Creative Commons was launched in the United States in 2002, and over the years creators of all kinds in the United States have applied CC licenses to their work. This note focuses on one group – educators. Creative Commons launched with MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Rice Connexions as early adopters. Since then, a wide range of educators and publishers have produced Open Educational Resources using CC licenses. Out of Rice Connexions has grown the leading producer of CC-licensed college textbooks – OpenStax College.
CC licenses provide the legal backbone for Open Educational Resources (OER). CC licenses are particularly valuable in the educational domain because they allow for learning materials to be updated, translated, localized, and copied for free. Recognizing these features of CC licenses, the United States Departments of Education and Labor are jointly administering a grant program in the amount of $2 billion over four years to create community college level job training courses.
All materials produced for these courses must be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license to maximize their reusability.
The United States Department of State has embraced the flexibility that CC licenses enable with educational materials to promote STEM education in the Middle East with its Open Book Project, which uses OpenStax books translated into Arabic.
State governments also are realizing that open textbooks can save school districts and students money and provide more up-to-date, better learning materials in the classroom. Those interested in learning more about this movement, can check out projects like the California Open Source Textbook Project, the State of Washington’s OER Project, and the Utah Open Textbook Project.
Other associations of state education leaders, such as the Council of Chief State Schools Officers have been doing ongoing education about OER, as has been the case at the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
See also this report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).
Philanthropic organizations in the United States also have been important catalysts for the growth of OER. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have been longtime investors in the field. The CK-12 Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Khan Academy, and the Saylor Foundation also have made important investments in producing CC licensed learning materials and courses.
Other providers or portals of OER include, Curriki, MERLOT, OER Commons, the Open Course Library, and interactive science simulations from PhET.
We can’t detail all of the tremendous work being done by OER advocates, but we can point to a few to further illustrate the great potential that openly licensed materials have for improving the quality of educational materials and greatly increasing access to these. Student PIRGs have been showing how open textbooks can produce significant savings for financially challenged students. David Wiley has been a leader in the field for a long time, and is now helping educational institutions adopt and localize OER through a new venture, Lumen Learning.
If you’re doing something to produce, use, or promote CC-licensed educational materials in the United States, let us know here.