Department of Education

US Dept. of Education proposes Open Licensing Policy. CC joins White House announcement.

Cable Green, October 30th, 2015


U.S. Department of Education Seal


Yesterday, Creative Commons joined the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for a series of important announcements that will advance OER in grades PreK-12 across the United States. ED announced the launch of its #GoOpen campaign to encourage states, school districts and educators to use Open Educational Resources (OER). OER, made “open” by CC licenses, will benefit schools in a number of ways including: increasing equity, keeping content relevant and high quality, empowering teachers, and saving districts money.

“In order to ensure that all students—no matter their ZIP code—have access to high-quality learning resources, we are encouraging districts and states to move away from traditional textbooks and toward freely accessible, openly-licensed materials. Districts across the country are transforming learning by using materials that can be constantly updated and adjusted to meet students’ needs.” – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan


#GoOpen announcements include:

(1) Creative Commons will lead OER workshops across the country (with CC US and OER coalition colleagues) with thousands of district leaders to help them scale the use of OER with the goal to replace old, outdated, expensive textbooks in their districts with new, up-to-date, OER. CC will provide the hands-on help that districts need to propel them to a new model of empowering their teachers to create, share, customize, and improve openly licensed educational resources.

(2) Open License Policy

ED has proposed a regulatory change requiring “grantees who receive funding through competitive discretionary grant programs to openly license all copyrightable resources created with ED funds. This open license will allow the public to access and use the intellectual property for any purpose, provided that the user gives attribution to the creator of that work.”

“By requiring an open license, we will ensure that high-quality resources created through our public funds are shared with the public, thereby ensuring equal access for all teachers and students regardless of their location or background. We are excited to join other federal agencies leading on this work to ensure that we are part of the solution to helping classrooms transition to next generation materials.” – John King, Deputy Secretary of Education

While the CC BY 4.0 license meets this requirement, and it always better to be specific re: open license requirements (to help grantees understand and comply), and CC will suggest that ED require the CC BY license by name, the following “open license” definition looks pretty good:

The license must be worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable, and must grant the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use, for any purposes, copyrightable intellectual property created with direct competitive grant funds, provided that the licensee gives attribution to the designated authors of the intellectual property.

With this proposed open licensing policy, ED joins the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, USAID, and other agencies in adding open license requirements to federal grants to ensure the public has access to publicly funded resources. This policy proposal is the first major step the Obama Administration has made toward fulfilling a call made by more than 100 organizations for a government-wide policy to openly license federally funded educational materials.

This good news caps a busy month for OER where: legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to provide support for open textbooks, the White House blogged about how OER provides equitable access to education for all learners, and the U.S. government released its 2016 Open Government National Action Plan, which includes a commitment to expand open licensing of federally funded resources.

(3) CC licenses in new OER Platforms: Creative Commons is thrilled to be working with the following platforms and congratulates them for committing to integrate CC licenses into their tools – making it easier for the public to share, find and reuse OER. CC is actively working with these (and other) organizations to ensure their platforms and terms of service are compliant with and fully support CC licenses. We will make joint announcements with each platform when the CC / OER integrations are complete.

  • Amazon will leverage its technology and expertise in content discovery and distribution – and add CC licenses to a new content sharing platform – to support OER initiatives in K-12 education. Amazon will also provide infrastructure and developer support for ED’s Learning Registry for two years.
  • Microsoft announced new features to, Sway and OneNote Class Notebook to enable educators to create, discover, rate, and share OER. The products are integrated with Microsoft Office and will enable tailored curation of resource collections, and encourage reuse by supporting CC licenses and metadata sharing. In addition, Microsoft will index content from the Learning Registry by creating a new app so educators can search and access OER through LTI compliant learning management and publisher systems.
  • Edmodo announced an upgrade to its resource sharing platform, Edmodo Spotlight, to enable searching, curating, and sharing OER – using CC licenses – with the Learning Registry. Edmodo will also provide professional learning resources for districts to curate, organize and share OER in Spotlight.
  • The Illinois Shared Learning Environment released a redesigned version of their IOER platform that makes it easier for teachers and school leaders to find OER by CC license and learning standards. Additionally, IOER developer code is available as open source for other states interested in implementing a similar functionality.

