Wouldn’t it have been nice if that resource somehow said, “I’m free to use, no strings attached, you don’t need to ask for my permission because it is already granted”?
Well guess what … Open Educational Resources (OER) are an answer to that need!
There are millions of educational resources out there that are available for others to freely use. There are all kinds: full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and many other tools, materials and techniques used to support access to knowledge. 1
Worldwide academics, politicians, teachers, scientists and everyday citizens are making and sharing what they’ve researched and created with as part of a worldwide OPEN movement.
Waving the flag high and shouting from the world’s rooftops are Creative Commons, who are passionate about constantly growing the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.
In March 2016, Creative Commons brought fourteen strangers from thirteen countries to Cape Town, South Africa, and formed The Second Institute of Open Leadership (IOL2). The Institute is a training and peer-to-peer learning opportunity that brings together up-and-coming leaders to develop and implement an open-licensing policy in their institution, province, or nation 2. Fourteen strangers from thirteen countries, supported by seven amazing mentors, turned Cape Town into a five-day incubator of unfettered potential to significantly contribute to the worldwide Open Access movement.
I had the honour of representing CORE Education as one of fourteen international organisations inducted into IOL2. It was more than a professional learning experience; it was life changing, and connected with me in way that only Outward Bound has got close.
We came from far and wide — Brazil, Nepal, Italy, Austria, Uganda, Tunisia, Canada, Kenya, and beyond, as employees of universities, museums, Greenpeace, community campuses, publishing, and Open Education. We came to be mentored in developing for implementation an open-licensing policy into our institution, province, or nation, and grow the international footprint and understanding of Open Access.
allowing access, not closed or blocked, unbarred.
To move … so as to leave a space allowing access and vision.
A championship or competition with no restrictions on who may compete.
Open policies are laws, rules and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of openly licensed content. 3
Creative Commons believes that publicly funded research, data, and information should be openly licensed by default. If taxpayer money funds research, data gathering, and information creation, shouldn’t you, as a taxpayer, have access to that information? Open licensing helps public institutions better meet their missions of disseminating digital resources, information, and data, breaking down the typical barriers associated with traditional copyright.
Creative Commons licenses are being integrated and incorporated into public, foundation, and institutional policies around the globe. Some governments are starting to mandate that publicly funded education and research resources be released under Creative Commons licenses. 4
Why does Open Access matter?
How many times have you found what looks like the perfect article for your research, only to be hit with a paywall and options to rent or buy the article?
Has an article you want been under embargo due to publisher’s restrictions?
In You Pay To Read Research You Fund. That’s Ludicrous, Creative Common’s CEO Ryan Merkley succinctly describes the systemic change needed that would allow for the global re-use of publically funded research, data, and information.
“We need to change the model, not just tweak around the edges. An alternative system, where all publicly-funded research is required to be shared under a permissive license, would allow authors to unlock their content and data for re-use with a global audience, and co-operate in new discoveries and analysis.”
– Ryan Merkley, CEO Creative Commons.
US Vice President Joe Biden spoke recently on the need to speed up scientific research, development, and collaboration that can lead to better cancer treatments. He said, “taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.”
Imagine the potential and possibility to really make an impact for global good if this was a common approach taken to all publically funded research.
Worldwide, many students have old and out-dated textbooks that hold back their learning, potential, and imaginations. Teachers often spend hours creating worksheets that meet their curriculum needs because the textbooks they have are irrelevant and past their use-by date. No longer a generic mass of information designed as a one-size-fits-all solution, open textbooks give teachers full creative control, and the ability to tailor the content to the needs of the students they’re working with.
Open textbooks are freely editable, downloadable, and repurpose-able by others, keeping with the notion that the search for truth in any academic field is continually being revised 5. They’re ideally published under CC BY, the license that allows the greatest sharing capabilities and creativity for education, while still retaining authorship and thereby greater quality in collaborative output.
CC licenses are the gold standard for open access to research, creating a global commons of content and data with over 1.1 billion licensed works that anyone can read, copy, and re-use.
– Ryan Merkley, CEO Creative Commons.
What is Open Education?
Open Education "…is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the Web, in particular, provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge."
– The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Open Education resources
Open Educational Resources (OER) are 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. 6
Open Education Resources (OER) are educational resources, course books, research articles, videos, and assessments that are licenced to share under an open copyright license like Creative Commons, 7 or in the public domain.
In New Zealand, The Ministry of Education's draft vision for education in 2025 included the following:
"Education resources are instantly available : Open Education Resources (OER) allow easy access to high-quality resources via powerful search engines, wherever learners are in the world." 10
Is anything changing?
Worldwide, people and projects are adopting CC licenses for education.
In 2015, the Polish government launched an online repository of open, Creative Commons Attribution-licensed e-textbooks, covering the core curriculum for primary and lower secondary education. After five years, open education activists finally saw their advocacy work bear fruit. In parallel, the government changed the textbook funding model, which translated into massive cost savings for parents and students. 11
In 2012, BCcampus in Vancouver, British Columbia, was asked to create a collection of open textbooks aligned with the top forty highest-enrolled subject areas in the province. The goal of the project: to make higher education more accessible by reducing student costs through the use of openly licensed textbooks. A second phase was announced in the spring of 2014 to add 20 textbooks targeting trades and skills training.
In March 2016, the first Open Textbook Summit in Africa was hosted in Cape Town. This was a two-day event where local lecturers, open movement practitioners met with experts in open textbooks from around the world. Hosted by Open Textbooks for Africa (OT4A) the event hosted over 45 participants from across the country. OT4A is a pilot project designed to support the adoption and adaption of currently available Open Textbooks as well as build and design textbooks for Africa to showcase African knowledge to the world. 13
For more examples of high-quality open textbooks in various disciplines: Open Washington — Open Educational Resources Network
Where are we at?
Paul Stacey, Creative Commons, Associate Director of Global Learning sums up beautifully the why of Open Education Resources:
“We’re seeing OER change education from something defined by scarcity to something based on an idea of plenty,” “OER, together with the ability to form global learning networks, makes education for all an attainable goal.”
Worldwide, the OER case studies and Open Policy Registry prove the power of the Open movement. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, there at least four NZ universities institutionalising positions on Open Access and we have Open Access weeks every year now. Creative Commons licensing is becoming more widely understood, and adoption within our schools is on the increase. Creative Commons search offers educators and students a portal to search for legally reusable images, music, media, and video. DigitalNZ’s rich kete of more than 29 million digital New Zealand treasures have CC licence filters, and POND allows for CC licensing of works when New Zealand schools have CC policies in place.
But, if you step outside of New Zealand, you find we’re actually really behind. 14 There is still much awareness needed to grow and work to change the status quo and create a more level, equitable, and informed playing field for all people.
In Cape Town I made lifelong connections with innovative and open-minded professionals who believe that information and access to it improves societies. Two months later there have already been inspiring results from fellows in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Canada, USA and Brazil.
Creative Commons NZ and CORE Education are local contact points within New Zealand’s education sector if your school, centre, or Kura want to explore more, and help get Aotearoa’s global Open footprint bigger, better, and more widely know.
If the Web has achieved anything, it’s that it’s eliminated the need for gatekeepers, and allowed creators—all of us—to engage directly without intermediaries, and to be accountable directly to each other.”
– Ryan Merkley, CEO Creative Commons.
- A Quiet Revolution — Creative Commons New Zealand’s free eBook.
- Cable Green, open education and sharing — Podcast from Radio New Zealand.
- Creative Commons – Education — An all you need to know background piece.
- Examples of high quality open textbooks in various disciplines
- How to use Open Educational Resources, a self-paced workshop — Incorporate Open Educational Resources (OER) into your teaching practice
- Open Education Resources and Collaborative Content Development. A practical guide for state and school leaders
- Three in four U.S. teachers say open educational resources are used more often than textbooks
- Why openness in education? — A chapter from Game Changers, exploring a number of ways openness affects the practice of Teaching and Learning.