Defining #OER

Although OER can be used at no financial cost to users, not all materials available at no financial cost are open, and there are costs others than financial that are incurred by users of OER. Consider, for example, G Suite—the cloud-based productivity suite—that is widely used by both consumers and by educational institutions. While users need not pay to use the service, they cannot modify to as they please, thus it violates Baker’s (2017) transparency of open resources. Further it is unclear exactly what information is being used by Google and for what purposes it is being used, thus the true costs in terms of privacy cannot be determined.

While OER do allow others to copy and use the works, not all uses are allowed. Exactly what others may do with OER are defined by the nature of the copyright that is applied by the original author. The copyrights applied to OER tend to fall between the “all rights retained” of traditional copyright and the free use allowed by works in the public domain. Most authors of OER apply one of the Creative Commons licenses to their work, which does restrict what is allowable with their work. One of the most common limitations placed on OER by authors restricts commercial use. No others are allowed to include the OER in any commercial product, and this restriction extends to derived works.


Baker, F. W. (2017). An alternative approach: Openness in education over the last 100 years. TechTrends, 61(2), 130–140.