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Creative Commons

Why are OA and OER important?

New knowledge and innovation builds upon knowledge of the past. Scholarship behind a paywall (subscriptions, use fees, etc.) limits access and therefore innovation and scholarship possibilities. Many journals are prohibitively expensive and libraries can only supply so many options with dwindling budgets. OA research can be read by anyone with internet access. OA levels the playing field so that all researchers have the same level of access.

Everyone benefits from OA and OER.

  • One does not lose copyrights to works when they are OA.
  • All users have the same access to OA works.
  • Access is often faster than requesting items through Interlibrary Loan.
  • If you don't have access to an academic or research library, OA allows you to still obtain needed information

For additional information, see the Open Educational Resources guide

What is open access?

OA stands for Open Access.

OA is the "practice of making peer-reviewed scholarly research and literature freely available online to anyone interested in reading it;" the materials are "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions." OA removes price barriers and permission barriers.

There are two types of OA: gratis and libre.

Gratis OA is "making research available for others to read without having to pay for it." It does not grant the right to make copies, distribute, or modify the work.

Libre OA is makes research available to others for free "but grants users additional rights, usually via a Creative Commons license, so that people are free to reuse and remix the research."

NOTE: Grantis and libre refer to user rights and degrees of openness. Green/Gold OA refers to venues or delivery services.

Do creators of OA materials keep their copyrights?
YES! OA materials are licensed for use by others. Creators retain all of the rights they want to keep.

What are some examples of OA?
Project Gutenberg
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)


Are you interested in creating and using OA materials? See the Open Educational Resources guide.



What is open access?


OER stands for Open Educational Resources.

OER are "teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others" (UNESCO). They are free to download, edit, and be shared to better serve all students.

Are you interested in creating and using OER? See the Open Educational Resources guide.

There are a number of benefits and challenges to OER, but once the challenges are overcome or accepted, there are few reasons to not use OER.

Benefits Challenges

less expensive (they're free!)

time consuming to produce

more flexible

may be perceived as less authoritative

no need to obtain copyright permissions

if born digital, must be printed if needed

free to adapt (great for accessibility)

OER can take any form: a video, an image, a book, a document, etc. They can even include entire degree programs.

Not all CC licensed resources are open. If they are licensed under CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, or CC BY-NC-SA, they are OER.

One metric for determining if a resources is open is by following the 5Rs developed by David Wiley:

  1. Retain – permission to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – permission to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – permission to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – permission to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – permission to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of to a friend)

How are OER different from free library resources?

Library resources are free in that they are free for people to use, they are not free from copyright or purchase/subscription costs. If a library does not have the budget to purchase a text or subscribe to a database, they go without. Additionally, library resources at a college or university library may have restrictions - resources are not always available to the general public.

OA and OER are closely related. 

OA typically refers to scholarly literature available via an open license and are typically found in peer-reviewed OA journals and institutional repositories. These will often be single articles or a small collection of articles.

OER are teaching and learning materials available via an open license. These will often be books or media. OER can include OA documents.

Why are OA and OER important to faculty?
OA and OER increases visibility of research and researchers; reduces expenditures; and advances the mission to share knowledge. OA and OER also allows instructors to bring up-to-date research into the classroom.

Why are OA and OER important to students?
OA gives students barrier-free access to resources needed for their research, particularly for lower income individuals.

Why is Open Access Important?