Creative Commons is:
Creative Commons began in response to what many considered an outdated copyright legal system. The original intent of copyright was to provide a limited monopoly on creative works in order to incentivize creators to create more work and add to society's intellectual capital. However, over time, the continued extension to the length of copyright turned the monopoly into a barrier to those wishing to use and build on the work of others. From this tension the Creative Commons was born.
Creative Commons licenses don't replace copyright, rather they build on copyright and provide creators with additional options to share their work. Creative Commons acts to relieve the tension between a creator's desire to derive attribution for their work and their desire to share their work broadly to allow for continued creativity and cultural engagement. Creative Commons licenses allow creators to open their work to the wider culture while guaranteeing that others attribute to them their place in the creative process.
In addition to being a legal set of tools, Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that exists to facilitate the use of CC licenses and to educate about the commons and the open movement. Today there are over 1.4 million works that use Creative Commons licenses, and the Creative Commons organization is involved in global educational efforts to promote open movements in education, cultural institutions, science, and government policy. Creative Commons continues to work to improve the technical infrastructure to make it easier to find and use content in the digital commons.
Take a look at this video for a brief overview of the Creative Commons organization and movement.
Many people start out looking for OER using Google. A general search with Google returns vast amounts of resources, most of which are not openly licensed for reuse. If you want to use Google to search for openly licensed resources we recommend you use:
Scroll down in advanced search and set “usage rights” parameters to be “Free to use, share, or modify”.
If you want content for commercial use be sure to select the appropriate option.
Google search returns a vast array of openly licensed resources that may require extensive sifting to yield useful nuggets. The other search recommendations on this page are likely to yield more targeted results.
1.2 CC Search
CC Search, the Creative Commons search tool, lets you pick a range of general sources and media types which you want to search for. Give it a try at:
The CC Search tool automatically filters your search to find Creative Commons licensed resources that you can share, use, and remix.
Searching for photos or images?
2.1 CC Search
CC Search, the Creative Commons search tool, lets you lets you pick a number of image sources you want to search across including Flickr, Fotopedia, Google Images, Open Clip Art Library, Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay. The CC Search tool automatically filters your search to find Creative Commons licensed resources that you can share, use, and remix. Give it a try at:
If you prefer to do your searches directly from these sources direct links to each of these image sources are provided below. If you choose to do your search directly from the image source sites be sure to set the parameters of your search to define openly licensed usage rights and review the usage rights associated with any image you find.
Be sure to scroll down in advanced search and set “usage rights” parameters to be “Free to use, share, or modify”.
If you want content for commercial use be sure to select the appropriate option.
Note, that Pixabay images are public domain images you can freely use for personal and commercial use without attribution to the original author. While Pixabay can be a good way to find public domain images your search will also return proprietary professional images Pixabay offers for sale.
Note, that ClipSafari images are public domain images you can freely use for personal and commercial use without attribution to the original author.
To find images openly licensed click “advanced options” in the top, right-hand side screen. Change the “any license” to an open license – reuse, commercial and modification options available.
2.7 The Noun Project
The Noun Project is a platform empowering the community to build a global visual language of icons and symbols that everyone can understand. Symbols and icons on The Noun Project are licensed using Creative Commons.
The sources above are online image databases. In addition to these sources there are many openly licensed electronic publications and journals with images embedded throughout that you are also free to use. Here are just a few of many examples:
2.8 Encyclopedia of Life
The Encyclopedia of Life is an online collaborative encyclopedia providing global access to knowledge about biological life on earth. Entries are composed as written content with one or more pictures usually in the form of colour photographs. Content is provided by a wide variety of contributors but is reviewed for accuracy. All content on EOL is licensed under Creative Commons (CC) licenses, but each contributor defines what level of CC licensing is applicable to their content. Specific licensing information can be found adjacent to media or by clicking on desired media. If no reuse information is included then it is understood that there are no reuse restrictions other than providing credit when reusing the image.
2.9 Public Library of Science (PLOS)
PLOS is a non-profit publisher and advocacy organization focused on science and medicine. Every article they publish is open access. All written content and images are licensed using a Creative Commons Attribution license. Searching through PLOS journals and collections can yield many highly useful images including figures, tables, and graphs.
In addition to electronic publications and journals some galleries, museums and archives publish historical images online. For a great example see:
Europeana provides access to the digital resources of Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections including paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects. Not all the works are openly licensed so be sure to check for usage rights.
