OER are provided free of charge and are openly licensed. In contrast, resources that are free of charge but are not openly licensed are not OER. Such resources may have restrictions that prohibit remixing or revising content, may be free only temporarily, and may have restrictions on sharing.
There are two conceptions of "free"—free in terms of price and free in terms of the freedoms allotted to the user. OER is free in both senses of "free," while resources that are free of charge do not necessarily allow the user freedom in engaging with the material.
While many OER are available online, OER is any resource, regardless of format, that is free of charge and openly licensed. Thus OER can refer to hardcopy texts, video, audio, and handouts, as well as online resources.
Since starting the OER initiative in 2017, CSI students have saved a total of $1,433,187
Beyond cost savings
The benefits of OER are not limited to financial benefits and include faculty engagement, student success, social justice, flexibility, accessibility, enrollment, retention, and completion, and open pedagogy.
"The cost of textbooks really plays a huge role in my success in the class. ... [OER] is really changing the way I am studying and improving my success in the class." - Blossom Akagbosu, 2019 Student government senator
"As long as ... professors advocate for these students and advocate for [OER], students will have a much better and easier time navigating through their college experience." - Maxwell Velikodny, 2019 Student government senator
"As faculty, we should be really concerned with the idea that we’re teaching a class and the students aren’t taking it just because of the textbook." - Anne Hays, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Library Instruction
The following departments have used OER in their courses:
Division of Humanities & Social Sciences: Anthropology, Core, History, Library, English, French, Political Science, Psychology, Media Culture; Division of Science & Technology: Astronomy, Biology, Physics; Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business: Finance, Economics, Management; School of Health Sciences: Social Work