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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.  

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.


Learn more about support and resources for the Mac community in the OER Toolkit

Macalester College OER Toolkit


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

English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate

Karyl Garland, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Ann Inoshita, Jeanne K. Tsutsui, and Tasha Williams: Leeward Community College
Kate Sims, Hawai‘i Community College, Pālamanui
​Publisher: University of Hawaii Manoa

This OER textbook has been designed for students to learn the foundational concepts for English 100 (first-year college composition). The content aligns to learning outcomes across all campuses in the University of Hawai'i system. It was designed, written, and edited during a three day book sprint in May, 2019

The American Yawp Vol. I: To 1877

Joseph L. Locke, University of Houston-Victoria, editor
Ben Wright, University of Texas at Dallas, editor
Publisher: Stanford University Press

In an increasingly digital world in which pedagogical trends are de-emphasizing rote learning and professors are increasingly turning toward active-learning exercises, scholars are fleeing traditional textbooks. Yet for those that still yearn for the safe tether of a synthetic text, as either narrative backbone or occasional reference material, The American Yawp offers a free and online, collaboratively built, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses. Unchecked by profit motives or business models, and free from for-profit educational organizations, The American Yawp is by scholars, for scholars. All contributors—experienced college-level instructors—volunteer their expertise to help democratize the American past for twenty-first century classrooms.

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.

Libro Libre: Beginning Spanish

Erin Huebener, Jessica Steinberg, Spokane Communithy College

One of the most important things we can do to hold ourselves accountable for our learning is to engage in goal setting and metacognition—a fancy term for thinking about the way we think and learn. The goals we set should be specific and achievable. Something like “Speak Spanish” is too broad, we need to focus on the steps we need to take to get there and the signs that we will see as proof of our progress.