Open educational resources (OER) are any resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings, and other learning content; simulations, games, and other applications; syllabi, quizzes, and assessment tools; and virtually any other educational material. Open resources are issued under a license that spells out how they can be used: Some may only be used in their original form; in other cases, resources can be modified, remixed, and redistributed. OER expand the access to educational resources to more learners, more of the time, and they have the potential to spur pedagogical innovation, introducing new alternatives for effective teaching.
The open educational resources model, including textbooks, has emerged as a response to rising text prices, a need for greater access to high-quality learning materials, the proliferation of e-reader devices, and a trend in publishing toward electronic media. Many contend that educational resources should be open and that instructional models increasingly depend on open content. Open textbooks can be offered by commercial publishers or found in open repositories. Open resources can promote active learning through student interaction with the text, particularly when they contribute to authorship. Although open textbooks face questions about the accuracy and reliability of their content, they allow higher education instructors to design content for their courses on an as-needed basis, choosing from an array of books, articles, videos, audio recordings, and readings.