(4) First US Government Open Education Adviser: Andrew Marcinek is now working with school districts, education platforms, civil society, and open education leaders to expand awareness of OER in PreK-12.

(5) Ten school districts will replace at least one textbook with OER within the next year.

(6) Six #GoOpen Ambassador Districts will help other school districts move to openly licensed materials. These #GoOpen Ambassador Districts currently use OER and will help other districts understand how to effectively discover and curate OER.

(7) ASCD will provide ongoing professional development resources and webinars for Future Ready school districts committing to help train educators on the use of OER. ASCD will work with district leaders to support districts pledging to replace one textbook with openly licensed educational resources by next fall.

We look forward to working with ED on its new open licensing policy proposal and other exciting OER initiatives in this new #GoOpen campaign. This is another positive sign that both OER and open licensing policy are going mainstream!

Will your country be next to #GoOpen? Send me a note if you want to shift to OER in your country: cable at creative commons dot org


Additional resources for the #GoOpen campaign:

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U.S. Secretary of Education highlights Schools using OER to #GoOpen

Cable Green, September 15th, 2015

Williamsfield video by U.S. Department of Education is licensed CC BY

I’m pleased to announce two important updates from the U.S. Department of Education!

#1: Williamsfield Community Unified School District embraces OER

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Williamsfield Community Unified School District in Illinois to highlight the progress the rural school district has made in shifting to digital and open educational resources (OER) to connect their students to the world. “The walls break down,” Zack Binder, the Pre K-12 Principal said. “You’re no longer in Williamsfield, Illinois. You have the same access to this information that anyone in the world does.”

Over the past two years, the 310-student district decided to adapt and adopt OER (e.g., EngageNY) rather than procuring new commercial textbooks for students, and direct those savings towards new devices for students.

“We worked to start leveraging open education resources in May of 2013. It coincided with a decision to purchase—or not purchase—a math textbook series. We decided to leverage OER and invest the money that was allocated for textbooks into technology and technological infrastructure,” said Williamsfield Superintendent Tim Farquer.

While this move saved money, and allowed the district to buy tablets and laptops for students and teachers, it was mostly about using Creative Commons (CC) licensed educational resources to make the content better – it helped change the classroom by empowering teachers and students to customize learning resources for students.

“The biggest transition for me, from what it was like before to what it is like now, is that kids can do things that they’re interested in, instead of having one prescribed way to do things that comes from a textbook,” said Lori Secrist, a district science teacher.

The newly formed K12 OER Collaborative, an initiative led by a group of 12 U.S. states, has similar goals and is in the process of creating comprehensive, high-quality, OER-supported K–12 mathematics and English language arts that are aligned with state learning standards.

If you’d like to replicate this in your school district, see the CC-USA FAQ on OER in Williamsfield.

#2: U.S. Dept of Ed hires its first full-time OER leader

Secretary Duncan announced today the hiring of the Department’s first full-time OER position to lead a national effort to expand schools’ access to high-quality, openly-licensed learning resources and help districts and states follow the path of Williamsfield. Andrew Marcinek will serve in the Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) as the first “Adviser for Open Education.”

“Creating a dedicated open education adviser position at the Department will greatly enhance our ability to support states and districts as they move to using openly licensed learning resources,” said Richard Culatta, Director of the OET. “The use of openly-licensed resources not only allows states and districts to adapt and modify materials to meet student needs, but also frees up funding to support the transition to digital learning.”

The availability of low-cost, high-quality learning resources in U.S. K12 public schools is a priority for President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative.

These exciting moves are part of the growing momentum within the Obama Administration to support OER and open access to publicly funded resources. Last month Creative Commons and 100 other organizations signed a letter calling on the White House to ensure that educational materials created with federal funds are openly licensed and released to the public as OER. Creative Commons looks forward to working closely with the Department’s new Open Education Adviser and will continue working with our partners to advance OER and open licensing policy in the U.S. Government, and around the world with the members of the Open Policy Network and the CC Affiliate Network.

