Day 2: The “O” of OER

Coffee Conversations

Day 2: The “O” of OER


Moderators Morgan and MadiBy Morgan Staudinger and Madi Smith

Today, we’ll be exploring what the “O” in OER exactly means. Then we’ll go into how openness relates to education. I know, but I promise it’s a worthwhile read to learn more about openness!

A range of ‘open’ philosophies and models have emerged during the 20th Century as a result of several different drivers and motivations – including sharing freely, preventing duplication, avoiding restrictive (Copyright) practices, promoting economic efficiencies, and improving access to wide groups of stakeholders. Many of these have been driven by and created by communities that recognize the benefits to themselves, and sometimes to wider groups. Some of these are listed below:

Book covers

  • Open source (relating to business and technology)
  • Open source software
  • Open source hardware
  • Open standards
  • Open access (research)
  • Open design
  • Open knowledge
  • Open data
  • Open content
  • Open courseware
  • Open educational resources
  • Open educational practice

Several of these ‘movements’ or ‘philosophies’ have been significant within the education community both in terms of research and learning & teaching (particularly educational technology). While it is widely expected that sharing and openness would bring benefits to some stakeholders in the educational community, traditional cultures and practices, managerial approaches and processes, and perceived legal complexities have been identified as barriers to sharing both within and across institutions.

While the terms ‘open content’ and ‘open courseware’ are sometimes used to mean the wide range of resources to support learning and teaching, one is fairly broad and the other very specific. We have chosen to use the term Open Educational Resources (OER) as this relates to resources that are specifically licensed to be used and re-used in an educational context (source).

Watch David’s Wiley’s TEDxNYED , stopping at 5:37, to get a good understanding of what openness is and how it relates to education.

From Closed to Open

Every time a work is created, such as when a textbook is written or a photograph is taken, that work is automatically protected by copyright. Copyright protection prevents others from using the work in certain ways, such as copying the work or putting the work online without permission from the creator. This is called “all rights reserved.”

A creative work is in the public domain when its copyright has expired, was forfeited, or is otherwise inapplicable. This most often occurs when the author of a creative work has been dead for many years (the length can vary as specified under US copyright laws). In addition, most resources created by employees of the federal government as part of their job automatically reside in the public domain. These works have “no rights reserved” and can be used or modified by anyone with no restrictions.

Alternatively, when a creator or copyright holder assigns an open license to their work they are specifying how they want others to reuse it. Open licensing does not replace copyright. Open licenses work with copyright to promote shared use. This changes the copyright from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

“Creative Commons: a user guide” by Simone Aliprandi, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 m “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”The 5Rs of OER

A useful way to appreciate the value of OER is to understand what you, the user of openly licensed content, are allowed to do with it. These permissions are granted in advance, and are legally established through Public Domain or Creative Commons copyrights. Learn more about the 5Rs of OER.

Creative Commons Licenses

General rights for copying and re-purposing are what make OER different from any other educational resources available online free of charge. In the case of Open Educational Resources, all users are given the right to copy and re-purpose without needing to request permission from copyright holders (as long as they adhere to license conditions, such as attribution); the users’ rights are clearly specified and easily understandable. Most OER materials are published under free creative commons licenses or are available in the Public Domain. Learn more about the different licenses.


The text of this work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  All images and videos retain their respective licenses. 


Comment below

Activity 2

Do you agree with what David Wiley says about Openness and Education? Why or why not? Comment below to join the discussion!

2 thoughts on “Day 2: The “O” of OER

  1. Welcome to day two of our coffee conversations! I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed watched David’s Wiley’s talk on Open Education. I think it brings up a great point that education has to be open due to the innate nature of sharing information. When we don’t share educational material we are not helping the greater good. That is my opinion, comment below on what you think!!

  2. Going off of what Morgan said, I think it is startling to think of a world where information and knowledge was kept to the author. This reminds me of the struggles Martin Luther had with printing the Bible in the peoples’ language, while the Catholic Church sought to keep it in Latin for only the scholarly to read. We likely wouldn’t have made as many advancements as we have today if we kept information to ourselves. However, that’s not to say that people shouldn’t be credited for their work! I think that Creative Commons licensing fits that sweet spot of giving credit where credit is due while allowing for explicit understanding of the user’s rights to that content.

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