There are a variety of ways to both create and classify Open material. When we talk about the development of content, we are referring to anything from a lesson plan, learning module, or activity, to an Open course or textbook. When faculty take complete control of the content in their courses by creating their own OER, they are empowered. For faculty to engage their students in the development process takes them from the learner to the expert. Developing with Openly Licensed Material, requires an understanding of open licensing, repositories, quality standards, and instructional design.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how creation of OER can be empowering
  • Describe the OER licensing process
  • Identify OER repositories
  • Understand quality standards of OER
  • Identify Open Courses
  • Identify the rules of design that should be followed when creating Open textbooks


OER research in developing countries has shown that OER is empowering. “Our findings indicate that OER can give women a voice, access to information and education, and the opportunity to connect with peers and train others.”(Perryman and Arcos 2016)

CC0 – Creative Commons
“Using OER puts you in contact with other teachers and you can learn from how they do things differently to you. I’ve changed a lot from using other people’s materials. You can also share your own work with many more people than you could by just publishing it in a journal and as a teacher you can benefit greatly from their feedback and learn how to improve things.  Women’s empowerment through openness: OER, OEP and the Sustainable Development Goals Leigh-Anne Perryman & Beatriz de los Arcos  The Open University (United Kingdom)leigh.a.perryman@open.ac.uk & B.De-Los-Arcos@open.ac.uk.

Knowledge empowerment is a key issue in the context of developing nations,  initiatives need to be encouraged by the major players of open and distance education institutions.


Faculty at Austin Community College district are engaged in Open Pedagogy to empower their students. “Open pedagogy is a practice which uses the 5R activity framework to design lessons and assessments that encourage students to improve or create course content.” These Open Pedagogy projects empower students to engage in information creation through non-disposable or renewable assignments. Students are the creator and contributor of assignments that are openly licensed, allowing the content to be shared, revised, and reused by future students in a course.

The OER Commons provides a great way to both develop and share resources. OER Commons, offers a comprehensive infrastructure for curriculum experts and instructors at all levels to identify high-quality OER and collaborate around their adaptation, evaluation, and use to address the needs of teachers and learners.

In the Open textbook, A GUIDE TO MAKING OPEN TEXTBOOKS WITH STUDENTS created by the REBUS Community, they say that “Open Pedagogy,” as we engage with it, is a site of praxis, a place where theories about learning, teaching, technology, and social justice enter into a conversation with each other and inform the development of educational practices and structures.”

OER Licensing 

Creative Commons licensing provides an easy way to

Rule 1: Attribution
Rule 2: Using content without modification
Rule 3: CC0, CC Attribution and CC Attribution – NonCommercial
Rule 4: Share-Alike
Rule 5: NoDerivatives

Using Creative Commons content:  Attribution

Creative Commons helps you to easily find materials that you can use, makes permissions and restrictions on use very clear and lets you safely share your work through wider networks. Here are five rules that will help you understand what you can and can’t do with licensed resources:

Rule 1:  Attribution

When reusing any Creative Commons content, you always need to attribute your sources.


The Creative Commons attribution requirement is about acknowledging your sources fairly. Sometimes the creators specify how they would like to be attributed, but a lot of the time the creators of a work don’t say how they want to be attributed.  In that case, simply include:

  • the title of the work;
  • if the resource is hosted online,the web address (URL) where you found the work;
  • the creator of the work;
  • the Creative Commons licence under which the work is available (together with the URL for the licence).

There is no standard format for putting together an attribution, so you can rearrange the elements as you see fit, so long as all the information is included.

For instance, to attribute the reuse of the “CC Kiwi” image
on the right, the following elements are needed for the
white kiwi
Your actual acknowledgement will look like this:

CC Kiwi (http://creativecommons.org.nz/resources/) by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/nz/

or, with the hyperlinks included in the text:

CC Kiwi by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence.

If you use the CC Kiwi image in a document, you need to include the text above either where you use the image, or at the end of your document. For a presentation, you would acknowledge the image at the end of the presentation (e.g. on the final slide). If you were using the image in a movie, you would acknowledge it in the credits at the end of the movie. If you create a new image from the CC Kiwi (for example, by colouring it in), you cannot attribute by adding text, so you would use the ‘metadata’ function within the software used to create the image.