Join the conversation on social media with @creativecommons using hashtags #ReadyforSuccess / #GoOpen / #OER

Related press / blog posts:

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Public access to research language retained in U.S. spending bill

Timothy Vollmer, December 22nd, 2014

Last year, the U.S. Congress included a provision in its appropriations legislation that would ensure that some research conducted through federal spending would be made accessible online, for free. It mandated that a subset of federal agencies with research budgets of at least $100 million per year would be required provide the public with free online access to scholarly articles generated with federal funds no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies affected by the public access provision of the appropriations bill included the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services. Of particular note is the Department of Health and Human Services, which encompasses research-intensive agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SPARC reports that the public access language has been included in the fiscal year 2015 spending bill (PDF), which appears on p. 961-962:

SEC. 525. Each Federal agency, or in the case of an agency with multiple bureaus, each bureau (or operating division) funded under this Act that has research and development expenditures in excess of $100,000,000 per year shall develop a Federal research public access policy that provides for— 1) the submission to the agency, agency bureau, or designated entity acting on behalf of the agency, a machine-readable version of the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals describing research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the Federal Government; (2) free online public access to such final peer reviewed manuscripts or published versions not later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

Alongside the federal spending legislation, there were references included in accompanying reports (see Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science report at p. 30 and Department of Interior report at p. 32) that point to President Obama’s Directive requiring agencies to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research. The appropriations language passed for 2014 and 2015 echoes the language of the White House Directive, issued in February 2013. It directs “Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.” The agency plans were due in August 2013, and according to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), all agencies have submitted at least a draft plan (PDF). Those plans are now being reviewed by OSTP.

Progress has been slow, but public access to publicly funded research remains on the table in the United States.


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Congress passes spending bill requiring free access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 16th, 2014


Update: The bill was signed by President Obama January 17, 2014.

Both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate have passed the 2014 omnibus appropriations legislation (2.9 MB PDF). President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

What’s so special about this legislation? Federal agencies with research budgets of at least $100 million per year will be required provide the public with free online access to scholarly articles generated with federal funds no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies affected by the public access provision of the appropriations bill include the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services (which includes research-intensive sub-agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

According to SPARC, the bill “ensure[s] that $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.”

The inclusion of the public access provision builds upon existing initiatives, such as the NIH Public Access Policy. And it echoes the more recent push for public access to publicly funded research advocated through the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and the White House directive. But with FASTR tabled in Congress last year and the federal agencies dragging their feet on complying with Obama’s public access directive (plans were due in August 2013), the passage of the 2014 spending legislation is a welcome measure for increasing access to publicly funded research.

SPARC thinks the language in the bill could be strengthened by adopting a shorter embargo period (e.g. six months), which would benefit the public without harming journal publishers. In addition, they suggest that research articles be shared via a central repository similar to PubMed Central and incorporate provisions to ensure the ability to conduct text and data mining on the entire corpus of federally-funded articles. Creative Commons and other groups have also communicated the need for not only free public access, but also access whereby publicly funded research is made available under open licenses.

Open Access icon was created by Duke Innovation Co-Lab and in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Education seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Labor seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seal is in the public domain.

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Winners Announced! – Why Open Education Matters Video Competition

Timothy Vollmer, July 18th, 2012

Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce the winners of the Why Open Education Matters video competition. The competition was launched in March 2012 to solicit creative videos that clearly communicate the use and potential of free, high-quality Open Educational Resources — or “OER” — and describe the benefits and opportunities these materials create for teachers, students, and schools everywhere. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the competition with a video on the Why Open Education Matters website. The competition received over 60 qualified entries. The winning videos are displayed below.

First Prize

Congratulations to Blinktower, an extremely talented creative agency based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Second Prize

Congratulations to Laura Rachfalski and her great team. Laura is an artist, videographer and photographer from Philadelphia.

