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Adams State University
Nielsen Library

Open Educational Resources

Information for Faculty & Staff about OER

Definitions of OER

The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as: "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have ben released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others."

UNESCO's definition of OER is: "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium -- digital or otherwise -- that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions."


Fulcrum-scale showing how much more there is to "open" than to merely "free"

Source: New England Board of Higher Education's OER webinar, 2019


*Technically, "open" is not strictly "free" -- there are still economic dimensions to consider, such as time commitments of contributors, resources, and uncalculated monies. Some "Open" content providers like the Open Education Network's Open Textbook Library (OEN, OTL) require paid subscriptions.

David Wiley presents some good information about defining "open" and provides the ALMS framework for ensuring that technical choices -- just as much as unrestrictive license types -- make material open. For a basic, text-based example, publishing in an un-editable PDF presents technical/formatting challenges beyond the restrictions an open license may mitigate. Google Docs may be editable, but one must have a Google/Gmail account (and accept the inherent Big Brother concerns); Microsoft Word may be a fairly basic, universal format, but the Microsoft Office Suite of products can be cost-prohibitive.

Challenges of Traditional Textbooks

Introductory text here


Graph showing the cost of goods and services relative to the rate of inflation (Consumer Price Index)

Source:, compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.


There's a misconception that I think it's good to shine a light on: traditional textbooks, with their glossy pages, color graphics, and hardcover bindings are believed to be of inherently better quality than non-traditional textbooks. "You get what you pay for." But is that always true? Sure, some off-brand peanut butter tastes positively foul compared with some name-brands, but haven't studies also found that mid-priced wines and fancy wines are often indistinguishable in flavor, even by purported connoisseurs? These two articles make this point admirably (1: There's what you assign, & then there's what they read; 2: On quality & OER). Moreover, it's been a common thread in academia for years that traditional textbooks have their share of problems, so even if Open resources aren't perfect... well, neither are traditional materials!

Benefits of OER

Source: Leveraging OER during COVID-19 webinar (June 22, 2020)

For Faculty:
  1. More control, personalization, and customization of material -- OA/OER can be modified under Creative Commons licenses. [more info on licenses can be found on the "Licensing" tab of this Research Guide]
  2. More variety of media to keep students engaged and actively participating.
  3. More equal availability of texts to students of disparate socio-economic backgrounds (equity).
  4. The 5 Rs:
    1. Retain -- keep what you like, under your intellectual control
    2. Reuse - use content in any context you desire
    3. Revise - personalize and adapt content to your needs (simplify for beginner classes, complicate for higher level classes)
    4. Remix - combine content to make something new (put together articles and chapters into a new textbook)
    5. Redistribute - share your compilations to enhance nation- and world-wide OER offerings
  5. Another avenue to publish your own work.
For the University / Admin:
  1. Higher likelihood of successful completion/graduation, and potentially with less debt, thus enabling them to contribute as Alumni.
  2. Greater retention of students for financial and statistical purposes.
  3. Higher registration rates. 35.4% of ASU students said in Spring 21 that textbook costs kept them from registering for 1+ classes.
  4. Lower Drop-Fail-Withdrawal rates. 19.4% of ASU students said they failed a class because they couldn't afford the textbooks; nearly one quarter of students (23.3%) said they withdrew from (or dropped) 1+ courses for the same reason.
  5. Greater likelihood of students taking more classes. "If textbook prices were not a problem, would you consider registering for more courses?" 39.6% of students responded 'yes', and another 30.6% responded 'maybe.' [Spr 21 Survey].
  6. Greater equity of access to resources by underserved populations -- serving the University's mission.
  7. Help state fulfill state legislative intentions.
For Students:
  1. Eases students' financial struggles. Inability to afford outrageous textbook prices should not prevent students from succeeding at ASU.
  2. Housing- & food Insecurity and youth job insecurity/job loss have all risen due to the pandemic, and the rates are devastatingly high.
  3. Less stress. Most ASU students reported high or very high stress when purchasing textbooks [Sum 19, Spr 20, & Spr 21 Surveys].
  4. Format options: online or print-on-demand at minimal cost. Most ASU students prefer paper [Sum 19 & Spr 20 Surveys].
  5. Less digital redlining (assumption that everyone has internet access & current tech). ~12% of ASU students do not have reliable internet or a tech device to access online materials. [Sum 19 Survey].
  6. Shorter time to graduation: take class now rather than "when I can afford the textbook." Less student loan debt.
  7. Boosts retention. 32.3% of ASU students said textbook costs prevented registering for 1+ courses. [Spr 21, up from 29% Sum 19]
  8. Lowers D-F-W rates:
    • 19.4% of ASU students said they'd failed 1+ classes because they couldn't afford the textbooks [Spr 21, up from 17.9% Sum 19].
    • 23.3% said they'd dropped or withdrawn for the same reason. [Spr 21, up from 17.3% Sum 19]
  9. Ability to maintain perpetual access for professional development; hosting institutions often curate, so perpetual updated access.
  10. Lowers rentals & returns: 51% of students wish they could have kept their rentals, but couldn't afford to [Spr 21 Survey]. 
  11. Money not spent on textbooks can be used to bolster the local economy = great for the whole SLV!

The 5Rs of OER

Unlike traditionally copyrighted material, OER can be used (and reused, and edited!) far more liberally. This graphic from LumenLearning shows the Five R's that are allowed under Creative Commons Licensing: 

Purpose of the Research Guide (LibGuide)

The purpose of Adams State's Open Education Initiative is to provide more affordable educational resources for our students, to empower student learning and faculty instruction, and to provide the best education possible to our diverse and underserved community. Any means by which we accomplish these goals are valued and appreciated.

The adoption of Openly-licensed content is not the only way to save students money; Affordability options like Course Reserves, use of library databases and eBooks, use of publicly-accessible newspapers or websites, or use of Open Access materials are all valid and valued ways of saving our students from struggling to pay for course materials.

The purpose of this Research Guide (LibGuide) is to compile as many useful resources as possible for both ASU affiliates and others interested in the Open Education movement. It will never be entirely comprehensive, but it should prove a useful resource for the campus for finding information. The guide is broken down into the following pages:

  • Home (definitions and purpose)

  • About (FAQ, History, Misconceptions/Myth-busting, Organizations & Partnerships, etc.)

  • Zero-/Low-Cost Courses at ASU (List of courses students can take to save money)

  • Locating Open Resources (some repositories & referatories for finding open content)

  • Affordability: Using Nielsen Library Resources (some suggestions for other cost-savings options)

  • Licensing & Attribution (Creative Commons Licenses, giving attribution for use of open content)

  • Adopting, Adapting, Evaluating Open Content (rubrics, accessibility information, and Fair Use Best Practices)

  • Impact of OER (our unique needs, DEI collaboration, and testimonials from ASU students)

  • Authoring & Publication (tools for creating open content and distributing it)

  • Impact & Scholarly Research on Open (local data, video resources, and scholarly articles on Open)

  • Scholarly Research on Open Education (webinars, articles, webcasts, videos)

  • Grants & Funding (financial support avenues for course redesigns or open adoption)

  • SPARC Open Education Leadership Program (background on SPARC and Capstone resources)

  • Grants & Funding (where to get financial support Colo. Dept. of Higher Ed, ASU Campus funds, etc.)

  • Open Pedagogy (approaches to education that use -- and create -- open content)

  • Contact ASU's Open Ed Committee (campus contact information for local support)

  • Other LibGuides and Outside Resources (links to more information)