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Open Educational Resources (OER): A Quick Guide

OER Quick Guide


"Open educational resources are teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OERs can be full courses, course materials, lesson plans, open textbooks, learning objects, videos, games, tests, software, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge."

     -- The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

Goals of the Macalester Library OER Initiative

Open educational resources are frequently identified as a solution to the rising costs of textbooks and as a way to provide faculty with access to high quality open learning resources that better meet the changing needs of their classrooms and teaching methods.

The library began our OER initiative in 2016 to support these results by raising campus awareness through.  

The goals of our OER initiative are:

  • to encourage faculty experimentation with open educational resources by eliminating barriers to exploration and to encourage, when appropriate, their use in the classroom; and  
  • to counter the rising costs of textbooks and other classroom learning resources that our students encounter; and
  • to contribute to the general availability of high-quality open educational resources.

Creative Commons Licensing and the 5Rs

Open licenses are the foundation upon which open educational resources are created. Using open licensing, frequently a Creative Commons (CC) license, the author of an open educational resource maintains copyright of their work while allowing others to freely use the content as long as the terms of the license are met. This gives others the right to share, use, and build upon the original scholarship. 

David Wiley, an open educational content advocate and Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, has captured this sense of 'openness' using what he refers to as the 5 Rs of open educational resources. These give any faculty the freedom to:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content;
  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways;
  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself;
  • Remix - right to combine original or revised content with other open content to create something new; and
  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions,
    or your remixes with others

This concept of openness gives faculty increased flexibility to create teaching resources customized to their classroom and instruction needs.



The library is making startup funding available to eligible
faculty who are initiating an OER project. For more
information on this stipend program, contact Ron
Joslin < > x6522 or use the
links provided below.

Stipend Program Guidelines
Stipend Application


Recently Published Open Textbooks

Fundamental Methods of Logic
(Published Sept 2017)

Matthew Knachel
Department of Philosophy
University of Wisc - Milwaukee

Fundamental Methods of Logic is suitable for a one-semester introduction to logic/critical reasoning course. It is available in HTML, PDF, or can be purchased as a bound volume for a small fee through Chapter One introduces basic notions, such as arguments and explanations, validity and soundness, deductive and inductive reasoning; it also covers basic analytical techniques, such as distinguishing premises from conclusions and diagramming arguments. Chapter Two discusses informal logical fallacies. Chapters Three and Four concern deductive logic, introducing the basics of Aristotelian and Sentential Logic, respectively. Chapter Five deals with analogical and causal reasoning, including a discussion of Mill's Methods. Chapter Six covers basic probability calculations, Bayesian inference, fundamental statistical concepts and techniques, and common statistical fallacies.

Active Calculus
(Published Aug 2017)

Matthew Boelkins, David Austin, and
Steven Schlicker,
Department of Mathematics
Grand Valley State University

Endorsed by the American Institute of Mathematics, Active Calculus is different from most existing calculus texts in at least the following ways: the text is free for download by students and instructors in .pdf format; in the electronic format, graphics are in full color and there are live html links to java applets; the text is open source, and interested instructors can gain access to the original source files upon request; the style of the text requires students to be active learners — there are very few worked examples in the text, with there instead being 3-4 activities per section that engage students in connecting ideas, solving problems, and developing understanding of key calculus concepts; each section begins with motivating questions, a brief introduction, and a preview activity, all of which are designed to be read and completed prior to class; the exercises are few in number and challenging in nature.

Introduction to Women, Gender and
Sexuality Studies

(Published July 2017)

Miliann Kang, Donovan Lessard, Laura Heston, and Sonny Nordmarken,
Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department
University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This textbook introduces key feminist concepts and analytical frameworks used in the interdisciplinary Women, Gender, Sexualities field. It unpacks the social construction of knowledge and categories of difference, processes and structures of power and inequality, with a focus on gendered labor in the global economy, and the historical development of feminist social movements. The book emphasizes feminist sociological approaches to analyzing structures of power, drawing heavily from empirical feminist research.

Variational Principles in Classical Mechanics
(Published July 2017)

Douglas Cline
Physics Department
University of Rochester

Two dramatically different philosophical approaches to classical mechanics were developed during the 17th - 18th centuries. Newton developed his vectorial formulation that uses time-dependent differential equations of motion to relate vector observables like force and rate of change of momentum. Euler, Lagrange, Hamilton, and Jacobi, developed powerful alternative variational formulations based on the assumption that nature follows the principle of least action. These powerful variational formulations have become the preeminent philosophical approach used in modern science, as well as having applications to other fields such as economics and engineering. This book introduces variational principles, and illustrates the intellectual beauty, the remarkable power, and the broad scope, of applying variational principles to classical mechanics. A brief review of Newtonian mechanics compares and contrasts the relative merits of the intuitive Newtonian vectorial formulation, with the more powerful analytical variational formulations. Applications presented cover a wide variety of topics, as well as extensions to accommodate relativistic mechanics, and quantum theory..