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Open Touro OER Initiative: FAQs

This guide provides information about Open Educational Resources for professors, students, and self-learners.

Frequently Asked Questions

If something is available online, does it mean that it is an OER?

No! Remember that the key characteristic of OER is that you have the right to retain, reuse, revise, remix, or redistribute (5 Rs described above). If you found something online, make sure that it has an open license statement (usually Creative Commons). This is the only way that you will know if the material is, in fact, an OER.

Are free resources the same as OER?

No. As in the above answer, just because you are able to access something does not mean it is an open educational resource. Although you may not see the path for getting there, you may be reaching a resource through a library account. OER are licensed in a way that allows you to modify and re-share them, but not all free resources have copyrights that allow that. While you're right that OER are free, not all free resources are OER.

What kind of learning materials are regarded as OER?

"OER could be any type of educational resources (including textbooks, curriculum maps, course materials, video clips, multimedia applications, images, podcasts, and any other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that are openly licensed." (source)

Are OER really free?

Open Educational resources are free because they are available under free licenses and they allow anyone to use and modify them for free. They can be free in terms of cost for the end user though it doesn’t mean they are always totally gratis (source). If you want to purchase a print textbook, instead of a free digital one, you will have to pay for printing costs. Beware of companies that claim to offer OER for a subscription cost (more about this here).

How do I choose an OER?

There isn't a single place where you can look for OER. We selected the best databases where you can search for OER for your courses (above). We are also happy to search for materials ourselves. Give us more information about your course (preferably a syllabus or the name of the textbook you use), and we will find resources for you!

How can I share the OER I chose with my students?

There is a number of ways you can share your OER with students:

  • add a link to the resource to your syllabus;
  • add a link to your Canvas course (see how to do this here);
  • upload the PDF, if available, to your Canvas course (see how to do this here);
  • ask one of our librarians to create a library guide specifically for your course, like this one, or this one, or
  • do all of the above!

What is an open textbook?

"An open textbook is an openly licensed textbook that is freely available to students, educators, and members of the public to reuse, revise, remix, retain, and redistribute. A type of open educational resource (OER), open textbooks are increasingly seen as a solution to the concerns with affordability and equitable access presented with commercial textbooks. The development of open textbooks is often funded by philanthropic organizations (e.g., the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), government (e.g., British Columbia Ministry for Advanced Education, NY State), universities (e.g., Oregon State University), and professional organizations (e.g., Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction). Many open textbook projects, such as OpenStax and the BC Open Textbook Project, target the highest-enrolled undergraduate courses for maximum impact." (source)

Can open textbooks be used offline like other commercial textbooks?

Yes! Open textbooks "can be viewed and printed just like conventional commercial learning materials. The only difference is the cost. Commercial textbooks often cost more than a hundred dollars, and in some cases more than two hundred dollars each. Open Educational Resource textbooks, or just the portion a student needs, by contrast, can be printed directly by students for the cost of paper and ink or by commercial publishers seeking a profit at much lower prices, typically less than $30 each." (source)

Why should I adopt an open textbook?

"Open textbooks relieve the burden on students of commercial textbook costs, providing more equitable access to education. A growing body of research shows that students using open textbooks tend to perform the same as or better than those using commercial textbooks (see Hilton, 2016 2, for a review), and that adopting open textbooks has the potential to improve course enrollment, persistence, and completion. Open licensing also permits faculty to adapt and contextualize open textbooks to suit their local context and pedagogical goals. Open textbooks thus have pricing, flexibility, and customization advantages over commercial textbooks" (source).


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