open educational resources

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.


Vote now for your favorite Why Open Education Matters video

Timothy Vollmer, June 25th, 2012

We’re happy to see so many great submissions to the Why Open Education Matters video competition. You can now view all the qualifying videos and vote for your favorite. The goal of the competition is to raise awareness of Open Educational Resources (OER) and solicit short, creative videos that help explain what Open Educational Resources are and how they can be beneficial for teachers, students, and schools everywhere around the world. The competition closed on June 5.

Our panel of judges is currently reviewing the entries and will choose the first ($25,000) and second ($5,000) prizes. The winner of the Public Choice Award will win $1,000. Click on a video to view it, read the voting instructions, and vote. Public Choice Award voting will end July 11, 2012. We hope to announce all the winners on July 18, 2012. Good luck!

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REMINDER to enter the Why Open Education Matters video competition

Timothy Vollmer, April 30th, 2012

In March, Creative Commons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Open Society Institute launched the Why Open Education Matters Video Competition. The goal of the competition is to raise awareness of Open Educational Resources (OER) and solicit short, creative videos that help explain what Open Educational Resources are and how they can be beneficial for teachers, students, and schools everywhere around the world.

There’s been lots of interest in the competition, and we wanted to remind you that the deadline to submit your video is June 5, 2012. The contest is open to all, and submissions can come from non-U.S. citizens. Nonprofits, schools, and companies may also enter a video, and you can work in teams. Please check out the website for all the information you need.

The first prize is $25,000 and the second prize is $5,000. We’ve lined up some great judges to help award these prizes, including Nina Paley, Davis Guggenheim, and James Franco. There will also be a $1,000 Community Choice Award in which the public will be able to cast their vote for their favorite video.

Again, video submissions must be received by June 5 on (look for the “Submit a Video” button). We’re eating our own dog food too–any video that is submitted must be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license so that it can be freely used and shared by anyone to help explain Open Educational Resources. Please jump in and share your creative video-making skills to explain and promote OER. Roll camera!


OER Policy Registry: Request for Help

Cable Green, March 26th, 2012

2071785 / / CC BY

Update June 2012:
The OER Policy Registry has moved to its permanent home at, please review and contribute any new policies there.

Update October 2012: We’ve removed the links to the Google Form and spreadsheet below. Please visit the OER Policy Registry’s permanent home at

The open community shares a need for more information to help us with our work. We know, for example, that there are many policies supporting open education at institutions and governments throughout the world. Many of us know of some of these policies, but it would be extremely helpful if we had a single database of open education policies that the entire community could access and update.

To meet this goal, Creative Commons has received a small grant to create an “OER Policy Registry.” The Open Educational Resources (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. We have begun to enter OER policies into the registry, but we need your help to make it a truly useful global resource.

The open movement is reaching a stage where we’ve had some real, concrete OER policy victories and there is the potential to achieve many more. Sharing our collective knowledge of existing OER policies, in the same way we believe in sharing educational resources, will help advocates and policymakers worldwide be more successful.

Please join the effort:

(1) Contribute any OER policies you know about via this Google form.

  • We are collecting both legislative AND institutional (non-legislative) OER policies from around the world. Your form submissions will be added to the draft list of OER policies.

(2) Review the draft list of OER policies. (Google doc)

(3) Pass on this call to your colleagues, lists, blogs, and other channels, to ensure that we get as much input as possible. As the OER movement is global, it is critical that we capture OER policies from around the world.

Anyone can add OER policies to the Google form through the next month. Beginning May 1, the OER Policy Registry will move to the Creative Commons wiki. At that point, anyone will be able to edit and update the OER Policy Registry on the wiki, and all contributions will be licensed under CC BY.

We’re starting with a Google form because (a) it’s easy and (b) wikis require you to create an account before editing, and that may be a barrier to participation.

CC is in contact with other projects that collect similar information, including UNESCO, CoL, the Florida Distance Learning Consortium, EU OCW and a project in New Zealand. We will add OER policy data they gather as it becomes available. If anyone knows of other efforts to gather OER policies, please send them to Anna Daniel ( and we will reach out to them too.

If you have any suggestions or feedback on the content and/or framework, please let us know.

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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


CC Salon London: Open Educational Resources — Policies for Promotion

Heidi Chen, February 29th, 2012

Creative Commons, Creative Commons United Kingdom (CC UK) and iCommons Ltd. are pleased to present the next CC Salon London on Thursday, March 29. CC Salon London will feature five panelists discussing the state of open educational resources (OER) and the effect of copyright and other policies on the development of digital tools and content for education. We will close with a period of questions and discussion from the audience. Our five panelists will be:

  • Catherine M. Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons
  • Victor Henning, Co-Founder & CEO, Mendeley Ltd.
  • Naomi Korn, Co-Founder, Web2Rights
  • Patrick McAndrew, OLnet Director, The Open University
  • Amber Thomas, Digital Infrastructure Programme Manager, JISC

CC UK Public Lead Joscelyn Upendran will moderate the panel discussion. This event is free and open to the public; however, advance registration is required. Light refreshments will be provided.

For more information, and to register, visit:

CC would like to give special thanks to Nature Publishing Group for generously hosting this event. Under the leadership of CEO Annette Thomas, a member of the CC Board of Directors, Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group offers multiple scientific journals under CC BY-NC-SA and CC BY-NC-ND.

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UNESCO and COL release open education policy document for higher education

Timothy Vollmer, November 1st, 2011

Today UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning jointly released the policy document Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education. The purpose of the guidelines is “to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation, and use of OER and to bring them in to the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.”

UNESCO and COL note, “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain and released with an open license (such as Creative Commons). They allow communities of practitioners and stakeholders to copy, adapt and share their resources legally and freely, in order to support high-quality and locally relevant teaching and learning.”

The guidelines indicate how the potential of OER can be harnessed to support quality teaching and learning by higher education stakeholders, including governments, higher education institutions, teaching staff, students, and quality assurance, accreditation, and academic recognition authorities.

The Guidelines for OER in Higher Education inform the process leading up to the 2012 World OER Congress. That event is being organized by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Congress will 1) work to promote the UNESCO/COL OER Policy Guidelines; 2) share the world’s best practices in OER policies, initiatives, and experts; and 3) release the 2012 Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to support the development and use of OERs.

The UNESCO/COL policy document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.


$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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Brazil introduces OER into federal legislation and adopts local government policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 15th, 2011

OER seminar at the Sao Paulo Legislative Assembly by reanetbr / CC BY

There’s been some exciting announcements in support of open educational resources (OER) in Brazil over the last few weeks.

First, legislation was introduced into Brazil’s House of Representatives. The bill deals with three main issues: It 1) requires government funded educational resources to be made widely available to the public under an open license, 2) clarifies that resources produced by public servants under his/her official capacities should be open educational resources (or otherwise released under an open access framework), and 3) urges the government to support open federated systems for the distribution and archiving of OER. Last week in São Paulo, a group of educators, journalists, policymakers, activists, and OER experts held an event at the Legislative Assembly to discuss open education projects and promote OER policies. In addition to this federal legislation, a similar bill will be introduced at the São Paulo state level.

Second, the municipality of São Paulo Department of Education has now mandated that all its educational and pedagogical content will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike (BY-NC-SA) license. From the translated announcement:

“We didn’t have an appropriate way to license our content”, says Alexandre Schneider, Secretary of Education. “We hold the rights to our content because we created it, and we realized it would be right to release it under a license that allows everyone to use and adapt what was created with public money.”

Congratulations to the REA-Brasil (OER-Brazil) team on these recent successes and ongoing commitment to supporting open education in Brazil.


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CC Talks With: Pete Forsyth and the Wikimedia Public Policy Initiative: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 6th, 2011

Pete Forsyth lives and breathes wikis. He is owner and lead consultant at Wiki Strategies, and has extensive experience in working within online peer production communities, specifically the production of open educational resources (OER) using wiki-based web sites like Wikipedia. Forsyth was the Wikimedia Foundation’s first Public Outreach Officer and key architect of the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative, an innovative pilot project to support university faculty and students in the use of Wikipedia as a teaching and learning tool. With more than 17 million articles in over 270 languages, Wikipedia is the Wikimedia Foundation’s largest and most visible project.

Wikimedia Foundation Pete Forsyth
By Lane Hartwell CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wiki as a Vehicle for Self-learning

Forsyth became interested in wikis in Oregon, where he was an editor and community organizer for Wikipedia. While he had long been interested in Open Source Software, he didn’t know how to code. “Wikipedia was a natural entry point for me,” he says, “because you don’t have to be a computer programmer to contribute.”

Forsyth spent five years creating and revising Oregon-related content on Wikipedia, and during this time a group of similarly-minded people came together to form a wiki project in the Portland area. “Portland is home of the wiki,” notes Forsyth, referring to its invention in 1994 by Ward Cunningham.

The participants in the Oregon wiki project helped each other navigate their way around Wikipedia, mastered the art of good reference, and pieced together a better sense of the history of the state. Being in that group allowed Forsyth to explore intellectual pursuits he might not have explored if Wikipedia wasn’t there as a vehicle to nurture them. “The process was in its own way every bit as educational as the college degree I earned,” he said.

The Public Policy Initiative: Open Content, Open Practices

The Public Policy Initiative (PPI) is designed to engage professors in public policy programs at universities across the U.S. to work with their students and the Wikimedia community to improve articles on the English-language Wikipedia as part of their course curriculum. Forsyth notes that the PPI aligns with a set of Wikimedia’s long term goals: it cultivates more Wikipedians, champions subject matter experts, and works toward improving the diversity of its contributor base. He says that the public policy arena has been an exemplary pilot initiative because it is such an interdisciplinary field. “Public policy cuts across so many areas, such as law, economics, and philosophy,” says Forsyth, “and keeping this project open to people with different kinds of backgrounds was an important design consideration.”

The characterization of Wikipedia as an open educational resource platform is at once completely obvious and also a departure from many of the traditional OER delivery mechanisms. While Forsyth agrees that Wikipedia is as valuable an open educational resource as any encyclopedia, he thinks that open educational practices (OEP) is where the value of the Public Policy Initiative really shines. He believes that the really transformative outcome enabled by the technical and legal innovation of wikis and open licensing is the process of being able to collaborate with a broad group of people quickly and seamlessly. “By participating in that kind of community,” says Forsyth, “the student is learning skills from the process itself, rather than extracting information from a particular resource.”

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites represent the largest collection of CC licensed works on the web. Forsyth believes that a project like the PPI–and Wikipedia itself–couldn’t exist without easy-to-understand open licensing. “Users clarifying their intent to work openly is the most important thing,” he says. “The existence of Creative Commons opens up a new avenue for individuals and organizations to do things in the public interest.”

Forsyth thinks that Creative Commons should attempt to provide more clarity about the consequences to using different CC licenses. “I’m not excited about the noncommercial condition,” he admits. “It all boils down to clarity, and attaching a noncommercial condition onto content immediately creates exceptions to that clarity.” He notes that many people new to open licensing are initially drawn to the more restrictive licenses, but don’t realize until later that the content they are licensing is incompatible with Wikipedia or other projects they’d like to engage with.

Public Policy Initiative Ambassadors

In addition to partnering with interested faculty, the Public Policy Initiative involves members of both the university (via campus ambassadors) and the Wikimedia community (via online ambassadors) to provide assistance and guidance. Bonnie Mccallum volunteers as a campus ambassador for a participating class at Montana State University, where she is a web services technician at the University Library. Mccallum, who had no previous experience in creating or editing Wikipedia articles, teamed up with Mike Cline, a seasoned Wikipedian, to assist Professor Kristin Ruppel in her course on Federal Indian Law and Policy. While Mccallum and Cline worked as on-site campus ambassadors, various distributed online ambassadors helped mentor students on the ins and outs of editing Wikipedia.

