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Open Educational Resources

A guide to help faculty find and use Open Educational Resources.

Pedagogical Benefits

The true pedagogical benefits of OER come from enabling open pedagogy. 

While it's possible to simply replace a commercial textbook and teach the course the same way, Wiley (2013) likens this to "driving an airplane down the road.” While it has wheels and you can drive it, using it this way squanders its potential for flight. Similarly, OER-enabled pedagogy offers many benefits over traditional commercial textbooks.

Student Engagement

According to Clinton-Lisell's (2021) systematic review of Open Pedagogy, OER incorporated with Open Pedagogy increases student engagement.

As opposed to being disengaged with "disposable assignments", students are engaged with "renewable assignments" because (Clinton-Lisell, 2021):

  • They are empowered as knowledge creators, not just consumers.
  • Students take more pride in their work when they know it will be seen and used by others.

Collins et al (2020) found that over 90% of students in their study reported that OER “increased their participation, satisfaction, academic performance, and engagement with the course” [emphasis added]. Many students in this study stated that OER reduced stress and distractions associated with the financial burden or lack of access to a commercial textbook (Collins et al., 2020).

General Learning Outcomes

While most studies comparing student learning outcomes between courses using OER and courses using commercial textbooks have found that learning outcomes are generally the same for students (i.e. Hilton, 2016), studies that have disaggregated student demographics have found that historically underserved students have achieved better learning outcomes in courses with OER (Collins et al., 2020; Colvard et al., 2018; Jenkins et al., 2020).


When using commercial textbooks, faculty must either let the textbook dictate their teaching priorities, or they must leave out chunks of the material, which is a wasted expense. Using OER enables faculty to curate content completely based on their individual curriculum needs (Scott & Shelley, 2023).

This flexibility also means faculty can adapt content to make it more inclusive of their students, such as providing additional perspectives to combat bias or better incorporate the experiences of their own students (Cullen, 2022).

Information Literacy & Critical Thinking

Clinton-Lisell's systematic review (2021) also found that students demonstrated better critical thinking skills in courses using OER and Open Pedagogy than students in courses using traditional pedagogy.

OER can help students grasp information literacy concepts (authority is constructed and contextual; scholarship as conversation; research as inquiry) because they demonstrate that scholarship is “not about repeating the canon; it is about inquiry, analysis, and building on the work of others to achieve a greater understanding of the world” (Cullen, 2022, p. 9).

This is because OER-enabled projects "typically require students to find, assess, analyze, and ethically use information, which may then be used by others in their own course assignments or scholarship” (Cullen, 2022, p. 11).

By asking questions about the OER they use (“is the research up to date and cited?”, “whose voice(s) isn’t represented in the sources?”), students are practicing metacognitive skills that enable them to develop as independent learners (Gumb, 2022, p. 53).

Additionally, Baran & AlZoubi (2020) found that OER-enabled pedagogy improved students’ ability to cite and understand the ethics of citations and attribution.


Because of the 5 R's of OER, instructors can incorporate student-generated work into future instructional materials and assignments. Wiley (2013) discusses the "disposable assignment," assignments where students create work solely to complete the assignment but then are simply thrown out after a grade has been assigned.

These assignments add no value to future learning or teaching. Instead, if students create work based on openly available content, then apply a Creative Commons license to their own work, the instructor can then incorporate this into future learning materials (Wiley, 2013).

Representational Justice

Providing diverse students the opportunity to create materials for others to use supports representational justice by diversifying the voices in the scholarly conversation (Clinton-Lisell, 2021).