With the Internet, universal access to education is possible, but its potential is hindered by increasingly restrictive copyright laws and incompatible technologies. We at Creative Commons work to minimize these barriers, by providing free licenses and tools that anyone can use to share their educational materials with the world. Our licenses make textbooks, courses, and lesson plans easy to find, easy to share, and easy to customize and combine — helping to realize the full benefits of digital and print educational resources.
Open Educational Resources
We work with the global Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, providing the legal framework for OER — teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.1 With CC licenses, learners can find and incorporate free materials for reports and presentations; educators can customize textbooks and lesson plans; universities can distribute video lectures to a global audience; and publishers can adapt materials and develop services for an enhanced learning experience. The OER movement has enormous potential to yield much wider access to and participation in global education, but only if a critical mass of educational institutions and communities embrace openness. CC licenses are free and simple ways to implement the philosophy of OER using a commonly accepted standard for “open”.
All over the world, from Argentina to Finland, people and projects are using CC licenses for education. Below are a few of the major organizations, companies, and institutions using CC licenses to share their materials with the world.
MIT OpenCourseWare has been releasing its materials — web versions of virtually all MIT course content — under a CC BY-NC-SA license since 2004. Today, MIT OCW has 2000 courses available freely and openly online for anyone, anywhere to adapt, translate, and redistribute. MIT OCW have been translated into at least 10 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian. In 2011, MIT OCW celebrated its 10th anniversary, having reached 100 million individuals, and announced MITx, an initiative to provide certification for completion of its courses. The OpenCourseWare concept has now spread to hundreds of universities worldwide.
The Khan Academy offers over 3,000 instructional videos covering everything from basic algebra to advanced chemistry, biology, and even the current day banking crisis. While working at an investment fund, Salman Khan started tutoring his younger cousins in his spare time by creating and posting videos to YouTube. As the videos grew in popularity, the Khan Academy was born. 3.5 millions learners use the site each month, and all videos are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, with some already translated into Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, and more. The Khan Academy is currently exploring a system that awards learners points and badges as they progress.
The CK-12 Foundation addresses the growing costs of textbooks and the closed, outdated medium in which they are available. Focusing specifically on textbooks for U.S. K-12 schools, the nonprofit works with states and institutions to build web-based, collaborative “flexbooks” that are free to use and adapt in multiple formats like PDF, iPad and Kindle. Over 90 textbooks are available for reuse under the CC BY-NC-SA license. The CK-12 Foundation is also a major contributor to the California Free Digital Textbooks Initiative, a CA initiative that aligns open textbooks to state standards.
OER Africa is a network of projects that enables active participation by educators and other stakeholders in the improvement of education systems in Africa. Originally founded in 1992 by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) to address the educational inequalities in post-apartheid South Africa, OER Africa now consists of a number of robust initiatives across the continent, including the African Health OER Network, AgShare project (Agricultural OER), and open university policies such as the default CC BY license policy for all Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology materials. The OER Africa site and its materials is also defaulted under CC BY.
Curriki is known as the “next generation wiki” for K-12 education; it is an online community and wiki platform for teachers, learners, and education experts to share, reuse, and remix educational resources. Instead of purchasing supplemental materials, teachers can find and develop resources, share lesson plans, and collaborate on materials with each other. More than 40,000 educational resources are available on the platform under CC BY-NC, with much of this content aligned to state standards.
Connexions is a repository and collaborative platform of educational materials that breaks down larger collections, such as textbooks and courses, into basic building blocks known as modules. Each module has a corresponding web page, so educators can mix and match pages to create custom lessons. All ~20,000 modules are licensed CC BY so they can be continually edited, translated, and adapted. Collaborative Statistics is an example of one textbook that has seen this remix and revision since its initial publication on the platform.
Bloomsbury Academic is an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, publisher of the Harry Potter series. Bloomsbury Academic publishes its research titles in the humanities and social sciences under CC BY-NC, with the complete text of its CC-licensed publications available on its website. Bloomsbury Academic also offers the printed or ebook versions for purchase, resulting in a hybrid business model where free digital access supplements high quality formats. Its research publications include CC Board member Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.
Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU)
P2PU is a grassroots education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements — creating a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional higher education models. Leveraging the Internet and open educational resources, P2PU provides a social environment for anyone to organize courses, study groups, and design challenges on anything from Copyright 4 Educators to Webmaking 101. All community-produced content is made available for reuse under a default CC BY-SA license. P2PU is also exploring alternative methods of assessment and certification through its badges pilot.
More OER Projects
Open education is a global movement. CC licenses and tools have been developed in consultation with legal experts and CC affiliate institutions in over 70 jurisdictions, and over 500 million CC-licensed works have been published by their authors on the Internet. For more CC education adoptions by jurisdiction, see OER Case Studies. Add your project to our Case Studies wiki and tag it as ‘OER’.
OER Search and Discovery
CC licenses provide the legal framework that allows OER to be shared, but there is also an important technical component to sharing successfully. Each CC license is embedded with software code that makes the license terms machine-readable. Visit our search portal at search.creativecommons.org to see how external search services can find CC-licensed resources. When properly marked with machine-readable code, CC licensed work can be discovered by search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!. Marking applies to users of CC-licensed works as well as creators, as the attribution plays an important role in being able to search for and discover a resource.
CC is also exploring ways to improve search and discovery of OER by helping to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources via the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI).
For grantees of the US DOL TAACCCT program, CC has listed a number of websites that host CC-licensed OER or enable OER search by CC licenses at http://open4us.org/find-oer.
In addition to institutions, CC licenses and tools are being incorporated into government policies as a default for government educational materials or as part of government-funded educational programs around the world, including in Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Poland, South Korea, the United States, United Nations, and Venezuela. Notably, the U.S. government has made available $2 billion for the development of community college OER under the CC Attribution license. For more on CC in government policy, see creativecommons.org/government. For more on CC in U.S.-specific government policy, see U.S. OER Case Studies. CC is also creating an OER Policy Registry to make it easier for others to access CC policies incorporated into education initiatives around the world. The OER Policy Registry will be a place for policymakers and open advocates to easily share and update OER legislation, OER institutional policies, and supporting OER policy resources.
Free To Learn Guide
To learn more about how the OER policy can play an important role in reducing costs while improving the quality of educational resources, read the Free To Learn Guide by Senior Policy Adviser in the Office of the Under Secretary of Education, Hal Plotkin.
You can also watch CC’s Director of Global Learning talk about the Obviousness of Open Policy in education.
If you are interested in OER, there are several ways you can participate and keep up-to-date with latest developments on CC in education.
- Add new education projects that incorporate CC licenses to our Case Studies wiki and tag it with ‘OER’.
- Subscribe to the CC blog for updates, or simply follow the OER section of the blog.
- Help improve OER discovery by helping to shape and adopt a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources as part of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI).
- If you are a grantor or grantee of educational funds and want to release educational resources under CC, see our Funder Policies wiki for how to understand and implement CC as part of your policy.
- Contribute to the OER Policy Registry: we have begun to enter OER policies into the registry, but we need your help to make it a truly useful global resource.