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Open Access Resources (OER/OAT): What is Open Access? What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Education Resources are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. Open Access Textbooks (OAT) are textbook licensed under an open copyright license,

Open Access Explained

Peter Suber is a pioneer of the open access movement, currently serving as Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, and a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center. His overview on open access is widely cited. 

"Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder."

Open Educational Resources Explained

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are freely available pedagogical resources, such as lesson plans, activities, media, and supporting materials. They're a type of open access material, and open access materials such as OA journal articles, OA textbooks, and other scholarly materials may support OER lesson plans.

Open Educational Resources are broadly considered to meet the “5Rs Framework,” meaning that users are free to:

  • Retain: Users have the right to make, archive, and "own" copies of the content;
  • Reuse: Content can be reused in its unaltered form;
  • Revise: Content can be adapted, adjusted, modified or altered;
  • Remix: The original or revised content can be combined with other content to create something new;
  • Redistribute: Copies of the content can be shared with others in its original, revised or remixed form.

From SPARC® is the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.


Roger Williams University's Lindsey Gumb gives these tips for beginning to use OERs:

Making the switch to OER can be overwhelming if you just dive in.  Have a goal and keep these tips in mind:

  1. Take some time to understand how OER will be beneficial to you and your students.  Is your end goal to save students money?  Do you wish to achieve a deeper connection between your course learning outcomes and the learning material?  Are you looking to shake up your pedagogy?  Maybe all three of these?
  2. Identify your course learning outcomes.  Regardless of any additional goals, you should still start this process by revisiting your course learning outcomes.  They are the foundation upon which your students' learning will be assessed.
  3. Use this Libguide to locate OER.  What kinds of resources will best support your students in achieving these learning outcomes?  Is it a textbook?  A coursepack?  Interactive modules or simulations?  Ancillary content such as quizbanks, flashcards, or multimedia creation?  This guide contains links to a multitude of open resources.
  4. Evaluate OER.  OER sometimes requires a close evaluative eye.  While many repositories host only peer-reviewed content, many do not.  Outdated content is a big challenge in the OER movement.  Check to see when the resource was last revised.

An open course on how to begin using OERs from Open Washington will provide you with a brief overview of how to get started using OERs. From Module 1:

This course walks you through techniques to incorporate Open Educational Resources (OER) into your teaching practice. The course will cover the fundamental aspects of OER including open licensing and public domain. It focuses on providing practical guidance in locating and applying openly available resources. It is expected that upon completion of this course participants will be able to

  • Describe the meaning of open educational resources.
  • Differentiate the concepts of open licensing, public domain, and all rights reserved copyrights.
  • Identify resources that are openly licensed or in the public domain.
  • Distinguish the different types of Creative Commons licenses.
  • License works using a Creative Commons license.
  • Find open educational resources and properly attribute a work offered under a Creative Commons license.


Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

Differentiate Between Open Access and Open Ed Resources

Institutional Repositories

Digital repositories are institutionally-supported tools that archive, preserve, provide access to the digital materials created at that institution. Often search tools such as Google Scholar provide access to materials held in digital repositories. 

Salve Regina's institutional repository is often referred to as Digital Commons

Other major digital repositories are listed in the Directory of Open Access Repositories



Additional resources

The resources on this page were found through many excellent online research guides, including those by librarians at Roger Williams University, Worcester State UniversityCornell UniversityDuke UniversityUniversity of St. AndrewsUniversity of Kentucky, and UMass Medical School.