The attribution requirement applies to the six Creative Commons licences. Content that is in the public domain (e.g. with CC0 or the Public Domain mark) does not need to be attributed, although it’s good practice to do so.  Remember, passing other people’s work off as your own is still plagiarism.

2.5       Remixing content without modification

Rule 2:  Using content without modification

You are free to use any Creative Commons content without modification or adaptation, so long as you attribute your sources, retain the original Creative Commons licence, and the use is NonCommercial.

This means that you can go online to find any Creative Commons content, and:

  • make copies, e.g. copying a lesson plan, copying worksheets;
  • share it with other educators;
  • post it online – on the school’s website or school intranet;
  • perform the work (e.g. music or plays);
  • include it in other documents, e.g. copy images into your presentation (without changing the images themselves).

All you need to do is to make sure that all your sources are attributed. Some Creative Commons licences allow you to adapt, and even choose, a different licence. However, content under any of the Share-Alike and NoDerivatives licences always retains its original Creative Commons licence. We can say that for Share-Alike and NoDerivatives, the licence travels with the content.

2.6       Remixing through modification and adaptation

Rule 3: CC0, CC Attribution and CC Attribution – NonCommercial

Creative Commons content under CC0, CC-BY and CC-BY-NC licences can be used freely (non-commercially, in the case of NonCommercial). You can do what you like, as long as you attribute your sources.

Content under these licences can be used freely (non-commercially). So you can adapt, modify and build upon work as long as you attribute your sources (as always). Public domain content can be freely adapted.

Some Creative Commons licences allow you to make modifications without restrictions. These licences are:

CC Public Domain 0 Creative Commons Zero (CC0)
06-3.1 Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY)
06-3.4 Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Licence (CC-BY-NC)

Rule 4: Share-Alike

Creative Commons content licensed with Share-Alike can be used freely (including adaptation), as long as you make the original or adapted version available under the same Share-Alike licence.


Without adaptation, Rule 2 applies. The Appendix and documents accompanying this Toolkit further explain how to license when you adapt Share-Alike content.

This rule covers the Creative Commons Share-Alike licences:

06-3.2 Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Licence (CC-BY-SA)
06-3.5 Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial  Share-Alike Licence (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Rule 5: NoDerivatives
Creative Commons content licensed with NoDerivatives can be used freely, as long as you do not modify or adapt, i.e. as long as you do not create an adaptation. Creative Commons content licensed with NoDerivatives always retains its original licence.


Rule 2 (‘Using content without adaptation’) explains how you can use NoDerivatives content.

For best practice attribution examples see Appendix #3.

You can use content licensed under any of the Creative Commons NoDerivatives licences, but you cannot change or alter the work in any way.

This rule covers the Creative Commons NoDerivatives licences:

06-3.3 Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives Licence (CC-BY-ND)
06-3.6 Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial  NoDerivatives Licence (CC-BY-NC-ND)

What is an adaptation?

The following are examples of adaptations as defined by the Share-Alike / NoDerivatives licence:

  • modifying an image to create another image (for example,by cropping) is an adaptation;
  • translating a short story from one language to another;
  • photoshopping a picture to add to, or alter, its original elements;
  • using a sample from one song to make a new song;
  • adding a song as a soundtrack to a video.

The following uses are not adaptations:

  • including a short story in a collection of short stories;
  • using an unedited video in the background of a live concert;
  • reproducing an unedited image on a website or in a document (such as Word or Powerpoint).

When reproducing an unedited image in a document, you need to make sure that the image is really unaltered; you cannot overlay text, graphics or another image.

2.8       Creative Commons licence pathfinder

The diagram below shows the simple questions you need to ask yourself when finding and creating content for use with your learners and colleagues:

CC Licence Pathfinder

OER Repositories

OER repositories are online catalogs containing Open Educational Resources that can be used for teaching.  You can use these to Adopt, Adapt, or Create and upload your instructional content. The following box contains a list with links to OER repositories:

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OER can run the gamut from excellent to poor quality just like any other published material. Dr. David Wiley, Founder & Chief Academic Officer, Lumen Learning, states that we should not judge OER on the merits of length, author, multimedia content, etc., but should be more concerned with how it facilitates student learning.

