5.3 Creating and Sharing OER

5.3 Creating and Sharing OER

Much of this course focused on how to create openly licensed materials, by sharing the legal perspective and the practical steps needed. In this unit we will explore and practice how to create OER so they can have the biggest impact and be used without any legal or technical barriers.

Shared bike and pedestrian sign

“Shared” by hansol. CC BY 2.0 (note: image has been removed from the web)

Big Question / Why It Matters

A big part of any educator’s work is preparing, updating, and combining learning materials. Making those materials open requires just a few additional steps, and it’s easier than you think. What are those steps? What should you consider and expect when you want to create and publish your resources in the open?

When we share our education resources as OER, we share our best practices, our expertise, our challenges and solutions. Education is about sharing. When we share our work with more people – we become better educators.

Learning Outcomes

  • Imagine how your OER will work in practice.
  • Select a CC license(s) for your resources.
  • Examine your open license decision for compatibility (i.e., can it be remixed) with other OER.
  • Identify needs and challenges to improving OER accessibility for everyone.

Personal Reflection / Why it Matters To You

What kind of learning resources do you create now? Do you publish or share these resources with other people for feedback? Which of your resources do you think could benefit fellow educators, learners, libraries or scientists? If you choose to share, how much freedom do you want to give to others; what permissions will you allow for others to reuse your work?

Acquiring Essential Knowledge

Why share?

For an introduction on why it is important to share your work as OER, watch this video:

Open Education Matters: Why is it important to share content? (time 03:51)

“Open Education Matters: Why is it important to share content?” video by Nadia Mireles, CC BY 3.0

Because educators and librarians can share OER with everyone for near zero cost[1], we should. After all, education is fundamentally about sharing knowledge and ideas. Libraries are about archiving, sharing and helping learners find the knowledge they seek. When we CC license our work, we are sharing that work with the public under simple, legal permissions. Sharing your work is a gift to the world.

Choosing a CC license for OER

Creative Commons has a suite of six open copyright licenses – and fully support authors’ selection and use of any of the CC licenses or public domain tools. However, not all education materials available under a CC license are OER. Review this chart that details which CC licenses work well for education resources and which do not.

CC license chart from least to most freedom









The two CC NoDerivatives (ND) licenses are not OER-compatible licenses because they do not allow the public to revise or remix educational resources and share them publicly. Because the ND licenses do not meet the 5Rs or any of the major OER definitions, the open education movement does not consider ND-licensed education resources “OER.”

Choosing the right license for your OER requires you to think about which permissions you want to give to other users – and which permissions you want to retain for yourself. Read the “Open Textbook Community Advocates CC BY License for Open Textbooks” and think about why they recommend the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) for education. You can find similar text with more arguments made about this same license for publishing scientific research in “Why CC BY?” from Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

For a better sense of the relationship between OER and Open Access (as well as Free Cultural works), read “Clarification of Free Cultural Works, Open Educational Resources and Open Access,” which shares the following infographic.

For basic information about the licenses, how to choose and apply one to your work or combined works from other people and sources, revisit Section 4.1

CC license legal cases involving OER

For a detailed analysis of Creative Commons case law, see Section 3.4 “License Enforceability.” Creative Commons maintains a listing of court decisions and case law from jurisdictions around the world related to CC licenses and tools in the CC Legal Database.

In 2017−18 there were two legal cases concerning open education: Great Minds vs. FedEx Office and Great Minds vs. Office Depot, as referenced in Unit 4 (see section 4.2 and the Additional Resources section). As a reminder, both cases involved OER used by schools for non commercial purposes. In both cases, the district courts found that a commercial copy shop may reproduce educational materials at the request of a school district that is using them under a CC BY-NC-SA license; thus, no license copyright infringement or violation of the CC license had occurred.

Other considerations

Other than choosing the right CC license, what other aspects of openness and pedagogy are worth considering? Here is a list of best practices to include in your work when building OER

The Open Washington Module 8 on “Sharing OER” will give you practical advice on how to share OER online and prepare them to be used offline as well.

Book and Kindle image









Encyclopedia and e-book reader on green grass by papirontul. Public domain: CC0


Ensuring OER is Accessible to Everyone

At its core, OER is about making sure everyone has access. Not just rich people, not just people who can see or hear, not just people who can read English, not just people who have digital devices with access to high speed internet – everyone.

As authors and institutions build and share OER, best practices in accessibility need to be part of the instructional and technical design from the start. Educators have legal and ethical responsibilities to ensure our learning resources are fully accessible to all learners, including those with disabilities.

Watch “Simply Said: Understanding Accessibility in Digital Learning Materials” by the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (6:42)

“Simply Said: Understanding Accessibility in Digital Learning Materials” by National Center on Accessible Educational Materials, CC BY 3.0.

Best practices to ensure your OER is accessible to all include:

  1. putting your work into the public domain (CC0) or adding a non-ND CC license to your work,
  2. make it simple to download your work in editable file formats, so others can modify and/or translate it to meet local needs and make it accessible, and
  3. most important – design your work to be accessible from the start.

Final remarks

Openness in education means more than just access or legal certainty over what you are able to use, modify, and share with your learners. Open education means designing content and practices that ensure everyone can actively participate and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. As educators and learners revise others’ OER and create and share new OER, accessibility should always be on your design checklist.

  1. While in many other countries (like in many EU member states), cost may not be a problem, restrictive copyright and narrow fair use / fair dealing rights can limit new teaching methods.