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A key aspect of Open Educational Resources (OER) is that they are either in the public domain, or have been released with an intellectual property license that permits reuse and adaption. Resources that are free of cost (gratis) may not actually be OER, and understanding this distinction is important as we create, adopt, and adapt educational resources.

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an organization working to enable the open sharing of research and educational materials, uses the term "Open" to describe "any copyrightable work that is licensed in a way that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities":


Retain. The right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)


Reuse. The right 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) in its unaltered form


Revise. The right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)


Remix. The right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup – mixture or fusion of different elements)


Redistribute.  The right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)


This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

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