open policy

Towards a Collaborative, Coordinated Strategy for OER Implementation

Cable Green, November 17th, 2015

Game Plan

Game Plan. By Rob Armes, CC BY 3.0

Today, the OER community releases the Foundations for OER Strategy Development. This document provides a concise analysis of where the global OER movement currently stands: what the common threads are, where the greatest opportunities and challenges lie, and how we can more effectively work together as a community. Ideas for this document came from across the OER community, following a 6-month drafting and feedback process. The document can be found at

This document reflects the state of the OER movement through the eyes of its practitioners: what we need as a movement, what we agree on, areas where we differ, and opportunities for advancing OER globally. The Cape Town and Paris Declarations set the vision for the OER movement, including the value statements that form the basis for our work. We see the Foundations for OER Strategy Development as forming the basis for future actions and commitments.

Our next step is to make the commitments for actions that will continue the momentum.

Make a commitment to advance OER:

  1. Read the document.
  2. What actions will you take? Consider:

– How will you address the opportunities and challenges outlined?
– What do you see as the greatest opportunity and what ideas do you have to address it?
– How can your organization work effectively with others to address this?
– What roles are you best suited to take?

  1. Make your commitment public.

– Tweet your commitment using the hashtag #oerstrategy.
– Follow the conversation … we’ll also capture the tweets at

  1. Get to work and keep us updated.

– Tweet your updates using #oerstrategy.
– Let’s track our collective progress and build an even stronger global OER community.

Thank you for helping to build the open future of education!

Foundations for OER Strategy Development drafting committee: Cable Green, Nicole Allen, Mary Lou Forward, Alek Tarkowski, Delia Browne.

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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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Open licensing guide for foundation staff

Timothy Vollmer, October 13th, 2015


Government funders are increasingly adopting open licensing policies for copyrightable works and data they create or commission. Over the last few years we’ve been excited to work with philanthropic foundations to implement similar open licensing policies for their grant-funded and in-house created works.

Because there is a limit to the funds available to even the largest foundations, most try to use their resources in a way that will have the greatest impact on the problems they hope to solve. We believe that in almost all cases, the copyrightable works produced with grant funding will have more impact on those problems if they are published under an open license.

An open licensing policy is made possible through the foundation’s use of open licenses, whereby the acceptance of foundation funds requires grantees to share content developed with those funds broadly under an open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. In addition to grant-funded content, foundations are adopting open licensing for the resources they produce themselves, such as website content, photographs, and publications. 

Several leading foundations have adopted default CC BY licensing policies in the last few years, such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (for all grant-funded research), and the Vancouver Foundation.

Recently the Hewlett Foundation has revised and released an Open Licensing Toolkit for staff. This document is a guide for foundation program officers so staff are well-informed on the default policy and can work effectively with grantees on open licensing. It answers common questions, explains the Creative Commons license, and provides best practices for marking different types of works under open licenses. The toolkit also includes sample language for grant proposals and reporting requirements.

Hewlett has generously agreed to license the toolkit under CC BY so that other foundations can utilize it for their specific grant workflows. Thanks to Hewlett for this great resource!

Hewlett Foundation Open Licensing Toolkit for Staff (Google docs)

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Institute for Open Leadership 2: Apply now

Timothy Vollmer, September 28th, 2015

Cape Town by Kemal Kestelli on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Earlier this year, Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership (IOL). The IOL is a training and support program to empower new leaders interested in crafting and implementing an open licensing policy within their discipline. We had a diverse cohort of 14 fellows who came together for a week in January, 2015 in San Francisco. The fellows worked with mentors and each other to hone their open policy project ideas. Since then they’ve working within their institutions and fields to implement their open policy plan.

Today we’re opening the application period for the next round of the institute. IOL 2 will take place March 14-18, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Application instructions are on the Institute for Open Leadership webpage. Applications are due October 30, 2015. We will accept 15 IOL fellows.

We encourage applications from a variety of areas, including the public sector, cultural heritage institutions, publishing, and scientific labs. We’re interested in individuals who are eager to become experts in open licensing, pursue new opportunities for open sharing of content and data, and directly influence policy decisions in their institution and field of work.

Thanks again to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations for their support for the Institute for Open Leadership.

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Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (DRAFT)

Cable Green, September 22nd, 2015

Files. By Pieter J. Smits, CC BY 3.0

Creative Commons believes that public and foundation funded resources should be openly licensed by default. We have written extensively about the importance of open licensing policies in government, foundations, and have built the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership with our open policy partners around the world. In the past few years, the United States federal government has accelerated its interest in and implementation of open licensing policy requirements on the products of publicly funded grants and contracts.

To support the education of government staff creating, adopting and implementing open licensing policies – we’ve created an Open Licensing Policy Toolkit. While this draft is tailored for U.S. government federal staff, it can easily be revised to meet the needs of any country. We share it here under a CC BY 4.0 license hoping others will take, improve, and modify it to meet regional, national and/or local needs. We look forward to seeing what you create… and we are happy to collaborate with you should you identify an opportunity to work with your government on broad open licensing requirements on publicly funded resources.

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Google docs version)
Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Wiki version)

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Obama administration should require sharing of federally funded educational resources under Creative Commons licenses

Timothy Vollmer, August 4th, 2015

White House_600
White House by Diego Cambiaso, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Today, Creative Commons and a broad coalition of education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations are calling upon the White House to take administrative action to ensure that federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for the public to freely use, share, and improve.

We ask the administration to adopt a strong Executive branch-wide policy requiring that educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds be shared under an open license. Some agencies have already implemented an open licensing policy for the outputs of federal grants, including the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. In order to receive these funds, grantees are required to license to the public all work created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license.

