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Open Educational Resources (OER)

Why Use OER?

Reasons to use OER

Lower educational Cost and improve access

  • Reduce the cost of course materials, particularly textbooks

  • Allow access to content on various devices.

  • Give learners the option of looking at course content before enrolling.

  • Reduce the load students bear, increasing graduation and retention rates.

Use, improve and share quality educational resources

  • Save time by adapting or revising existing resources.

  • Tailor resources to the content for your course.

  • Expand opportunities for interdisciplinary and multimedia teaching.

  • Collaborate with peers. 

Want to learn more?
There have been multiple studies on faculty implementations, misunderstandings, and evaluation of OER which are included in The Review Project, a summary of empirical research on the impacts of OER adoption.

What are Creative Commons Licenses?

What is a license

In an academic context, a license is permission you get from the copyright owner of the work you want to use. A license grants permissions, but sometimes it states restrictions as well. It specifies what can and cannot be done with a work.

  • Copyright = (a form of) intellectual ownership
  • License = permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work
  • Licensing = obtaining permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work

What is an open license?

An OPEN license is a type of license that grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work for free, with few or no restrictions. With open licenses, creators still maintain the rights to their copyrighted work -- they are not "giving" away their work or their copyright. If you see an open license, you know it's OER. 

What are "Creative Commons" licenses?

"Creative Commons" licenses are examples of open licenses. If someone creates OER and wants to share it with others, they put CC licenses on their work to make it clear that they are sharing their work. 

Types of open licenses:

Creative Commons-Attribution (CC BY)

CC BY icon

  • This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Creative Commons - Attribution - ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

CC BY SA icon

  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Creative Commons - Attribution - No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)

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  • This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you. This means no edits or changes to the original work.

Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)

CC BY NC icon

  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial - ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

CC BY NC SA icon

  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial - No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

CC BY NC ND icon

  • This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Answers to a lot of questions can be found at the Creative Commons FAQ page.

Adapted from "Learn OER" modules, Open Washington, by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

What is the Public Domain?

"Public domain” refers to creative content that is not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can own it.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • the copyright has expired
  • the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
  • copyright law does not protect this type of work.

From Copyright and Fair Use by Richard Stim for Stanford University Libraries, licensed by CC-BY-NC 3.0

Creative Commons has two tools related to the Public Domain:

CC0 - Creative Commons zero - donated to the public domain CC0: "No rights reserved"

CC PD. Creative Commons Public Domain mark. Identified as being in the Public Domain. CC PD: "No known copyright"

For more information see:

Copyright at Olympic College

For more information on compliance guidelines, common scenarios and more, please visit our Copyright and Fair Use guide!