Pros and Cons of Using OERs for Instruction

Advantages of using OERs include:

Disadvantages of OERs include:

Addressing the disadvantages to OER usage

Current responses in the open education community to the disadvantages of OER use include the following:

  • Quality issues. Increasingly OER development efforts include peer review of open content, particularly textbooks. Also, some OER (like laboratory manuals) are usually tested in the laboratory environments with students and modified based on student feedback. When finally released, such resources are better suited for their purpose.
  • Effort required to adopt OERs. Today, most OER created for classroom use are designed with accessibility in mind. Greater awareness of the nuances of open licenses means that most resources display and use licenses properly. OER for classroom use can be provided as a downloadable file or a link to the resource site. In the case of Pressbooks, there are multiple formats available for download, increasing the accessibility of the resource. Also, the current focus on social justice and inclusion in higher education has forced institutions to provide training on accessibility of learning environments for everyone. This is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  • Lack of human interaction between teachers and students. OER can be created to stand alone. However, many OER originate as course notes for a class and they can also be a product of student co-creation in the case of open pedagogy. Using platforms such as Libretexts, EdTech Books and Pressbooks, the use of multi-media elements within OER is increasing. These can include images, drawings, photos, animations, H5P and video elements to make the content more engaging. In addition, OER developed in these platforms can also be adapted during the delivery of a course making it a ‘living resource’. The ALMS Framework by David Wiley is an integral part of open education and provides requirements for open content. A key requirement is the availability of editable source to the user for adaptation. This is like the requirement for open-source licenses.
  • Language and/or cultural barriers. Open licenses allow for the translation of works into other languages. Currently, the open education is a global movement with increasing collaborations across international boundaries. There exist rubrics (OpenStax diversity rubric, Peralto online rubric, eCampus Ontario rubric, DOERS3 equity rubric) to increase the cultural relevance of OER content to the increasingly diverse classroom. Localisation of OER is one of the key ideas in open sharing: adaptations are made so that open content meets the needs of local students.
  • Technological issues. While OER are digital resources, they can also be provided in multiple formats for download. In fact, for accessibility purposes, this is the recommended practice. Those with issues accessing a resource online can obtain physical copies of OER. Many institutions provide a print-on-demand service for OER.
  • Static formats. OER are digital first resources. Those developed with the ALMS Framework in mind also provide access to the editable source. All open-source licenses require the author to provide the source code for their resource. A best practice for Creative Commons licensed OER, is to provide source code to the user as well. Many institutions across North America are using Pressbooks (self-hosted and subscription models) which allows for quick sharing and adaptation of OER. Unlike a publisher based textbook, an OER can also be adapted as a course is being delivered as well as after a delivery. This is where the importance of having a versioning history for OER arises.
  • Sustainability issues. With the increasing use of tools such as Libretexts, EdTech Books and Pressbooks, it is much easier to refine an OER during and after course deliveries (see the previous point). The incentive for most OER creators is to provide appropriate and affordable content to students. Some of these creators have voiced concerns with the commercialization of content available in the public domain by publishing companies. Further, there has been some research done that has shown that students using OER in courses perform as well as or better than those using commercial textbooks. One would have this expectation since OER are localized for students in a specific course.


Open Educational Resources: Pros and Cons by University of Maryland Global Campus. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources was written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.