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Frequently Asked Questions

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Are OER really free?

Yes! One aim of OER is to help students achieve their educational goals without the additional expense of textbook costs (which amount to $2 billion nationally). While all digital OER are free, some OER are also available in print at low cost.

OER are often released under intellectual property licenses (such as, Creative Commons). Some of these licenses allow faculty to freely reuse, remix, revise, and/or redistribute educational materials. There are other free educational resources in the public domain, but they are not considered OER since they require permission from the copyright holder in order to be redistributed or modified.

To learn more about the different types of Creative Commons licenses:

CC-BY licenses are the most flexible because they allow for the remixing, modification, and distribution of the work, as long as the original author is credited. For more on CC-BY:

This graphic depicts the different licenses in terms of whether they are more open or restricted.

Different License Graphic

Are OER available for all disciplines?
OER are a fairly recent and ongoing endeavor. There are many OER options for some disciplines, and few for others. If you cannot find an OER for your courses now, check again in a few months or create your own! OER rely on volunteers who are knowledgeable in their field and willing to freely share their own teaching/learning material.
What about the quality of OER? How are they vetted?
Like traditional textbooks, OER vary in terms of quality. Similar to the process of selecting a textbook, faculty should use discretion and carefully review the material before assigning it to their students. Many OER include ratings and written peer reviews. Other OER require additional vetting by faculty. In terms of currency, OER are often more up-to-date than textbooks, since online material can be frequently updated. For more information on the efficacy and impact of OERs, see:
How do I include an OER on the Course Outline of Record (COR)?

The best course of action is for faculty to include a representative textbook commonly accepted as a required text on the COR. Faculty use the traditionally accepted textbook as guide when choosing OERs that best align with the representative text on the COR. Per, The COR: A Curriculum Reference Guide Revisited, pg. 34, “OER materials should be vetted by faculty in the discipline prior to adoption as required materials.”

How to reference an OER:

If you use an OER textbook resource as a bibliographic reference, at a minimum the textbook reference should include the list below (1-6). 

CSU & UC need the publication date and revision date if appropriate. 

Additional information that can be added if available includes, “Copyright holder.” This information can be added at the end of the reference. 

1. Author: e.g., OpenStax 

2. Name : e.g., Biology 

3. Publisher: e.g., OpenStax CNX 

4. Publication Date 

5. Link/course ID 

6. Licensed by/under 

For example: 

OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Oct 21, 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Are OER accessible?
While some OER resources are ADA accessible, others are not. It is the responsibility of each faculty member to ensure that their materials are accessible. The best approach is to incorporate universal design into the development of a course from its inception, rather than build the course and then make it accessible. Fortunately, some OER are modifiable (if, for example, they have a CC-BY license) so they can be changed to comply with ADA regulations.
What about supplementary materials?

OER include a wide range of resources: entire online courses, modules, online textbooks, articles, videos, assessments (e.g. quizzes, tests), lesson plans, audio files, etc. While some OER include supplementary materials (e.g. testbanks), others do not. If supplementary materials are important to you, then you may need to search more to find an adequate OER or you could contribute your own supplementary materials.

Who can I contact at Grossmont College with questions about OER?

Feel free to contact any member of the Grossmont OER work group. Go to “Contact Us.”

Last Updated: 10/29/2017
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District