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Open Educational Resources (OER/ZTC)

This guide provides information about OER and a basic primer about copyright and fair use for instruction

OER Overview

OER Defined: 

"'Open Educational Resources' are high-quality teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license, such as a Creative Commons license, that permits their free use and repurposing by others, and may include other resources that are legally available and free of cost to students. 'Open educational resources' include, but are not limited to, full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, faculty-created content, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."

Source: Section 67423 of the California Education Code (College Textbook Affordability Act of 2015)


OER Mythbusting addresses the top seven myths about OER in North American higher education, as voted on my more than 100 faculty, librarians, students and other members of the OER community. This project grew out of a discussion during one ofSPARC’s Libraries and OER Forum monthly calls, where a group of librarians from theU.S. and Canada identified a need for better resources to address misconceptions about OER. A team of volunteers developed a poll and distributed it over email lists and social media over a two week period in July 2017. The results were then used to produce this collaboratively written document.

Non-financial incentives about OER

  1. By using OER, we can customize the course to match/fulfill the learning objectives/outcomes of the course in a way that a publisher text wouldn’t
  2. Students report that they like hearing from a range of expert voices instead of just one voice and especially appreciate diversity in the readings. With textbooks, we generally hear voices with cultural power  
  3. That expert voice can often be a marginalized group whose research doesn't float to the top because their voices have been blocked by dominant cultural narratives
  4. Sometimes students make stress-driven decisions when the text is expensive (like trying to complete the course without the text or dropping the course or taking fewer courses). This speaks to an additional part of the equity component
  5. Openly licensed materials open the conversation for us to talk about copyright with students (which we often neglect). When students understand more about the copyright they hold on their own work, they respect copyright on a new level and plagiarism reduces.
  6. OER allows for the most current event examples to be used in classes where cultural and news-cycle references are relevant


An Introduction to Open Educational Resources, CC-BY Iowa State

"An Introduction to Open Educational Resources" by Abbey Elder is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International license: This video is intended to serve as an introduction to OER for college professors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is ZTC? 

A. Zero textbook cost means that students do not incur any costs for purchasing course material. However, zero-cost to the students does not guarantee zero cost to the institution, ie. subscription databases, library equipment loans. To create a course that is at zero-cost to students, course instructors can use many platforms including Open Educational Resources; Open Access, Creative Commons, and public domain materials; along with resources owned or licensed by the Library.

Q. What is OER? 

A. OER stands for Open Educational Resources. "Open Educational Resources are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse, without charge. OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license that state specifically how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared” (OER Commons). OER materials can include textbooks, test materials, instructional videos, and other learning materials and tools.

OER might be similar to what you are currently doing. If you have ever used a worksheet that another instructor created, that's the basic concept of OER. Fundamentally, the only difference between OER and the worksheet you got from a colleague (or vice versa) is that the open license gives you and others formal permission to use, adapt and share it.


Source: Adapted from Skyline College ZTC FAQ


Example Three Body

OER and the Law

Textbooks comprise a significant part of the cost of education for our students and the high cost of textbooks negatively impacts student access and success.