3 Why OER Are Important

OER and the 5Rs

OER are essential building blocks for open education.  Creative Commons defines open educational resources as “teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities”.[1]  They can include resources such as textbooks, slide sets, lecture notes, courseware, learning modules, open access journals, online tutorials, digital learning objects, streaming videos, problem sets and assignments.

The 5Rs are the key characteristics essential to creating and using OER:


Reuse – Content can be reused in its unaltered original format.

Retain – Copies of content can be retained for personal archives or reference.

Revise – Content can be modified or altered to suit specific needs.

Remix – Content can be adapted with other similar content to create something new.

Redistribute – Content can be shared with anyone else in its original or altered format.[2]

Watch this short video to learn more about OER and how the 5Rs support their use in open education.

What is OER (1:40 mins)

(“What is OER?” by The Council of Chief State School Officers is licensed under CC BY 4.0[3]


Activity: Drag the words.

(Adapted from “Creative Commons and Licensing” by BCcampus is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

OER benefits for students and teachers

There are many benefits of using OER in learning and teaching.

Teachers can use OER to complement existing curriculum resources. This gives them greater freedom as they can select and customise materials to suit the specific needs of their students and their learning goals. For example, teachers can:

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been created
  • Tailor resources to fit specific context within your courses and research
  • Expand interdisciplinary teaching by integrating resources from multiple fields
  • Increase access to educational resources that have been peer-reviewed by other experts
  • Include reviews and annotations that provide more in-depth knowledge of the resource
  • Promote collaboration on creating new resources that can be used within or across disciplines.
For students, using OER can expose them to a wider range of digital learning opportunities in the form of open texts, open images, open courseware and self-assessment tools, and can reduce the cost of study by removing financial burden. Further to this, OER benefit students by:
  • Enabling equal access to course materials for all students
  • Providing students with the opportunity to explore course content fully before enrolling
  • Enhancing the quality, range and flexibility of learning resources
  • Allowing the application of knowledge in a wider context than their course may otherwise allow
  • Supporting collaboration through peer-to-peer and social/informal learning approaches
  • Providing an opportunity for flexible learning.

Examples of OER

These examples demonstrate that OER range from the traditional textbook look-and-feel, to audio-visual and interactive materials, and everything in between!


Dixon, C. & Kajtaz, M. (2020). Mechanical Design: Design of a Compressed Air System for a Factory, RMIT University and Informit Open.

Lee, J., Halilovich, H., Landau-Ward, A., Phipps, P., & Sutcliffe, R. (2019). Monsters of Modernity: Critical Icons for our Critical Condition, Kismet Press.

Ayre, K. & Krishnamoorthy, G. (n.d.). Trauma Informed Behaviour Support: A Practical Guide to Developing Resilient Learners, University of Southern Queensland


MIT now publishes virtually all of its course content openly online, including lecture notes, lecture video recordings, reading lists and supplementary materials.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Open Courseware, https://ocw.mit.edu/


Collection of OER images created by RMIT University.

RMIT University (n.d.). OERs created by RMIT and licenced under Creative Commons [image collection]. https://rmit.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/collectionDiscovery?vid=61RMIT_INST:RMITU&collectionId=81220382100001341

Online courses:

Saylor Academy. (2021). ARTH101: art appreciation. https://www.oercommons.org/courses/art-appreciation-and-techniques-2/view

Foster Open Science (n.d.). Open Peer Review. https://www.fosteropenscience.eu/learning/open-peer-review




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OER Capability Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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