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Open Textbook Initiative

Introduction to Open Textbooks

The library is partnering with the academic community to:

  • embed creative commons licensed materials written for curriculum or educational activities.
  • Explore a sustainable approach to learning resources.

The Pressbook platform is available to academics who wish to publish academic content under an open (Creative Commons) licence. Like traditional course materials, academics worldwide are using open textbooks to contribute to successful outcomes for students through equitable access and cost savings.

Search for all Open Access resources from the Library catalogue. You can then filter your results by available 'Open Access' resources. Finally, check the Creative Commons (CC) licence for details of who can use the content.

How do I start?

Review the following steps and instructions for the using Open Textbooks.
  1. Familiarise yourself with the Open Textbook Initiative guide.

  2. Know the definition of OERWhat they are and what they are not.

  3. Review the benefits of using OER to develop open textbooks.

  4. Familiarise yourself with Open Licensing and Attribution and Best Practices in Fair Use of OER. If required, see the Record of Permissions form to help track permissions to use Third Party Copyright content.

  5. If you are going to adopt/adapt OER content, you can use this concise OER Evaluation Checklist to evaluate the OER material for its intended purpose.

  6. See instructions for Library deposit in the Open Textbook Initiative guide.

  7. Review the Library FAQs on the topic of OER.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium - digital or otherwise - that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open licence, such as a Creative Commons Licence, or GNU General Public Licence, that permits no-cost access, use [a.k.a. adoption], adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

Attribution: Definition of Open Educational Resources (OER) is a derivative of "Open Educational Resources" by UNESCO licensed under CC BY.

  • Open Education Resources (OER) are designed to make education more inclusive, opening up opportunities to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it by alleviating the high cost of course materials.
  • OER are educational materials licensed for free use and adaptation under a Creative Commons licence or do not have copyright restrictions (e.g. are in the public domain).
  • OER include a wide range of resources such as textbooks, teaching and learning materials, images, videos, games, lesson plans, worksheets and assessments.
  • There are also OER on Open Access, which provide learning resources for researchers and librarians responsible for facilitating and benefiting from Open Access resources. 

Course Material

Open Textbooks


Lesson Plans



Attribution: Images are a derivative of the "BCOER Poster" by BCcampus licensed under CC BY 4.0

Below are four key categories of resources that are often considered to fall outside the definition of what is genuinely OER. Of course, the best mix of materials to meet any given set of learning outcomes will vary and include a combination of OER and the materials listed below. The key is knowing which resources will best meet your objectives for instruction and learners.

Through open licensing, the mission of the OER movement is to encourage the full range of the “5 Rs” permissions of use (see prior tab). Some argue that unless an open licence allows for adaptations, then the resource is not truly OER.

The image below positions Creative Commons Licenses on a spectrum from more to less open. As depicted, resources that are licensed ND (No Derivatives), are in some cases considered not to be OER.

The six creative image. Description: Six Creative Commons Licenses on a spectrum from more to less open.  From top to bottom, the most open to not open: 1. CC BY, 2. CC BY SA, 3. CC BY NC, 4. CC BY NC SA, 5. BB BY ND (not open), 6. CC BY NC ND

Attribution: The Six Creative Commons Licences image is a derivative of an image in Keynote Slides (November 2014) by Cable Green licensed under CC BY 4.0.

All the available resources on the web that you may have access to, but that are not in the public domain, or do not carry a Creative Commons licence or other open licence, are not OER.

A library’s subscription-based resources (journals, videos, and other materials), while accessible to students and academics, are also not OER. This is because their use in education may be limited by licence agreements.

Open vs. Free Resources

Resources Student Cost Permissions/Licencing
Open Educational Resources Free Open
Library Resources Free Restrictive

Attribution: Image and text are a derivative of CCCOER Finding and Adopting OER by Open Education Global licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Creative Commons licences applied to open access publications will generally permit sharing, but may not allow adaptation and remixing. While open access articles are freely accessible, authors may retain their copyright, assign rights, or both to publishers or users, so they may need permission for copying and adaptation.

UNESCO Definitions for Open Access

UNESCO defines Open Access (OA) as 'the provision of free access to peer-reviewed, scholarly and research information to all. It envisages that the rights holder grants worldwide irrevocable right of access to copy, use, distribute, transmit, and make derivative works in any format for any lawful activities with proper attribution to the original author. OA uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to increase and enhance the dissemination of scholarship. OA is about Freedom (as in free of cost and freedom of speech), Flexibility (choice of licensing options and business models), and Fairness (to the creator/author and the society)'.

UNESCO also defines Open access (OA) as 'free access to information and unrestricted use of electronic resources for everyone'. Any digital content can be OA, from texts and data to software, audio, video, and multi-media. While most of these are related to text only, a growing number integrate text with images, data, and executable code. OA can also apply to non-scholarly content, like music, movies, and novels. A publication is considered in Open access if:
  • it's content is universally and freely accessible, at no cost to the reader, via the Internet or otherwise;
  • the author or copyright owner irrevocably grants to all users, for an unlimited period, the right to use, copy, or distribute the article, on condition that proper attribution is given;
  • it is deposited, immediately, in full and in a suitable electronic form, in at least one widely and internationally recognised open access repository committed to open access.

More information about Open Access:

© Western Sydney University, unless otherwise attributed.
Library guide created by Western Sydney University Library staff is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY)