Understanding and Navigating OER

Your guide to Openly-Licensed Educational Resources

What is OER?

In the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, the Department defines openly licensed educational resources as teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a license that permits their free use, reuse, modification, and sharing with others. Digital openly licensed resources can include complete online courses, modular digital textbooks as well as more granular resources such as images, videos, and assessment items.

(“Open Education.” Office of Educational Technology, tech.ed.gov/open/.)

Why use OER?

Resources that are openly licensed benefit schools in a number of ways, but most notably they help to:

  • Increase Equity – All students have access to high quality learning materials that have the most up-to-date and relevant content because openly licensed educational resources can be freely distributed to anyone.
  • Keep Content Relevant and High Quality – Traditional textbooks are perpetually outdated, forcing districts to re-invest significant portions of their budgets on replacing them. The terms of use of openly licensed educational resources allows educators to maintain the quality and relevance of their materials through continuous updates.
  • Empower Teachers – Openly licensed educational resources empower teachers as creative professionals by giving them the ability to adapt and customize learning materials to meet the needs of their students without breaking copyright laws.
  • Save Money – Switching to educational materials that are openly licensed enables schools to repurpose funding spent on static textbooks for other pressing needs, such as investing in the transition to digital learning. In some districts, replacing just one textbook has made tens of thousands of dollars available for other purposes.


(“Open Education.” Office of Educational Technology, tech.ed.gov/open/.)


There is another reason to utilize OER materials. As educators, we often turn to resources we find online to supplement our lessons. By using OER materials, we can ensure that we are not violating copyright laws when we copy, reproduce or restructure digital resources.

Where to start?

There are several places to begin your search for Openly-Licensed Educational Resources. Below is a Padlet with some OER repositories, collections of OER materials.
Big picture

Digging Deeper

Curious to explore more? Below are links to annotated lists of OER repositories to deepen your understanding of available resources.

Creative Commons Licenses

Additional Support

Still have questions? Have a district or group who would benefit from learning about OER? Please contact:

Lynn Kleinmeyer

Lynn Kleinmeyer is a Grant Wood AEA Digital Learning consultant. Lynn has a strong background in literacy. Prior to joining the Digital Learning Team, Lynn worked for 3 years as a Teacher Librarian for 2nd-5th graders and prior to that taught 7th grade Reading for 13 years. Lynn is dedicated to supporting the integration of technology and information literacy skills in every classroom.