5.4 Creating and Sharing OER

Large parts of this course are about creation, both how it works from a legal perspective and more practically, how we learn by making and creating something. In this unit we will explore and practice how to create OER so they can have biggest impact and be used without any legal or technical barriers.

hansol CC BY.jpg

shared by: hansolCC BY 2.0 (note: the image has been removed from the web)

Big Question / Why It Matters

Many people working in the field of education and library science prepare, update, and combine 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 recommend that someone create and publish 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 librarians and 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

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

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 Licenses and public domain icon, from least free to most free

The two CC NoDerivatives (ND) licenses are not OER-compatible licenses because they do not allow the public to revise or remix the education resource. 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 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 on its wiki.

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. The Great Minds vs. Office Depot case is currently with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. View the oral argument in the appeal, including argument by outside counsel representing Creative Commons. No final decision has been rendered by the court as of December 9, 2019.

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.

CC0_papirontul_e-reader-1213214_1920.jpg

Encyclopedia and e-book reader on green grass by papirontul. Dedicated to the public domain using 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 – 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.

Library Websites, Library Subject Guides, Cataloging, and Creative Commons

Librarians who find themselves in the role of content creator may wonder how to license their work. Over 5,000 institutions in the United States use LibGuides as their preferred subject guide content management system, with over 120,000 license holders around the world. Licensing your resources under Creative Commons can be as simple as using the License Chooser to create a machine-readable button for your site or LibGuide.

There are hundreds of Libguides on library websites about Creative Commons alone. Take a look at these search results and flip through the resources found by subject librarians on the issues of Creative Commons and copyright.

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 students. 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 students 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.