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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Explore openly published, free-to-use textbooks and course materials

Affordable vs. Open

Many RISD faculty already use affordable or free course materials. So what's the difference between those and OER?

Put simply, OER are published with open licensing, typically through Creative Commons. The licenses allow specific privileges to use, share, and modify the content - privileges that are not typically allowed of the below materials, which cost money to the institution and have much more restricted use.

With that said, using these are great ways to keep course costs down for students.

  • Course reserves: the library can place books, eBooks, and articles on reserve for students to use throughout the semester.
  • General library resources: especially online resources such as articles, streaming films, and ebooks
  • Fair use: collections of PDFs or other copyrighted materials can be licensed and re-used for educational purposes under Fair Use.

Open Movements

A variety of "open" movements have blossomed over the last several decades. Based on the idea that knowledge should be free and available to all, these movements share a spirit of community-building, thrive on digitally networked platforms, and embrace flexible Creative Commons licensing. Most of them fall under the umbrella of Open Educational Resources.

  • Open Access (OA): Scholarly journals and articles available to all - without publisher paywalls. Learn more here.
  • Open Textbooks: Designed to replace traditional textbooks, open textbooks are free, flexible, and increasingly popular in colleges. Learn more here.
  • Open Course Materials: A more general category that includes the above alongside other types of media like videos, quizzes, online learning modules, syllabi, and more.
  • Open Source: Not covered by this guide, but certainly important, the term open source is often misapplied to OER. It refers to computer software (actually its "source code") that is free to use and modify. The open source movement in computing began in the 1990s, with the core belief that software innovation benefits from collaboration and transparency. OER and open source movements share that spirit - in fact, many code school sites now available for free online can be thought of as OER.
  • Open Data: Also not covered in depth here, the open data movement champions public sharing of data sets. Many governments, institutions, and researchers have embraced open data as a way to both increase accountability and allow others to build on their work. This data can be used in visualizations, apps, and many other ways.