OER Quality Standards


Direct Measure of OER Quality Indirect Proxies for Quality
  • Degree to which the OER facilitates student learning
  • Academic credentials of the author / creator
  • Degree of interactivity
  • Amount of multimedia
  • Amount of editorial effort put into materials
  • Length / number of words / rigor
  • DPI of embedded artwork
  • &c.

This material was created by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2568.

OER Open Courses

OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a free and open digital publication of high quality college and university‐level educational materials. These materials are organized as courses, and often include course planning materials and evaluation tools as well as thematic content. OpenCourseWare are free and openly licensed, accessible to anyone, anytime via the internet.

A group of universities and companies have started created complete Open courses that can be used to facilitate classes. MIT Open Courseware, Lumen Learning, OER Commons all have Open material that is freely available and carries a variety of Creative Commons licensed material.

Authoring Open Textbooks

When we think of a textbook we often think one of two things: the books we used during our own education, and the books we use for teaching our courses.

With an open textbook, we have the ability to create our ideal textbook, to look beyond the tradition of what a textbook has meant to us, and instead imagine what we wish it would be. An open textbook allows for a highly customized body of content and for a student centered delivery.

That said, a textbook is a familiar learning device. Students have a strong expectation of what a textbook should be. Just like with other instructional materials, the student experience should be carefully considered.

When looking to write a textbook, some general rules of design will be helpful.

  • Begin with the end in mind. What is it that you are trying to achieve? What is the scope of the book? What knowledge should a student have before and after they have used the book? What are the learning objectives?
  • Sketch out the general parameters of your book. What types of media do you want to incorporate to your book?
  • Make a plan for the future. Who will review your book? How often do you anticipate the content will need to be updated?

In choosing to write a book you have a blank slate of opportunity, but sometimes opportunity means not re-inventing the wheel. There may be resources or books that exist that will suit your needs entirely, or will be close to what you need. After having discussed what the ideal structure of your book looks like, and what elements you would like to see within it, the next step is to evaluate the books and resources that have already been created. Can you use all or some of these materials? How much modification will be necessary to suit the goals of your project?

Common elements to evaluate when considering instructional resources include:

  • Organizational features: Is the book structured in a useful manner? Are materials consistent and well organized? Is the information current?
  • Student Engagement: Do the materials encourage students to think critically of the materials? Do the materials clearly present content?
  • Content Balance: Is text interspersed with maps, graphs and images? Does content provide tangible real-life applications or case studies?
  • Inclusion Elements: Do the materials reflect equity and diversity in their examples and other content?
  • Alignment: Does the content align well or at all with district curriculum and standards?
  • Legal: Is the material openly licensed? Can it be modified or simply cited?

Remember, this evaluation process isn’t quite the same as choosing to adopt a textbook. Most standard textbooks are not open and full use would require payment. You are looking for books or content that are already open and will allow you to modify.

The best place to start is with the Open Textbook Network and Rebus Community guide Authoring Open Textbooks. They provide valuable information that can be used from the initial stages of an Open textbook project through to completion.


This section contains an adaptation from the following Open resources:

Women’s empowerment through openness: OER, OEP and the Sustainable Development Goals (https://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/289/206), Leigh-Anne Perryman & Beatriz de los Arcos The Open University (United Kingdom), available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

OER for Distance Learning: Means to Knowledge Empowerment
For Developing Nations https://wikieducator.org/images/9/90/PID_188.pdf
Perryman, L. & Arcos, B., (2016). The Open University (United Kingdom)leigh.a.perryman@open.ac.uk & B.De-Los-Arcos@open.ac.uk.  http://oro.open.ac.uk/46371/1/OpenPraxis%20Gender.pdf
The Smartcopying website has been produced by the National Copyright Unit on behalf of the Copyright Advisory Groups (Schools and TAFEs).
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.
Rebus Community is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology Copyright © 2018 by jhill5; Joshua Hill; and Linda Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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