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Open Access & Open Educations Resources: Home

A guide to free academic scholarly databases and resources

What's the Difference?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are a subset of Open Access (OA  ). Open Educational Resources are always Open Access but not all OA materials are considered OER. 

Open Access initiatives refers to removing barriers such as "paywalls" and seek to make research articles and other works easy to find and read for free. These materials can be used as provided but do not include permissions to change or distribute the content. 

Open Educational Resources are works that copyright owners have "opened" by removing some copyright restrictions and as such, are freely available to others. The idea is to allow others to "retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute" without needing to ask for permission, as long as the work is attributed to the copyright owner. 

This means that anyone can access OA and OER materials without the information being behind the typical paywalls or barriers that scholarly information is often restricted by. Even in the US, many libraries cannot afford the subscriptions to elite journals and vice versa, many researchers cannot afford the often high publishing fees to get their work published in a scholarly journal. Peer-reviewed Open Access Journals are making it easier for researchers to access and share information. 

Pros & Cons of OER


  • Improves access, so everyone has access to the same knowledge
  • Don't need to pay for the expensive subscription databases like EBSCO and GALE
  • OA has proven that it can monitor and review articles with integrity and can be trusted to peer-review articles the same as any other scholarly journal
  • Because of the lack of paywalls, OA journals have the potential to contain more diverse content and readership
  • Free textbooks and materials for students and researchers


  • Some OA articles may not show up in Library Database searches and students will need to look in more databases to do a comprehensive search
  • Teachers may not feel confident in knowing which OA journals are seriously peer-reviewed 
  • Not all subjects are widely available through OER
  • Version control is poor. Some titles may have multiple iterations (editions/adaptations) available and it is hard to know what the difference is

Bottom Line: OA is pressuring publishers to lower prices while the general public is happy to find more relevant articles and books for free. 

About OER

OER Research Hub

This organization, based at London's Open University, researches several aspects of OER, including student performance, retention, impact on teaching, and assessment.

Open Education Group Review Project

Conducts and publishes original research on the costs, efficacy, and adoption of OER. Links to a bibliography of OER articles and dissertations authored by researchers affiliated with the project. 

Open Educational Resources: Organizations

A list of OER organizations compiled by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI).

CARLI's OER Commons Hub: Open Illinois

Seeks to facilitate the use of OER and supports training, advocacy, and coordination of cooperative efforts for the benefit of members of CARLI and other Illinois stakeholders. 

Opening the Curriculum

Detailed findings from the Babson Research Group (2014) about the current state of OER in higher ed. Includes helpful data on faculty awareness of OER and licensing, barriers to implementation, and a comparison of OER with traditional learning objects.