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OER for Faculty

Open Educational Resources

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials available in a variety of formats, such as textbooks, courses, journals, multimedia and more. These resources exist in the public domain or under flexible open licensing and are available for anyone to use at no cost. The main goal of OER is to make education more affordable, accessible and effective.

Defining the “Open” in Open Content

The term “Open Content” describes any copyrightable work that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5 R activities:

  • RETAINThe right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g. download, duplicate, store and manage).
  • REUSEThe right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g. in a study group, on a website, in a video).
  • REVISEThe right to adapt, adjust, modify or alter the content (e.g. translate the content into another language).
  • REMIXThe right to combine the original or revised content to create something new (e.g. incorporate the content into a mashup).
  • REDISTRIBUTEThe right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g. give a copy of the content to your friend).

This material was modified from Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources by David Wiley, which was published under CC BY 4.0

Why use OER?

The benefits of using OER include:

  • Gaining access to high quality resources for free.
  • Using or customizing other’s work with pre-existing permission.
  • inding and using resources easily.
  • Attributing resources with a simple method.
  • Helping students by lowering the cost of materials.
  • Facilitating the development of course content.

The benefits of creating and sharing your own content (such as lectures, presentations, syllabi, homework assignments, tests, etc) include:

  • Providing more accessible education to the world and reaching a greater audience.
  • Receiving user feedback or peer reviews of your work.
  • Creating opportunities to collaborate with other departments or institutions.
  • Reaching distance/online students more effectively.
  • Becoming part of a world-wide movement.

How are they licensed?

OER are made available under open licenses, which grant permission to use them within the terms of those licenses. In this guide, we focus on Creative Commons, which is the most popular open licensing system.

Creative Commons (CC) licenses - opens in a new window are public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of a copyrighted work. Creators use CC licenses when they want to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. The licenses also protect the people who use or redistribute that creator’s work from concerns of copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license.


Text of "Creative Commons license" by Wikipedia is licensed under  CC BY-SA 3.0

How can I use CC works?

Creative Commons licensed works can include text, images, video, audio, and more. You can use these works in a variety of ways, from personal uses such as posters, to public uses such as videos on YouTube. To know what you can do with a work, you have to look at the CC license type under which it is published.

"Creative Commons for Coursework" by Seminole State Library is licensed under CC BY 3.0.


There are seven main Creative Commons licenses. Each license grants users permission to use works in specific ways. In order from most open to least open, the Creative Commons licenses are as follows:

  • CC0 (Public Domain) The creator of the work has waived their copyright, and the work is considered in the public domain. These works and can be used without asking permission, and do not legally require attribution (although it is considerate to provide one and give credit to the author.)
  • CC BY (Attribution) You can share and modify the work, even if you use it for commercial purposes, as long as you provide proper attribution.
  • CC BY SA (Attribution-ShareAlike) You can share and modify the work, even if you use it for commercial purposes, as long as you provide proper attribution. If you change the work in any way, you must make your version available under the same license.
  • CC BY NC (Attribution-NonCommercial) You can share and modify the work, as long as you do not use it for commercial purposes. You must provide proper attribution.
  • CC BY NC SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike) You can share and modify the work, as long as you do not use it for commercial purposes. You must provide proper attribution. If you change the work in any way, you must make your version available under the same license.
  • CC BY ND (Attribution-NoDerivatives) You can share the work, even if you use it for commercial purposes, but you cannot modify it in any way. You must provide proper attribution.
  • CC BY NC ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives) You can share the work, as long as you do not use it for commercial purposes, but you cannot modify it in any way. You must provide proper attribution.

For more information on the terms and conditions associated with CC licensed material, please visit the Creative Commons FAQ for Licensees.


Text explanation of the CC license types was adapted from About The Licenses from Creative Commons under a CC BY 4.0 License.

How do I attribute?

An attribution is an acknowledgment of the work’s original creator. E.g. “Donuts opens in a new tab” by Ferry Sitompul opens in a new tab is licensed under CC BY 2.0. opens in a new tab

Other than the Public Domain license, all Creative Commons licenses require an attribution when you use works to which they apply, unless the creator says otherwise. The attribution should appear with the work, in a manner that is reasonable for the medium (e.g. on a credits list on a website, or a credits slide in a video).

CC Licenses have flexible standards for attribution, so there is not an exact format to follow, however, you need to include the important information. Use the technique below as a best practice when building your own attributions.

  • Title What is the name of the material?
  • AuthorWho owns the material? (Include the link)
  • SourceWhere can I find it? (The URL of the original work)
  • LicenseWhat specific license is the work under? (Include the link)

A typical attribution would look like this: “Title by Author is licensed under CC License Type.” Each element of the attribution links to the relevant page: the title links to the source page, the author’s name links to their profile page, and the license type links to license page.

If the creator has specific attribution instructions, structure your attribution in the way that they specify. If there is a copyright notice for the material, you must keep it intact and include it in the attribution, e.g. "This document contains content adapted from the Autodesk® Maya® Help opens in a new tab, available under CC BY NC SA 3.0 opens in a new tab. Copyright © Autodesk, Inc."

When you modify content to create something new, you have created something called a derivative work. In addition to the original attribution, the attribution for your derivative work requires the following additional information:

  • The title of the new work.
  • That it is a derivative of the original.
  • The license under which you are sharing your work (some licenses require you to use the same as the original).
  • Your name.

An attribution for a derivative work would look like this: This work, “New Title” is a derivative of “Title” by Author and used under CC License Type. “New Title” is licensed under CC License Type by My Name.

E.g. This work, “Donut Faces”, is a derivative of “Donuts opens in a new tab” by Ferry Sitompul opens in a new tab is licensed under CC BY 2.0. opens in a new tab “Donut Faces” is licensed under CC BY NC 4.0 opens in a new tab by AC Library.

Learning Portal - OER Toolkit

If you are interested in OER and would like additional help or information, explore the topics in the OER Toolkit on The Learning Portal:

  • About OERLearn about the what, why, and how or OER.
  • TeachingApply open teaching and learning practices in your courses.
  • CuratingFind and evaluate OER for use and for sharing.
  • CreatingCreate and adapt OER for teaching and learning.
  • LicensingUnderstand and apply licenses.
  • CollaboratingCollaborate with colleagues and students around OER.
  • AdvocacyEffectively communicate the value of OER.
  • SustainabilityImpact the longevity and success of OER at your college.

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