What is OER?

OER stands for Open Educational Resources. These are resources that are in the public domain or published under an open license. Open licenses amend the copyright status of a work to expand the permitted uses of that work. Many OERs even have a license that allows the user to modify the content, which is especially helpful in the educational setting when a subject matter expert/instructor needs to edit the content for relevancy to their course. OER are diverse, flexible, and cost-effective alternatives to commercially available publisher resources that allow instructors to be more innovative in their approach to course design and development.

Key Benefits of OER

Using OER in courses can be very beneficial to both instructors and students. The sections below outline some of these benefits, though there are more than can be listed here.

Instructor Benefits

Improvement of Outcomes – Studies have linked OER use with increased student performance and decreased DFW rates.

Quality Content – Students and instructors have compared OER with commercially available resources and rated OER as equal or higher in quality.

Flexibility – In many cases, instructors can modify existing OERs to tailor them to their course. OER can also be downloaded and distributed freely to students, unlike “all rights reserved” resources.


Student Benefits

Cost Savings – OER are free resources, which means that students do not have to pay any extra amount for the resources and materials they need to succeed in their course(s).

Extended Learning – The open and free nature of OER encourages students to dive deeper and find even more resources, whether it be supplemental sources recommended by the instructor or something students find on their own. Instructors could also work collaboratively with their students to create an OER, prompting them to dig deeper and do research to benefit learners everywhere.


OER in Colorado

Choosing to use OER in a course could have more impact on students and the community at large than one may expect. In 2019, Governor Polis unveiled his Roadmap to Containing College Costs and Making College Affordable. During his announcement, Governor Polis stated, “We know that when Coloradans have more access to affordable educational opportunities, they thrive, and the benefits ripple across our state and help our economy…we must work together to help bring down college and community college costs, encourage innovation, and support the next generation of students.” His plan highlights a variety of strategies for cost containment, but one of the top solutions is using OER to curb textbook costs.

To promote engagement with this initiative, Governor Polis presented his Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) challenge in October of 2019. The ZTC Challenge involves learning about OER, promoting OER in the community, and using OER to transform courses and programs. There are also several awards that recognize outstanding ZTC instructors, staff, and programs. To learn more about the ZTC initiative or challenge, please visit the following CDHE webpage: Governor Polis’ ZTC Challenge.


OER at MSU Denver

MSU Denver’s mission is to “provide a high-quality, accessible, enriching education that prepares students for successful careers, post-graduate education, and lifelong learning in a multicultural, global, and technological society.” Using OER contributes to achieving that mission as these resources are high-quality materials that will allow MSUD instructors to innovate and develop enriching learning experiences. It is also known that MSUD serves a diverse population, which means there are barriers to education for many MSU students. The more that instructors and staff can do to reduce those barriers, such as cost, the more the institution is able to move toward its mission.

As an OER advocate, MSU Denver has accomplished the successful integration of OER in 46 courses and counting. These courses have been recognized statewide (see the CDHE OER Referatory), and MSU Denver has established itself as a leader in Colorado’s OER landscape. Much of this success has been made possible by funding from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s OER Grant Program. MSU Denver received $76,000 from the 2019-2020 program alone according to this February 2020 Early Bird article. These funds go towards stipends, awards, and open education initiatives on campus. To learn more about stipends and eligibility, OER awards, the OER Task Force, the OER Faculty Learning Community, or other ways to get involved, please visit the MSU Denver OER webpage. For more information about MSU Denver instructor experiences with OER, you can read about faculties experiences with OER.


Useful Links

These links provide some extra resources and helpful information surrounding OER.