Frequently asked questions

Q. OER: What are they and why should you care?

A. Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that exist in the public domain or have been released under an open license. This means that those resources can be used free of charge and distributed widely. OER often have a Creative Commons license that states specifically how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared.

"Districts spend $5.5 billion a year in instructional content. However, many students are still using textbooks 7 to 10 years old." SETDA, Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age (pdf)

Password: OER (video). Second prize winner of the "Why Open Education Matters" contest sponsored in part by the Department of Education.

Last updated: 12/10/2012

Q. What are the benefits of OER for educators, students and administrators

The benefits include:

  • Access: OER provide freedom of access for educators, students and citizens and widen the scope of what is accessible.
  • Cost: By sharing and adapting educational materials, content acquisition costs can be cut dramatically, allowing schools to make better use of available resources. Implementing the vision of the CCSS requires a change in pedagogy. In order to address these big shifts in thinking about instruction, professional learning is crucial and would be an important place to shift spending.
  • Resources to address new standards: With the widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), conditions are ripe to explore the use of OER. Districts are looking for resources that align with the educational shifts present in new standards.
  • Rapidly update content: OER quality improves over time by enabling continuous adaptation and updating of learning resources. This improvement cycle contrasts with traditional materials that typically have to be used by students until a new purchasing cycle, which may be seven years or more.
  • Adaptable for personalized learning: OER create powerful opportunities by enabling educators to use, develop, share, and adapt quality OER to meet their studentsí unique needs.
  • Leverage technology: As districts look to shift to a one-to-one computing environment, OER is a cost-effective way to provide digital content.

Last updated: 9/3/2014

Q. How would a school use OER?

A. OER may be used as entire courses, full units, lesson-plan components or supplemental material. Teachers also might be able to:

  • Download and print a textbook.
  • Display video and audio lectures.
  • Build and share lesson plans.
  • Access free books in the public domain.
  • Experience interactive simulations.
  • Explore game-based learning programs.
  • Gather and assemble resources like photos, sounds and diagrams.

Last updated: 12/10/2012

Q. Are OER only available in digital format?

A. No, many open resources may be downloaded in pdf formats and printed on a personal printer or in the case of OER textbooks, sent to a Print on Demand Service such as Lulu or CreateSpace.

Last updated: 12/14/2012

Q. How can these materials be evaluated for quality?

OSPI recommends the combined use of several instruments designed intentionally for the CCSS by CCSS developers and state/national curriculum experts.

Last updated: 9/3/2014

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.