Open Educational Resources (OER)

UW‐Madison has identified the adoption and production of Open Educational Resources (OER) as a priority within the Educational Innovation (EI) Initiative, and in connection with the university’s partnership with the Unizin consortium. The advantages of increased use of OER for instruction include enhanced attainment of learning outcomes, greater flexibility and more diverse pathways for students when accessing learning materials, greater flexibility for instructors to customize instructional materials, and lower course material costs for students.

The university’s future digital learning infrastructure will encompass significantly enhanced capabilities to identify and share digital content (including OER) for the purposes of teaching and learning. OER have significant potential to help campus further embody and enact the Wisconsin Idea through the sharing of our teaching resources across the state, the nation and the world.

UW-Madison’s OER Strategic Framework

Read the full strategic framework document.

OER Mission

Support and encourage instructors to create, revise, and adopt OER course materials that increase student learning and student access to high quality, innovative learning materials, at lower cost.

OER Vision

UW-Madison improves learning outcomes, and provides students with greater flexibility and more diverse pathways to access learning materials, significantly reduces the cost of instructional materials for enrolled students (while maintaining or improving their quality), and is recognized as a state and national leader in developing and improving OERs.

Primary Stakeholders

Our primary stakeholders are enrolled undergraduate students and instructors.

Guiding Principles

Prioritize support for OERs based on:

  • Potential impact: number of students, cost per textbook, ability to pay
  • Potential value to communities that don’t have resources to develop the content. Example: less commonly taught languages, niche/specialized educational areas, UW System students
  • Potential to improve and/or expand opportunities for learning
  • Potential benefit to the reputation/brand of the program/discipline
  • Evident faculty capacity and interest
  • Develop and encourage adoption of flexible formats that allow students to freely download, retain, and re-use material at low- or no-cost

What are OER?

As the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation explains, OER are “openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge.” More specifically, they are:

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.

OER are primarily developed and utilized to enhance student learning, and to reduce the cost of course-related materials for students (e.g., via ‘open texts’). OER are also used by faculty and staff at universities to enhance efficiency and save resources (e.g., paper), alter and improve reputations, enhance technological momentum and personalize learning (see Martin Weller’s, The Battle for Open, for a thorough discussion of this topic).

OER Formats & Components

OER formats include both digital and traditional (printable) formats, though digital formats are clearly gaining ground given how easy they can be placed on accessible platforms and shared within the public sphere (including between instructors).

OER components (sometimes deemed ‘learning objects’) range in size and scale from homework exercises, podcasts, infographics and visualizations, through to e-textbooks, open access online courses (including MOOCs) and learning support resources of a course-like nature. Some examples include:

  • Images
  • Videos, video tutorials or lectures
  • Elements of courses
  • Audio podcasts, tutorials or lectures
  • Interactive games and simulations
  • Infographics
  • E-books/open texts
  • Quizzes
  • Whole courses (e.g., MOOCs)

Creative Commons Licenses

Learn more about the array of Creative Commons licenses that are typically applied to OER. UW-Madison Library staff, in particular, Carrie Nelson, would be happy to work with faculty and staff on the implications of various licensing options for the development and/or use of OER.

‘Open’ Agenda

The OER agenda is part of the broader ‘Open’ agenda, including open source and open access. Most faculty and staff are familiar with the Open Access phenomenon in relationship to the publication of research findings, whereas the OER are more commonly associated with teaching and learning.

Related Resources