Third Prize

Congratulations to Nadia Paola Mireles Torres and her collaborators from the design firm Funktionell. It’s also amazing to see that Nadia has made all the video assets available for download and reuse under CC BY!

The prize winners were decided by a panel of distinguished experts including Davis Guggenheim, Nina Paley, Liz Dwyer, Anya Kamenetz, James Franco, Angela Lin, and Mark Surman. Due to technical problems with the public voting on the Why Open Education Matters website which prevented some persons from submitting a vote, the third prize video has been awarded by the judging panel.

In addition to the winning videos, all of the qualifying videos are available for viewing on the competition website, All of the videos are licensed CC BY, which means others may distribute, remix, and build upon them, even commercially, as long as they give credit to the creators.

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to everyone who submitted a video for sharing their creativity, talents, and passion in helping explain and promote Open Educational Resources.


Launch of the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition

Timothy Vollmer, March 5th, 2012

Creative Commons, U.S. Department of Education, Open Society Institute launch high profile video competition to highlight potential of free educational materials

Mountain View, California and Washington, D.C., — March 5, 2012

Today Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Institute announce the launch of the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition. The competition will award cash prizes for the best short videos that explain the use and promise of free, high-quality Open Educational Resources—or “OER”—and describe the benefits and opportunities these materials create for teachers, students and schools.

Video submissions are accepted until June 5, 2012 and winners will be announced July 18, 2012. Cash prizes, provided by the Open Society Institute, include $25,000 (first), $5,000 (second), and $1,000 (Public Choice Award). Judges include prominent artists and education experts, including Davis Guggenheim, Nina Paley, James Franco, and many others. The competition website is and features an introductory video by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. All entries must be shared under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan underlined various benefits of OER. Duncan, in a video that appears on the Why Open Education Matters contest website, said, “Open Educational Resources can not only accelerate and enrich learning; they can also substantially reduce costs for schools, families and students.”

Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, pointed out the importance of raising awareness for Open Educational Resources. “Both Creative Commons and Open Educational Resources are 10 years old this year, and there’s been an amazing explosion in the amount and quality of free, openly-licensed educational content being shared online. Now is the time to push awareness of OER into the mainstream.”

The launch of the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition coincides with the first annual Open Education Week (, which runs from March 5-10, 2012. Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of free and open sharing in education.

About Creative Commons
Creative Commons ( is a globally-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Creative Commons provides free licenses and other legal tools to give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute and make specific uses of it.

About U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education ( coordinates most federal assistance on education. It works with state and local partners to promote excellence and equity for students at all levels of education to ensure that our citizens are college and career ready and can compete in a global economy.

About Open Society Institute
The Open Society Institute ( works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens and, through its Information Program, works to increase public access to knowledge, including increasing access to open, high quality, educational materials.

Timothy Vollmer
Creative Commons

Jane Glickman
Department of Education
(202) 401-1307

Darius Cuplinskas
Open Society Institute


$500 million awarded to first round grantees for community college career training program

Timothy Vollmer, September 26th, 2011

Today the U.S. Department of Labor, in coordination with the Department of Education, announced the first wave of grant winners in support of “targeted training and workforce development to help economically dislocated workers who are changing careers.” Today’s announcement commits nearly $500 million to 32 grantees, with a $2 billion investment expected over the next 4 years.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in the Department’s press release:

“Making it possible for unemployed Americans to return to work is a top priority of President Obama’s. This initiative is about providing access to training that leads to real jobs,” said Secretary Solis. “These federal grants will enable community colleges, employers and other partners to prepare job candidates, through innovative programs, for new careers in high-wage, high-skills fields, including advanced manufacturing, transportation, health care and STEM occupations.”

As we mentioned in January when the program was announced, we’re excited that the grant guidelines includes a requirement that where new learning materials are created using grant funds, those materials must be made available under CC BY. Creative Commons, with its partnering organizations, is positioned to provide support to grantees on open licensing, learning and course design, professional development, and adoption and use.

Congratulations to the first round winners and to the Department of Labor and Department of Education in supporting this innovative education initiative.

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