Universiteit Leiden

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Subject guide

Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources?

Anything used within your educational context/teaching process can be regarded as learning material. If you offer these materials via the Internet and make them open for reuse, these are called Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs can consist of standalone sources such as web lectures or articles, but also of assembled materials such as open courses. Often, OERs are free to use, but in some cases, for example when participating in MOOCs, you will be asked to pay a fee.

How can open learning materials benefit you?

  • For teachers: when fellow teachers make the learning materials they have developed available to others, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes you can adopt an entire e-learning module, but more often you will reuse specific sections. You can also make your own materials available to others. Sometimes there will be an active OER-community in your field, making the exchange of materials even more appealing.

  • For students: in addition to the learning materials offered by their teacher, students can search for additional materials from other teachers or universities.

How does it work?

  • Searching for online learning materials: special search engines allow you to find OERs
  • Sharing learning materials: by uploading learning materials on a platform or in an open database and adding metadata, others can find your materials.
  • When sharing and/or reusing, you will have to deal with copyright issues. As an instructor, you give permission to use the material in a specific way, for example with or without having to credit the author. You can also indicate if a user may or may not modify your OER. 

Open textbooks

Open courses/modules

Open images

Please check out our subject guide on Searching and using images.

In March 2022, the Universities of the Netherlands, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and SURF, signed the 'National Approach to Digital and Open Learning Resources Statement'. In this statement, Dutch institutions for higher education agree to work together to create, share, reuse, and purchase educational resources. 

Given the ongoing digitisation of higher education and educational materials, Leiden University is committed to strengthening the development and use of OERs, for example by providing information and supporting initiatives from the faculties. Some examples of Leiden University OERs: 

Making learning materials available to third parties requires a number of things:

  • A platform or database on which the materials are published
  • Metadata: this makes it clear who the author is, which target group the material is for, and what the subject is, among other things
  • Terms of use: can anyone copy your material, without any restrictions?


Leiden University prefers to use the platform SURF Edusources. This platform is filled by participants from Dutch higher education and contains learning materials in both Dutch and English. Materials can be rated by colleagues (a star system). You can also upload a whole set of related learning materials and record the relationships between them.


Assigning metadata to learning materials is crucial for others to be able to find them. 

Conditions of use

What are the requirements for others to be able to use your material? By sharing learning materials under a Creative Commons licence (CC licence), the creator states that others may use and republish the materials free of charge, provided certain conditions are met. There are 4 different licences; please read more on the Dutch Open Access website.

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