Open educational resources (OER) are free, openly licensed educational resources, including textbooks, videos, tutorials, and more. Users of OER can engage with the content with minimal restrictions based on Creative Commons licensing:
“OERs are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” UNESCO (2019)
This guide provides an overview of how to search for, find, and evaluate OER; copyright considerations; and specific examples of Open Textbooks for MSVU teaching subjects.
There are many OER repositories to search from; a curated list of the most prominent databases is below.
In Canada, copyright is defined as “sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form” and it “provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer’s performances, sound recordings and communication signals.”
For more information about copyright, please see our Copyright and Fair Dealing Guide.
Using a Creative Commons license does not negate copyright – it modifies the terms of copyright, allowing others to use a work with attribution, that is, while recognizing the intellectual property of the copyright holder(s). As Creative Commons states, “CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights.”
If you are adapting an existing open textbook, the adaptations you make will be released with whatever open license you choose, while the rest of the book will be released under the license of the original book. In other words, you need to respect the license of the original work. You cannot license what you do not create. You can only attach a CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution), or other open license to the parts of the book that you have created and are new.
However, there is a “catch.” If the textbook you are adapting has a Share-Alike condition (CC BY-SA 4.0) stipulated, then you must release the entire book using the same license as the original book.
Below are the definitions of each of the Creative Commons licenses. If you are unsure which CC license you would like to use, you can use the Creative Commons Choose a License tool.
Attribution: CC BY
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
Attribution-ShareAlike: CC BY-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
Attribution-NoDerivs: CC BY-ND
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
Attribution-NonCommercial: CC BY-NC
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: CC BY-NC-ND
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
Attribution: some content is from the Faculty OER Toolkit by Shannon Moist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. The Creative Commons license definitions and images listed on this page have been copied from Creative Commons and are used under a CC BY 4.0 license.