"Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. These types of materials are low-cost resources that can be adapted to meet instructor and student needs."
--The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
While some educational resources are "open," others are "low-cost." What is the difference?
Open: These educational materials are free to access and use by students. They may be in the public domain, or may be licensed under Creative Commons.
Low-Cost: These educational materials have a cost associated with them -- though, typically, this cost is significantly less than that of a traditionally published textbook. The associated cost may be to purchase access to the material, or may be for obtaining a print copy of the work (with the material itself freely accessible in a digital format online).
OERs are free or low cost to students. With the escalating cost of textbooks, students are becoming even more conscious of and concerned about the cost of their course materials.
OERs allow customization. Instructors can get directly involved with shaping their course content.
Some OERs include ancillary course materials. These accompanying materials are also open, and can include multimedia, lecture slides, lesson plans, assessment tools, etc.
Instructors and students can collaborate using OERs. Students can be actively involved in the creation of ancillary materials, quiz banks, and other learning tools, deepening student engagement.