Learning Unit

Open Educational Resources

Time: 110 min    Goal: Being able to find, use and publish OERs for educational purposes.

  • #CC-Licences
  • #Creating OER
  • #Creative Commons
  • #Examples
  • #Finding OER
  • #Learning Material
  • #OER
  • #Open Educational Resources
  • #Open Licences
  • #Resources
  • #Sharing
  • #Using OER
Time: 5 min

Understanding Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)? Why should teachers pay attention to them? By following the link, you can access a short introduction to the topic of Open Educational Resources.

What are open educational resources (OER)?

Open educational resources (OER) are digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.

REFERENCES + LICENSE: The text “What are open educational resources (OER)?” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

Why you, as an educator, should get involved with OER

Creation of OER has big benefits to individuals, educational institutions and society as a whole. If you are an educator it makes sense to create and use OER.

In Higher or Tertiary education, and for researchers, OER is not just about access to materials, but about making it possible (usually via open access models) to share materials more easily and creating platforms for more work to become visible (and therefore attract funding).

Why re-invent the wheel?

Teachers are responsible for creating great learning experiences, not (necessarily) for creating all the resources needed for this themselves. Reusing existing OER frees up time that can be spent on other aspects of the teaching and learning process. Their use can help you expand your range of teaching materials.

Raising your profile

Getting your materials out there as an educator can both help raise your profile and allow your resources to be improved by other users. You will improve your profile and impact, potentially collecting kudos/evidence towards promotion.

Take your resources with you

By making your teaching resources open you are also allowing yourself to take these materials with you when you move from one institution to another.

Improving your teaching

Creating OER will improve your practice by encouraging you to reflect. You will find people interested in and teaching/learning the same areas as you. Use and creation of OER facilitates looking outside your immediate environment and getting broader and different views on topic areas. You will learn new stuff which will reinvigorate your teaching.

REFERENCES + LICENSE: The text “Why you should get involved with (using) OER (as an educator)?”, via, was re-mixed from The Open Education Handbook licensed under a CC BY 3.0

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Time: 10 min

Creating and Sharing OER

Open Educational Resources enable teachers to share knowledge globally and for it to be re-purposed, so they can refer to ready-made resources when planning their teaching. Follow the link for a demonstration of how OERs can be made publicly available.

What to consider when creating an OER?

If you are creating open educational resources, or if you wish to apply a Creative Commons licence to existing resources, please consider the following points.

  1. Do you have permission to use and share any third party content included in the resource? This means any content you do not own the copyright of, e.g. an image or diagram created by someone else.
  2. Have you included attribution and license information for all third party content you include in the resource? If you include any Creative Commons licensed content created by a third party, you must include attribution to the creator and the licence information.  We also recommend that you provide attribution to any public domain content that you use.
  3. Are you able to provide alternative formats for those who need them? This might include people who find certain resources hard to access because of visual impairment, dyslexia, mental health conditions or other special requirements.
  4. If your resource includes images, have they been alt tagged with descriptions?  Alt tags help people who use screen readers to access online content.
  5. If you are creating video resources, have you included subtitles? Media Hopper Create provides automated subtitling.
  6. Have you added a Creative Commons licence?  Make sure you add a Creative Commons licence to your resource.  If your resource includes third party open licensed content, you must make sure that you use a compatible open licence.


If you want people to be able to re-purpose and re-use your open educational resources, please consider making them available in an easily customisable format so that users can adapt them to meet the needs of their own learners.

Choosing a Creative Commons Licence for your resource

Creative Commons licenses provide a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; while ensuring proper attribution; and allowing others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works.

When you are choosing a Creative Commons licence, it is important to think carefully about how you want your resource to be used, as different licences provide different permissions.

If you are considering using a Non-Commercial licence, which will prevent anyone from using your resource for commercial purposes, you may find that applying a Share-Alike licence will meet your needs by ensuring that any new work incorporating yours must also be made freely available under the same licence for others to use and re-mix.

If you are considering using a No-Derivatives licence, it is important to be aware that this will significantly limit how your resource can be reused, as this licence prevents the resources from being altered in any way.  There may be good reasons for choosing this licence, e.g. if the content of your resource could potentially become misleading if it was changed in any way, however we recommend that you think carefully before choosing this licence.

Adding a Creative Commons Licence to your resource

It’s very easy to apply a Creative Commons licence to your work.  The simplest way is to write the licence as a string of text, e.g.

© J. Smith, University of Edinburgh, 2020, CC BY-SA.

If you use the Creative Commons Licence Chooser it will allow you to copy an HTML embed code which will enable you to add your licence to any web page. This code includes machine readable metadata that allows software and applications to understand which licence you’ve applied to your work.

Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

If your resource contains third party content that has also been released under open licence you may want to add an additional clause to your licence statement.  Remember to always attribute any third party content that you use!

© J. Smith, University of Edinburgh, 2020, CC BY-SA, unless otherwise indicated.

Where possible, we recommend that your embed attribution and licence information in your resources, e.g. in a slide at the end of a video, rather than adding it to the page your resource is embedded in.  This will help to ensure the licence information doesn’t get lost when the resource is reused.

Where to share your open educational resources

Written and interactive digital teaching resources should be published in an appropriate repository or public-access website in order to maximise discovery and use by others. Where OERs have been created as part of an externally funded activity, any storage and/or repository locations mandated as a condition of the funding should be used.