In issuing this public statement, we hope to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in the creation of educational materials produce resources that are freely available to the members of the public that paid for them. The administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of educational resources that can be improved and built upon.

To ensure that administrative policy advances these goals, the coalition has outlined five core principles for executive action:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
  2. Provide free online access to these educational resources.
  3. Create conditions that enable easy reuse of materials.
  4. Require prompt implementation of the policy.
  5. Mandate regular reporting of progress and results.

The following can be attributed to Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons:

“By embracing Creative Commons licenses for the digital education and training outputs of federal agency grant making, the Obama administration will be demonstrating its commitment to collaboration, innovation, and effective government spending. When we contribute publicly funded educational materials to the public commons, everyone wins. This type of sharing is worth fighting for.”

A copy of the complete letter is available here. You can show your support for open access to publicly funded education materials by signing it too.


U.S. K12 State Policy Recommendations for OER: Sign Letter of Support

Cable Green, May 8th, 2015

second grade writing class
second grade writing class / woodleywonderworks / CC BY

(a nonpartisan education reform organization widely known for its CC BY licensed OER Rubrics) has developed policy recommendations with input from its OER Institute U.S. state partners for U.S. states to use OER as part of their college and career ready implementation plans.

These recommendations aim to provide helpful information and guidance for U.S. states that are interested in but have not yet begun an organized effort to use OER.

The OER policy recommendations center on:

  • States and school districts using OER as part of their strategy to support the implementation of college and career ready standards.
  • Recommending when public funds are used, the instructional materials created should be openly licensed.
  • States and school districts should ensure all instructional materials being used, including OER, are high quality and aligned to college and career ready standards.

To illustrate the broad array of audiences that support and have made effective, standards-aligned OER a priority, Achieve was recently joined by U.S. states, funders and organizations, including Creative Commons, in signing a letter of support for Open Educational Resources.

If your state or organization is interested in signing this letter, please contact Hans Voss at

This open letter outlines the benefits OER can provide to U.S. states and K12 school districts as they engage the hard work of college and career ready standards implementation. Particularly in an environment where many states are implementing the Common Core State Standards, OER can be used to leverage the benefits of these common standards by providing the legal rights and technical ability to freely share and modify instructional resources to help support the needs of individual classrooms (e.g., K12 OER Collaborative).

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Vancouver Foundation announces first CC BY policy for a Canadian foundation

Timothy Vollmer, May 7th, 2015

vancouver foundation logo

Vancouver Foundation has announced that it will adopt an open licensing policy by January 2017. The foundation will require that all projects and research funded through community advised grant programs be licensed and shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY). In addition, the foundation has pledged to license their own intellectual property–such as reports and publications–under CC BY.

Vancouver Foundation is one of the largest foundations in Canada, with over $1 billion in assets, and funds projects across British Columbia in areas such as arts and culture, education, children and youth issues, environment, animal welfare, community health, and social development. With the new open licensing policy–which is the first for a Canadian foundation–the organization aims “to advance transparency and accessibility of materials to drive greater innovation and creativity in BC and beyond.”

The open licensing policy will take effect in January 2017, and in the interim the foundation will work on the development, testing and implementation of the policy to explore and address the needs of those grantees who have a persuasive reason to choose alternative licenses or conditions.

“Vancouver Foundation is excited to join a growing international movement among foundations to increase access to a wide range of content funded to create public benefits,” said Foundation President and CEO, Kevin McCort. “We do this not only to share the products of our own community investments, but to encourage and support other foundations who want to join us.”

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, said, “Vancouver Foundation joins several leading philanthropic grant making organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving, unlocking billions in resources for everything from research to digital education materials, and data.”

Read the press release of the announcement here. Congratulations to Vancouver Foundation for their leadership and commitment to sharing research, educational materials, and data for the public benefit in the global commons.

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Wikimedia adopts open licensing policy for foundation-funded research

Timothy Vollmer, March 23rd, 2015

Last week the Wikimedia Foundation announced it is adopting an open access policy for research works created using foundation funds. According to their blog post, the new open access policy “will ensure that all research the Wikimedia Foundation supports through grants, equipment, or research collaboration is made widely accessible and reusable. Research, data, and code developed through these collaborations will be made available in Open Access venues and under a free license, in keeping with the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to support free knowledge.”

The details of the open access policy can be found on the Wikimedia Foundation website. There will be an expectation that researchers receiving funds from the foundation will provide “unrestricted access to and reuse of all their research output…”. Published materials, proposals, and supporting materials will be covered under the open access policy. The policy states that media files must be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (the version currently used by Wikipedia), or any other free license. In addition, the policy requires that data be made available under an Open Definition-conformant license (with the CC0 Public Domain Dedication preferred), and that any source code be licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2.0 or any other Open Source Initiative-approved license.

The open access policy from the Wikimedia Foundation joins other institutions–including governments, philanthropic foundations, universities, and intergovernmental organizations who have adopted policies to increase access to important and useful information and data for the public good. Thanks to Wikimedia for their continued leadership in support of free knowledge for all.

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Open Education Week: 9-13 March 2015

Cable Green, March 7th, 2015

Banner by Open Education Consortium / CC BY

Open Education Week is an annual convening of the global open education movement to share ideas, new open education projects and to raise awareness about open education and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Open education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve education access, affordability and effectiveness. Participation in all events and use of all resources are free and open to everyone.

There are many ways to participate:

While all of the events are worthy of your attendance, here is a quick preview of events to be hosted by Creative Commons affiliates and staff:

We look forward to seeing you online!

Special thanks and congratulations to the Open Education Consortium for coordinating Open Education Week!
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