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Open Educational Resources

The 5Rs

The term OER describes publicly accessible resources which any user can

  • use
  • remix
  • modify
  • redistribute (under certain licences)

OER may be used whether you are a lecturer, a student or a self-learner.  For openly licensed OER the most commonly used is the Creative Commons licence. In Trinity's online repository of research, TARA, you can see the details of the licence permissions by clicking on the Original Licence link within the record of the item you are viewing.


This is an example of an Open Access Licence which is used in Trinity's Open Institutional Repository (TARA)

Within the bounds of Creative Commons licensing there are 5 key points to consider when using OERs:

  • Reuse - Content can be reused in its unaltered original format - 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)
  • Retain - Copies of content can be retained for personal archives or reference - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  • Revise - Content can be modified or altered to suit specific needs - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix - Content can be adapted with other similar content to create something new- the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute - Content can be shared with anyone else in its original or altered format - 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 licence at

The Lifecycle of an OER: The 5Rs in Practice

The OER life cycle begins with a desire or need to learn or teach something. The following sequence of steps illustrates a typical development process.

  1. Find: start by looking for suitable resources which contribute to meeting the need or satisfying the desire. This may include using general search engines, searching specific repositories and finding individual websites. Some potential components may be available offline, including last year's lecture notes, class projects, handouts for learners and other resources prepared previously.
  2. Compose: with a collection of resources at your disposal, start piecing them together to form a learning resource for yourself, your fellow educators and/or learners. This is a creative design process of building an educational resource from scratch and/or using components you have found.
  3. Adapt: while composing OER, it will nearly always be necessary to adapt components to your local context. This may involve minor corrections and improvements, remixing components, localization and even complete rework for use in diverse contexts.
  4. Use: the actual use of OER in the classroom, online, during informal learning activities, etc.
  5. Share: once an OER is finished, make it available for the open education community to re-use and begin the life cycle again.

Licensing also plays a role throughout the life cycle.

As with all instructional or learning design, each step requires attention to the purpose of the learning resource, its role in the learning process, quality, and accessibility. You should also carefully consider issues of file format, mode of access, and licensing of the components. Each step could involve some degree of collaboration. Where applicable, open source tools are available to support all of these activities.

(Taken from The OER Handbook at