource (OER) – how do I find a text?

First, realize that OER don’t have to be a formal textbook, although often they are. OER can be pieces of textbooks that you use in conjunction with each other. They can be a Canvas course, a module, or a series of resources that meet your learning outcomes and the topics you need to ensure your students are meeting the learning outcomes. They could even be podcasts, films, and websites. This broadens the field of where to find OER. So where do you start?

  • Start with the librarians on your campus. Librarians are experts in locating materials and can make the search easier.
  • Use the libguide created by the library about materials you already have access to that can be used as part of an OER course.
  • Use one of the many repositories available online that offer the distinct types of resources mentioned above. College of the Canyons maintains an up-to-date OER/Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Repository which is a good jumping-off point.

Can I create my own OER?

An option for integrating OER into your course is creating your own materials. Creating your own materials doesn’t necessarily mean writing a textbook. Open Educational Resources can be any of the items below or some combination thereof.

  1. Written textbook
  2. Videos
  3. Curated articles that are openly licensed
  4. Podcasts
  5. Curated textbook chapters taken from openly licensed books
  6. Media you create yourself

As you begin searching, you may decide you want help creating and licensing your materials. As mentioned earlier, the library is a great place to start. The library may be able to offer significant resources to help you create your OER, so be sure to reach out and see what support is available.

Ready to get started?

If you’re interested in getting started on creating low or no-cost resources for your class or just want to get some more information, you can reach out to Carli Reinecke, the OER Librarian to get started with your project.


Inclusive and Equitable Access Models for Course Materials: Comparisons with OER and AER

This article is the second part to our post about Open Educational Resources and Affordable Educational Resources.

It is important to acknowledge a few other contenders in the push to lower textbook costs for students: Equitable Access and Inclusive Access. Equitable access replaces the costs of textbooks with a fee added to students’ tuition at the beginning of a term that covers the cost of all course materials for that semester, no matter the discipline. Students have the option to opt out and can apply their financial aid. The cost is the same for every student, which creates some concerns when you consider the cost difference between a low-material-cost humanities course and a science course with books that may cost hundreds of dollars. There is an expected course savings with this, as deals have been negotiated between the publishers, the bookstore, and the university. This is a textbook system that is becoming more popular with universities.

Inclusive Access is more common, as it focuses on just one or a few courses instead of all the courses a student is taking. Like Equitable Access, it is a service provided by publishers and college bookstores, marketed as a tool to lower costs for students. Inclusive Access involves a plan to provide eBooks to students for an entire course section, course, or department, depending on the agreements entered into by the publisher and a bookstore. The selected text is provided to all students by the first day of class and is typically paid for as a registration fee instead of a separate textbook cost. This can provide significant savings to students who would be likely to buy a new copy of the textbook, but savings are debatable for those who would acquire their texts by other means. Students can normally opt out, but penalties could arise for departments that sign on and don’t end up with enough student participation.

Please note that there are certain concerns with both the EA and IA models. The cost savings suggested for both models are often based on the difference between students participating in the program or students buying full-price textbooks, which is the only option available to students. There have also been concerns about the issue of these programs being opt-out instead of opt-in for students. The Department of Education is presently reviewing whether financial aid will cover these programs if they are opt-out only.

Similarities and differences between OER, AER, IA, and EA

Conditions OER AER IA EA
Free to students yes possibly no no
Free to university yes possibly yes** yes
Low cost yes yes possibly possibly
Copyright applies no possibly yes yes
Reduces equity gaps yes yes possibly possibly
Open to share with others yes no no no
Able to be remixed yes no no no
Available on the first day of class yes yes yes no
Potential for hidden fees no no yes yes
Students can get a hard copy of the book possibly possibly possibly possibly
Students can get a digital copy of the book yes yes yes yes
Students get their books at the bookstore possibly possibly yes yes
Ability to make modifications to the materials yes no no no
Might include scholarly articles found in the library databases no yes no no
Who benefits from the use students students publishers publishers

** Free as long as certain conditions are met.

The table above presents in tabular format the distinctions between OER, AER, EA, and IA throughout this toolbox article. It highlights how materials can be shared, how costs are passed on, and who benefits from the specific textbook arrangement.


Intro to Open Educational Resources and Affordable Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

You will find multiple definitions of OER, but for our use, we will focus on the 2017 definition from UNESCO, Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” While OER used to be difficult to find and were only available for the most common general education courses, more and more professors are creating the materials they would like for their classes and then offering those resources to other educators at no cost.

For materials to be considered Open Educational Resources, there is no cost to use the materials — either for the student, the faculty member, or the university involved. There is an alternative to this model, Affordable Educational Resources, which will be discussed below. Ideally, Open Educational Resources will have an open license. An open license has a 5Rs framework, as proposed by David Wiley. A completely open license allows the user to do all of the following:

  • Reuse: Share content as-is
  • Revise: Content can be adapted, revised, or modified
  • Remix: Content can be combined with other material to create new content
  • Redistribute: Share the original, revised, or remixed versions with others
  • Retain: the right to make, own, and control copies of the content

While open licenses are ideal, many faculty creators choose a Creative Commons license which offers some rights to those who choose to adopt the OER. Creative Commons licenses work alongside copyright, where it makes transparent to the user how they can use, modify, or distribute the work.

Why choose OER?

The most obvious reason for making the choice to switch to OER is the cost savings to students. As of Spring 2024, UWGB instructors have saved 1957 students $240,442. This represents 34 instructors who have participated in the formal OER program. In addition to this obvious benefit to students, the reasons instructors choose to use OER can be any or all of the following:

  • Increase equity
  • Allow for customization
  • Improve access to information
  • Avoid copyright issues
  • Increase representation and diversity in course resources
  • Meet changing learning outcomes

What’s the difference between OER and AER?

Open Educational Resources are explained in detail in the previous section. What we have not explored yet are Affordable Educational Resources (AER). Many of the textbooks our students are asked to purchase for their classes cost in the hundreds of dollars. Because of limited resources or lack of financial aid, students may attempt to take the course without purchasing the text or might not be able to get the text until weeks into the course. While affordable educational resources might have a cost associated, it is a much more manageable cost. AER means something different at every university. At UWGB, the cost is $50 or less for the total cost of resources purchased by the student for one class. There are other distinctions between OER and AER. This video explains them succinctly.

Want more information? Contact the UWGB OER librarian, Carli Reinecke.

UWGB Team Joins National Efforts in OER Promotion and Adoption

Grafik: Markus Büsges, leomaria,
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Building on the preliminary work for the recently funded OER Strategic Priority Initiative proposal, a small team from UW-Green Bay has been accepted to participate in the inaugural AAC&U Institute on Open Educational Resources. The team will collaborate with leaders in the open educational resource (OER) field as well as other institutions to “design and implement a campus transformation strategy to accelerate campus OER plans for large scale engagement and adoption.”

OER adoption aligns with UW-Green Bay strategic goals 3, 4, and 5, and has been shown to reduce time to graduation and student debt (Florida Virtual Campus 2018), improve student learning outcomes (Jhangiani et al. 2019), and reduce DFW rates for part-time, first and second-generation students (Colvard et al. 2018; Griffiths et al. 2020).

Instructors interested in participating in the OER Strategic Priority Initiative should look for upcoming information this fall. General questions regarding OERs can be directed to UW-Green Bay libraries,, or the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning,