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A Guide to Teaching with OER: Open & Free Materials

This guide is intended to assist faculty in identifying open and alternative textbook options for specific courses.

Online Works and Copyright

"Available" does NOT always mean "open" in the same ways. A creator may choose to share their creation online but still retain exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and perform that creation and to create derivative works based upon it.

Do not assume that anything / everything you find on the internet is automatically open access.

Always check for copyright or license restrictions! It is your responsibility to verify HOW you may use a work. 

Linking Versus Uploading

Whenever reasonable, opt for linking to resources, as opposed to downloading them and posting them in Blackboard yourself. There are several reasons for this:

  • If you are uncertain about the copyright restrictions and your right to redistribute the content, then linking protects you from potential infringement claims. 
  • Authors and publishers sometimes update resources to correct errors or add information. By linking, you will know your students are always getting the most current and correct version of the resource. A PDF that you download and post to Blackboard may become an outdated version. 
  • It's usually less work to just copy and paste a hyperlink than to download a file and re-upload it into Blackboard! 

If you feel it is especially important to upload a resource in a specific context, just check the license or terms of use to be sure you're within your rights to do so. 

Open Licensing Playbook

"Open licensing of instructional materials such as textbooks, videos, and other related resources makes possible free sharing and remixing which reduces cost barriers for students.  Creative Commons provides the legal infrastructure for easily sharing creative works including instructional materials but how do the different licenses indicate a resource can be re-used.  Join us for an interactive session of playbook license scenarios where you test your knowledge of the OER re-use based on license type."

Creative Commons Licensing

Creators will often use Creative Commons (CC) licenses to specify, in detail, what rights are protected or permitted. They may allow their work to be used, but only in non-commercial ways (not to make money). Or they may require attribution when their work is used. 

The graphic below explains the license options, ranging from "Most Free" (e.g., fewest restrictions) to "Least Free" (e.g.,  most restrictions). Click on the poster for a larger version.

When an author assigns a CC license (except for CC0), they still retain copyright ownership of their work; they are simply being more generous in permitting use of their work. The exception is CC0 -- this license releases a work into the public domain and it is free of all copyright restrictions.

Creative Commons Licenses Explained

 

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