Using Open Educational Resources (OERs)

What are OERs?

OER arose from UNESCO's Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries in 2002. The Open Education Resource Foundation's definition is:

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are educational materials which are licensed [and formatted] in ways that allow individuals and institutions to reuse, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OERs can, and do include full courses, textbooks, streaming videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques supporting learning.

Key issues for OERs

  • Distinguish OER from open content: OERs can be distinguished from freely available content on the Internet. They encompass freely available, discoverable, digital and reusable materials, following principles of free access, open licensing and open formatted materials. OER projects use peer collaboration models of development and reuse that can support educational work (Eg. See
  • Distinguish resources from courses: Massive Open Online Content Courses (MOOCs) are an emerging use of freely accessible content that may include OERs. However, MOOCs tend to focus on access to content, with restrictive copyright terms. Issues of engagement, diversity, and how students learn and generate knowledge are challenges for massive learning environments (See Bradshaw, Younie & Jones 2012).
  • Establish Open Education Practices (OEP): institutional policies and support systems that enable (re)use and production of OER. OEPs promote open innovative pedagogical models that encompass assessment, community engagement and research, and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path.(For example, see OPAL; Beyond OER: The OPAL Report, 2011)

How can I make my work openly available?

Creative commons is an internationally recognised copyright licensing system that enables you to specify copyright on the use of your content.

CC = indicates Creative Commons licensed content; users have to abide by the rules of CC license (as indicated by following symbols). OER use two Creative Commons licenses:.

BY = Attribution; you must always attribute content to original author. Attribution also protected under Moral Rights legislation in Australia

SA = Share Alike. If users modify the content, they must then re-post the modified content to share with others.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. In other words, you agree to share your materials with others, if they will share their new works in return.

See Creative Commons.

How can I use OER?

  • Develop resources through Wikiversity
  • Student open assignments in wikiversity, wikibooks, Wikipedia or other open content projects
  • OER Commons: "provides a single point of access through which educators, students, and all learners can search, browse, evaluate, and discuss over 30,000 high-quality OER". OER Commons gathers relevant materials about teaching, technology, research, and more, and encourages you to add links to materials, projects, or news related to the emerging field of Open Education. See OER Commons.
  • Contribute to La Trobe's university online repository, based in the library. This repository stores various categories of digital resources originating at La Trobe, with descriptive information (based on appropriate standards, such as Learning Resource Metadata) put with the resources to assist accessibility and discovery, both within La Trobe and beyond.  The descriptive information can include licence labelling (applying Creative Commons licences, for example), subject, format and pedagogical information, and tagging of webpages in the repository for specific resources to enable indexing by Google and other search engines and connection to the resources by other Internet-based systems. Open resources, such as OERs, are particularly welcome in the repository.
  • Consult OER repositories:

Examples of open resources

At La Trobe University

OER development

Wikimedia Foundation projects are the largest platform that host open source sites including Wikipedia, WikEducator, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Commons, Wikibooks, and many others.


  • University of Canberra Psychology Department's student authored open textbook
  • OER in Australia, ALTC
    This project is developing a "Feasibility Protocol" for adoption, use and management of OERs within higher education (HE) institutions in Australia
  • The ADAPT project (led by University of Tasmania) is building OERs into institutional repositories open to the community.  They argue that modernising pedagogy through technology for a disciplinary community is better than spending on LMS


UK JISC sponsored collaborative project across institutions for subject level development. Eg:


OER Handbook

OER in Australia - ALTC Project: Adoption, use and management of OER to enhance teaching and learning in Australia

Open Educational Practices; A User Guide for Organisations

ADAPT, an OLT project led by University of Tasmania, in partnership with Monash University, The University of Queensland and The University of Western Australia

Bossu, C., Brown, M., & Bull, D. (2011) Playing catch-up:Investigating public and institutional policies for OER practices in Australia,  Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning 15 (2)

Beyond OER: Shifting Focus from Resources to Practices: The OPAL Report 2011. Open Education Quality Initiative

OECD. (2007) Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. ISBN: 9789264032125

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice.
London :Bloomsbury Publishing

Bradshaw, P.,  Younie, S. & Jones, S. (2012). The use of open education resources in higher education programmes of academic practice. In: International Conference on ICT in Education, 5-7 July 2012, Rhodes, Greece

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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