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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:

Stipend Program Guidelines
Stipend Application

Recently Published Open Textbooks

Introduction to the American Criminal Justice System

Introduction to the American Criminal Justice System cover

Alison S. Burke, David E. Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany L. Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, Shanell Sanchez
Southern Oregon University

There is a dearth of OER textbooks in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which made creating this textbook all the more exciting. At times we faced challenges about what or how much to cover, but our primary goal was to make sure this book was as in-depth as the two textbooks we were currently using for our CCJ 230 introduction course. The only way we were willing to undertake this project as if it was as good, or better than the current books students read. We have had very positive feedback about the required textbooks in the course but consistently heard how expensive the books were to buy. We also needed to ensure we met the learning outcomes outlined by SOU for a general education course, as well as the state of Oregon, to make sure this textbook helps students meet those outcomes.

Media, Society, Culture and You​

Media, Society, Culture and You

Mark Poepsel 
Southern Illinois University

Media, Society, Culture, and You is an approachable introductory Mass Communication text that covers major mass communication terms and concepts including "digital culture." It discusses various media platforms and how they are evolving as Information and Communication Technologies change.
This book has been peer-reviewed by 6 subject experts and is now available for adoption or adaptation. If you plan to adopt or adapt this open textbook, please let us know by filling out our adoption form.

You can view the book's Review Statement for more information about reviewers and the review process. An Accessibility Assessment for this is book has also been prepared to see how this book meets accessibility standards.

An Introduction to Technical Theatre

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

An Introduction to Technical Theatre draws on the author’s experience in both the theatre and the classroom over the last 30 years. Intended as a resource for both secondary and post-secondary theatre courses, this text provides a comprehensive overview of technical theatre, including terminology and general practices.

Introduction to Technical Theatre’s accessible format is ideal for students at all levels, including those studying technical theatre as an elective part of their education. The text’s modular format is also intended to assist teachers approach the subject at their own pace and structure, a necessity for those who may regularly rearrange their syllabi around productions and space scheduling.