You are encouraged to share your Creative Commons licensed resources anywhere that they can be found by others.

REFERENCES + LICENSES: The text “What to consider when creating an OER” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

The text “Choosing a Creative Commons Licence for your resource” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

The text “Adding a Creative Commons Licence to your resource” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via,  is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

The text “Where to share your open educational resources” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened and rephrased by SEA-EU.

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Time: 10 min

How to Use OER

With Open Educational Resources, teachers can both share knowledge globally so that it can be re-purposed and also access ready-made resources for use in their own teaching. Follow the link to learn more about how to access and re-use OERs.

Re-using and Re-purposing OERs

Open educational resources are digital resources used in the context of teaching and learning that have been released under an open licence permitting their use and re-purposing by others.

The real value of open educational resources is that they can be adapted, customised, and re-contextualised to meet the specific needs of learners.  This might involve translating a resource, changing examples to a local context, using only part of a resource, or combining a resource with other materials.  There are many different ways you can re-use and re-purpose OERs.  However, it is important that you comply with the licence restrictions of any open educational resources you use, as outlined below.

Providing attribution

In order to use a Creative Commons licensed open educational resource you must provide attribution to the creator.  Good attribution includes the following information:

Title: The title of the resource.

Creator: The name of the creator or copyright holder of the resource.

Licence: The licence of the resource.

Source: A link to the original source of the resource.

Creative Commons licence restrictions

Some restrictions to be aware of when using open educational resources

You must always Attribute the creator of a resource.

NonCommercial licences restrict the use of a work to non-commercial use only.  When using NC licensed content you should consider how the work will be used, not the nature of the organisation using it. For example, commercial organisations can legitimately use NC licensed content for not for profit purposes. 

You must not make any changes to works licensed No Derivatives. This includes, but is not limited to, adding subtitles, making translations or cropping images.  This means that while CC BY-ND resources can be re-used, they can not be adapted, edited, or re-purposed.

You must share derivatives of ShareAlike licensed works under the same licence.

Using Public Domain resources

If you are using a public domain resource, you do not need to provide attribution, however it is useful to mark it as a public domain resource and include a link to the original source so other users will know that they can also re-use it.

Where to find OERs

There are many different repositories and websites where you can easily find open education resources.

Open Repositories

Open repositories allow anyone to upload and download learning resources, often in multiple formats, for reuse and remixing. Theses repositories provide a wide variety of open educational resources, which are often accompanied by information about educational levels, aims and objective, and how resources can be used.

Specialised Content Sites

Additionally there are many generic online services that host specific media formats. Some you may be familiar with include Flickr, Soundcloud, and YouTube.  Most of these sites provide advanced search functionality to enable you to find Creative Commons licensed resources that can be used in education.

Finding OERs using search services

There are a number of search services that allow you quickly and easily find a wide range of open educational resources and open licensed content.


Google allows you to filter your search results in order to find Creative Commons licensed images.

To do this, go to Google Image search and enter your search term. Click the Tools option to bring up an additional menu bar that enables you to  filter your search results by size, colour, usage rights, type and time.

Select  ‘Usage rights’ to choose from a drop down menu with the following options:

  • Not filtered by license
  • Labeled for reuse with modification
  • Labeled for reuse
  • Labelled for noncommercial reuse with modification
  • Labeled for non-commercial reuse

 Selecting “Labeled for reuse” will return all Creative Commons licensed images.

Note: Before reusing content, check the licence details on the source page and check the exact terms of reuse. For example, the licence might require that you give credit to the image creator when you use the image or have additional requests that Google is unable to pick up in a general search.

Reverse Image Search

You can use the Google Chrome browser to search for the source of an image. Right click the image and select “Search Google for image”. This should help you to find the original source of an image and any associated licence information.  

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons have their own CC Search service that allows you to search for open licensed and public domain images from a wide range of sources including Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Smithsonian, Europeana, NASA, Rijksmuseum and more.

The service provides attribution and licence information to copy and share in three different formats.

There is also a CC Search browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera which allows you to search for and filter CC licensed content.


Europeana allows you to cross search thousands of European archives, libraries and museums to find cultural heritage content of all kinds.  Europeana’s advanced search facility has a number of filters including “Can I use this?” which enables you to find public domain and open licensed content.

REFERENCES + LICENSES: The text “How to use OERs” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

The text “Where to find OERs” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

The text “Finding OERs using search devices” by the Interactive Content Team, The University of Edinburgh, via, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

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Time: 10 min

Planning an OER Project

Do you want to create your own OER or OER project? You can use this canvas to help you from idea collection to making a concrete plan. It responds to the following questions: what do teachers and others have to consider when planning an OER project? How do you proceed? The guide can be downloaded and printed.

License: The canvas „OER project" by Sandra Schön and Martin Ebner 2018, Originally developed in German for OERinfo – Informationsstelle OER (2017) -, translated by the authors with support of Alicia Bankhofer and Javiera Atenas, via, is licensed by CC BY.

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Time: 75 min

Finding OER

There are many archives and databases containing collections of OERs that are available free of charge for use and adaptation. Teachers can both help each other and be helped by each other. Just follow the link to see an example of an OER collection.

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