Rachel Oleaga
Educational Technology
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

Accelerated OER Fundamentals Series - Section One: What are OER?

Accelerated OER Fundamentals Series - Section One: What are OER?


This lesson is aimed at supporting facutly in exploring introductory information about Open Educational Resources, with a basic overview of Creative Commons licenses.

What are OER

An Introduction to OER

What are OER?

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost and without needing to ask permission. OER often have a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared. When you create a teaching and learning resource, you may also choose to openly license your resource as well.

The Five Rs of Using OER
The 5 Rs of OER - Image by BCOER Librarians CC 4.0 
Taken from NSU Libraries Open Education Resources (OER) LibGuide


What can you do with OER?

  1. Reuse - Content can be reused in its unaltered original format - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  2. Retain - Copies of content can be retained for personal archives or reference - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  3. Revise - Content can be modified or altered to suit specific needs - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - Content can be adapted with other similar content to create something new- the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - Content can be shared with anyone else in its original or altered format - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

OERs include a wide range of materials: assessments, assignments, books, case studies, courses, journals, primary sources, reference materials, simulations, tutorials, tests, and textbooks. This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at






What is licensing?


Know the difference between "Free" and "Open":

Free refers only to cost. Open refers to the terms of use defined in a copyright license chosen by the creator.

Many resources that educators find may appear to be open since they don't require payment or a log-in. While the resource may be "free", it could have copyright restrictions that don't allow for use, sharing, or adaptation. Many "free" resources require educators to search for and read complicated terms of use. One advantage of OER is that the licensing information is clearly labeled, often with Creative Commons licenses.

Free vs. Open
Image by Designers for Learning: Gain Experience for Good, Jennifer Maddrell, Director (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Copyright and licenses:

When an author creates a new work, the work is automatically copyrighted and all rights belong to the author, thus limiting how anyone else can access or use the work. The author may choose to release some of the copyright in order to allow for open access and use (see the 5 Rs in the previous section). 

Creative Commons: A User Guide
“Creative Commons: a user guide” by Simone Aliprandi, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported. c_cc_pd.jpg​​​

Public Domain is the most open form of copyright and is when the author has released all copyright and the work can be used by anyone, in any way, and without any attribution necessary.

Creative Commons (CC) licenses are the primary tool for adding open permissions to authored materials. CC licenses have defined terms of use and authors can add clear restrictions to inform how resources can be used by others. The most open CC license is CC-BY, which allows for open remixing, revision, reuse, redistribution, and retention - as long as the author is given attribution. There are three main restrictions:

  • Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) - this restriction requires anyone who shares or modifies the resource to share it using the same terms on the license
  • No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND) - users cannot make any changes or derivatives and must use/share the resource in its unadapted form only
  • Non-Commerical (CC-BY-NC) - only non-commercial uses of the work are permitted

These restrictions can be combined in different ways as seen below.


Creative Commons licenses make finding, using and sharing OER an easy and empowering opportunity for educators. Educators can also use Creative Commons licenses on the resources they create.