By McMormor (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

“There was relatively little available on Wikipedia about the content taught in the course,” said Mccallum. Professor Ruppel had the graduate students create a new article around the general topic of the course, stepping through the process of publishing and defending their articles on Wikipedia. The undergraduate students were responsible for editing articles that were already on Wikipedia. One example of an article worked on by the students is the Native American Languages Act of 1990.

Mccallum notes that Professor Ruppel believes participation in the PPI is a more worthwhile writing exercise for her students than cranking out a term paper. Ruppel feels that her students had to learn how to collaborate and communicate in a neutral voice, and learn how to monitor issues and discuss changes with other editors. Mccallum said she’ll be continuing work with the PPI next year, and was excited that there were so many women participating in the project. There are a few things that she’d like to change for next year. She notes that some of the students got hung up on the technical issues around editing wikis, so they’ll be structuring that course module differently next time around.

Mccallum proudly recounts a story passed on by one of the older students in the course, who has a child in middle school. The child’s teacher discouraged her students from using Wikipedia at all. However, after the boy had gone back to the teacher and showed her how his mom was using and contributing to Wikipedia in her graduate school course at MSU, the teacher softened her position. According to Mccallum, those ‘it might not be so bad after all’ moments seem to become more common as teachers learn about the varied uses for teaching via Wikipedia.

Public Policy Initiative as a Bridge

Sometimes open source projects find it difficult to break into the mainstream, especially within the traditional higher education space. Forsyth says that one reason why the PPI has been initially successful in getting buy-in from faculty is because they tailored the project to the existing goals of the educators. He says that working with existing incentive systems as much as possible and providing support to faculty is an important baseline to making the project successful. Also bubbling around recently is the idea that a condition of tenure might be participating in an online community or contributing to a collaborative project like Wikipedia, in addition to the traditional publishing venues. “It will be a gradual shift,” says Forsyth, “but the reality today is that both teachers and students need to possess the cultural fluency and information literacy skills to engage online.” He thinks that these traits will come to represent a set of important skills that students will need to master in any field. “I believe that in time, tenure processes will come to reflect that.”

The Future

Forsyth thinks the Public Policy Initiative is well on its way. “Professors are the experts in educating their students, and with a little nudge and some support, they can do great things with a tool like Wikipedia,” he says. So far, the PPI has turned out to be an enlightening exercise and productive process. As it’s seed funding winds down this September, the Public Policy Initiative will continue to transition from a staff-led to a volunteer-led project. The PPI aims to expand its reach of the Ambassador program to work with faculty and students in other countries, languages, and topic areas.

Forsyth is continuing his involvement in leveraging wikis within the education space, working to start the Center for Open Learning and Teaching (COLT), to be hosted at the University of Mississippi. The center will support the study and implementation of effective and open Internet-based learning practices in formal education. “As institutions of learning are engaging with concept of OER and online learning communities, they’re going to want to figure out how to update their practices, reap the efficiency benefits of ‘open,’ and stay relevant as education evolves,” says Forsyth. He notes that the goals of COLT include 1) setting up a cohort-based research network investigating open, online collaboration in education; and 2) establishing a teaching and learning center that would partially fund faculty salaries to explore OER and open collaborative practices in their classrooms and share what they’ve learned.

Forsyth believes that teaching and learning has very suddenly changed in only a few years. “The education system used to exist in a world in which information was scarce and access to information was hard to come by,” he says. “Now, learning something about any topic is easy, and universities no longer have a monopoly on how we educate ourselves.” Forsyth thinks that libraries, museums, governments, and news outlets still provide great value, but they’re gradually waking up to the idea that they now have to compete. He thinks that these changes should be viewed as an exciting opportunity, not something to be disregarded because they challenge the status quo. “We need universities to embrace the changing landscape, not erect walls trying to protect the role they’re used to playing.”


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