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Affordable Learning $olutions

The official website of the CSUN AL$ initiative.

What Are Open Educational Resources?


Open Educational Resources Logo

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are 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."


What Are the Benefits of Using OER?

Cost Savings

OER are free for instructors and students, which can provide significant cost savings to students and result in improved academic performance.


Most OER allow instructors to make modifications, which means you can pick and choose modules or modify content to make it more relevant to your courses.


Many OER are integrated with interactive online features such as videos, exercises, and quizzes to accommodate a range of learning styles and increase retention.

The Five R's of OER

What, specifically, are you allowed to do with Open Educational Resources? Remember the Five R's of OER:



Make, own, and control your own copy of the content


Use the content as-is


Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content


Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new


Share your copies of the original content, revisions or remixes with others


Note: Although all OER are free to use, not all OER have the same permissions regarding modifications, so before you Revise or Remix, be sure to check the license and use our handy Creative Commons License Cheat Sheet for reference.


5R Definition adapted from David Wiley under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Evaluating OER

As you evaluate OER for potential inclusion in your courses, here are a few questions to ask yourself:


   Content: Is this resource's content useful and appropriate for my course?

  • Does the content in this resource align with learning objectives for your course?
  • Is the content accurate? Are sources identified and cited?
  • Is the content at an appropriate level for your students?

   Quality: Is this resource credible and authoritative?

  • Is the resource transparent about who created it?
  • What is the author, institution, and/or publisher's reputation?
  • Has the resource been peer-reviewed?

   Usage Rights: How can I use this resource?

  • Will this resource be useful for your course as-is, or will you need to make modifications to the resource?
  • If changes are required, does the license permit modifications and adaptations? 

   Accessibility: Is this resource accessible to students with disabilities?

  • Have you evaluated online resources, including supplementary materials and linked websites, for web accessibility using an online accessibility checker?
  • Are all videos captioned?
  • Visit CSUN's Universal Design Center to learn more about accessibility best practices and get help with accessibility testing

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Open Educational Resources high quality?

There is a misconception that free resources are not high quality – and this is simply not true! There are many repositories and publishers that offer peer-reviewed resources and have rigorous publishing requirements. Although Open Educational Resources (OERs) are relatively new to the educational landscape, several studies have compared student learning outcomes between traditional textbooks and OERs to guage any differences in quality, and many have found either no significant difference in student learning or performance, or have found improvements. For more research on OER effectiveness, see the Open Education Group.

How can I find OER and other affordable resources for my course?
We have compiled an Affordable Resources Guide to help you navigate the many OER repositories and publishers out there and locate quality course materials. You can either browse General Resources or look up resources for your specific discipline. If you ever need help finding affordable resources, you can always contact a librarian for assistance.
Do I have to adopt OER to be designated as a zero- or low-cost course?
Not at all! There are many different strategies for reducing or eliminating course material costs, whether that's through OER, faculty authored material, digitizing, or utilizing library resources. As long as you're lowering course costs for your students, then you're eligible!


Have More Questions About OER?


The AL$ Team is here to help! Our team of OER experts can help you locate resources for your course, evaluate resource quality, or answer any other questions you may have!

Contact Us




Many thanks to the creators of the following resources that inspired this OER guide:
SJSU: Open Educational Resources by College
Humboldt State University: Open Educational Resources (OER)

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

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