Skip to Main Content

Faculty Resources

What Are Open Educational Resources?

The Definition of Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes.

Source: Creative Commons

Defining the "Open" in Open Content

Retain - the right to make, own and control copies of content.
Reuse - the right to use content in a wide range of ways.
Revise - the right to adapt, alter and modify open content.
Redistribute - the right to share content with others. 



Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons licenses grant users permission to copy, distribute, or make some us of the copyright holder's work. There are several licenses you will come across when adapting open educational resources. 

Attribution CC BY Attribution CC BY
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Copyright, Public Domain and Fair Use

Copyright is a legal term, which gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights over the work typically for a fixed period of time. For works published after 1977, this is the author's lifetime plus 70 years. Work done "for hire" or while with an employer has a different fixed period of time for protection. All works published prior to 1923 are in the public domain. 

All works in the public domain -- text, music, movies, artwork -- are free to copy. You can use these works without permission from the copyright holder as they've aged out of copyright. 

What is Fair Use? 

Fair Use allows for the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works for certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act sets forth the limitations on Fair Use. Reproduction of portions of a work must be for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. There are four factors used to determine Fair Use:

(1) Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. 

(2) Nature of the copyrighted work. Nonfiction work is typically favored in terms of arguing for Fair Use rather than someone's creative expression through fiction, song or film. 

(3) Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This means that typically the larger percentage of the work used may determine that fair use has been violated. There is a 10% rule in place that typically allows for 10% of a full work to be used for Fair Use purposes.

(4) Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. This means that the unlicensed use of a copyrighted work must not be in place of users purchasing their own copy of the work and thus affecting sales. 

Please note that there is no set maximum percentage of work that can be used under Fair Use. The percentage of the work that can be used is determined on a case-by-case basis based on the above four factors. 

Columbia University developed a Fair Use Checklist to help faculty determine whether the intent with regard to copyrighted material falls under Fair Use. 


Now an official word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, CourseWare is defined simply as "educational software." It is generally intended for classroom use, and like traditional textbooks it offers different components for the student and teacher. Also like traditional textbooks, CourseWare is designed so teachers can structure their lesson plans around the materials offered; either adhering strictly to the outlined plan, or diverging from it to suit the needs of the course.

Courseware generally includes course planning and instructional materials that are openly accessible. Unlike traditional textbooks, CourseWare is generally interactive; containing videos, educational computer 'games', auto-graded tests and quizzes, surveys and places for student to conduct online discussions and other teacher-mediated online social interaction.

Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Teaching

Merlot is a curated collection of free and open online teaching and learning as well as faculty support services. Registration is required to use Merlot features but registration is free. It can be used in the following ways: 

  • Platform. Merlot has a content builder which allows users to create a web page or series of web pages with no HTML knowledge needed. Merlot logoThere are basic templates available.
  • Supplemental Materials. Supplemental materials to include classroom exercises, open journal articles, lab simulations and case studies can be downloaded to registered users. 
  • Open Textbooks. Open textbooks are available for courses. Search by subject within Merlot. Open textbook material can be downloaded and shared with students. 
  • Teaching Tools. Also offers are lesson planning and assessment tools for faculty to include assessment techniques, presentations, and assignments.

Open Courses

Several well-known institutions have implemented free, online textbook programs and made them available publicly for teachers around the globe.

Read a cost analysis prepared by The Student Public Interest Research Groups, advocating affordable textbooks »

iBooks Author App iBooks logo

iOS users (iPad, iPhone and Mac users) can create interactive textbooks through the iBooks Author app. For Mac users, OSX version 10.10 or later is required.

The steps to create an interactive textbook are as follows:

Design. Choose an Apple template (included with iBooks Author) to give your book a consistent look and feel. 

Build. Add content (text, graphics, widgets, and other objects).

Polish. Link words to definitions if you would like to create an interactive glossary.

Share. Export your book as a PDF file or in iBooks format. (The iBooks format allows you to upload your iBook to iTunes).

FrincludingLow Cost Textbooks


Creating course packs has often been a bane for college professors; photocopying book pages, checking on rights, worrying whether you're over the fair use limit, haggling with printers or campus presses about price and page limits and so on. And now we're talking about putting all that stuff online. It's a lot of work.  So, of course, organizations have arisen offering various services to make the process easier. 

Find DIY Content

A great way to structure an interactive, hybrid course at a low cost is to structure it around lecture series created by other educators.  There are a number of sites on which academics publish open access lectures, documentaries and class sessions around which other teachers can plan class sessions and entire courses. 

Library Resources

The Iona University Libraries subscribe to databases that feature videos designed to offer educational content in multimedia format. 

Find Multimedia Resources

Searching repositories for Open Educational Resources (OER) is useful for instructors to evaluate free and low-cost alternative to traditional texts.

OER Metafinder

Search: Mason OER Metafinder (MOM)

The Mason OER Metafinder searches sixteen open educational resources in real-time, instantly returning the top several hundred or so relevant hits from each site: American Memory Project (Library of Congress), AMSER – Applied Math and Science Education Repository, BC Campus:Open Ed, College Open Textbooks, Digital Public Library of America, Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), HathiTrust – Full View Available, Merlot.Org, MIT OpenCourseware,, OER Commons, OERs at Internet Archive, Open Textbook Library, OpenStax, CNX, Project Gutenberg, and World Digital Library.

Search for Additional Open Educational Resources

These additional search engines have been developed to aid in the retrieval of open content to be used in a classroom setting

About Library eBooks

Library e-books can be used as alternatives to traditional textbooks and can be linked to Blackboard for ease of access. All library e-books except for EBSCO allow unlimited, concurrent usage, which means the whole class can read an e-book simultaneously.