Searching for video? Try:
The best way to find a video that is licensed under the Creative Commons license on YouTube is to use the CC Search tool described above in the General Search and Photo/Image Search sections. Unfortunately YouTube does not provide a filter or advanced search capability on their home page for finding all YouTube Creative Commons licensed videos. However,http://www.youtube.com/creativecommons lets you see the most viewed and most reused Creative Commons licensed videos. In addition if you are the YouTube home page http://youtube.com and type in your search term followed by a comma and then “creativecommons” the videos returned are CC licensed. You can mark your videos with a Creative Commons license when uploading them to YouTube. You can also incorporate the millions of Creative Commons-licensed videos on YouTube when creating your own videos using the YouTube Video Editor. Within the YouTube Video Editor you can click on the CC tab to find content available under a Creative Commons license.
Vimeo lets you easily post and find Creative Commons licensed videos.
3.3 Internet Archive
The Internet Archive has a great collection of old video and movie footage. Looking for old cartoons, sports videos, ephemeral films, news footage? Check out the Internet Archive.
3.4 Ted – Ideas Worth Spreading
TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. On TED.com, the best talks and performances from TED and partners are made available to the world, for free. More than 900 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.
3.5 Al Jazeera
The Al Jazeera Creative Common Repository hosts select broadcast quality footage that Al Jazeera has released under various Creative Commons licenses. Select Al Jazeera video footage is available for free to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and eventually rebroadcasted by users and TV stations across the world with acknowledgement to Al Jazeera. This is the first time that video footage produced by a news broadcaster is released under the ‘Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution’ license which allows for commercial and non-commercial use.
Searching for openly licensed audio sounds or music? Try:
Jamendo offers more than 350,000 free music tracks licensed under Creative Commons, all available for streaming and unlimited download without ads. It allows the public to discover thousands of artists of all genres who have chosen to distribute their music independently outside the traditional system of collecting societies. Jamendo artists can choose to join the Jamendo PRO service that allows them to sell commercial licenses of their music for professional uses, such as music synchronization for audio-visual productions or broadcasting in public spaces. You can search for music on Jamendo using the CC Search tool or directly on the Jamendo web site.
ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want. Looking for music for a video, school project, game you’re developing, or podcast? Find music liberally licensed – using dig.ccMixter music discovery tool.
4.3 Internet Archive
In addition to video mentioned above the Internet Archive has a great collection of audio. Searching for animal sounds, old time radio shows, sound effects and even music. The Internet Archive may have what you’re looking for.
4.4 Free Music Archive
The Free Music Archive offers free downloads under Creative Commons and other licenses. Please visit the track page to discover what you can and cannot do with each track.
SoundCloud is a social sound platform for people to create and share music and sounds. Recording and uploading sounds to SoundCloud lets people easily share them privately with their friends or publicly to blogs, sites and social networks. Many SoundCloud songs and sounds are licensed with Creative Commons. Use the url http://soundcloud.com/creativecommons to see SoundCloud sounds and songs licensed with Creative Commons.
The search tools profiled above are for educators who are simply looking for individual media elements to use within their courses. However, an even higher value can be gained by finding Open Educational Resources (OER) that other educators have already vetted and assembled into education content such as full courses, workshops, textbooks, tests and assessments. This search section is focused on helping you find this kind of OER.
Looking to search across multiple OER initiatives? Try:
5.1 OER Commons
OER Commons has forged alliances with over 120 major content partners to provide a single point of access through which educators and learners can search across collections to access over 30,000 items, find and provide descriptive information about each resource, and retrieve the ones they need. These resources are publicly available for all to use principally through Creative Commons licensing.
5.2 The Orange Grove Digital Repository
The Orange Grove digital repository provides an environment for educators to search for, use, remix, share, and contribute educational resources. A wide range of K-12 and post-secondary resources are available. The repository can also be integrated with a Learning Management Systems (e.g., Blackboard, Desire 2 Learn, Canvas) . Resources are free for educational use but may be protected through various copyright statements associated with each resource.
Many institutions have recorded on-campus lectures and published them as OER licensed with Creative Commons. Short video tutorials on a particular subject are also available.
Searching for recorded lectures or video tutorials? Try:
6.1 Open Yale Courses
Open Yale Courses (OYC) provide lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses licensed using Creative Commons. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences. Each course includes a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets. The lectures are available as downloadable videos, and an audio-only version is also offered. In addition, searchable transcripts of each lecture are provided.
MIT has their own MIT YouTube channel where recorded lectures are uploaded.
MIT is also well known for the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, a Creative Commons licensed web-based publication of virtually all MIT on campus course content online including lecture notes, exams, and videos. Courses with substantial video and/or audio components are listed here.
6.3 UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley’s webcast.berkeley is a central service for online video and audio lectures. From the home page you can search for a particular course or simply choose to view all courses. Video and audio lectures are licensed as Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) and made available through YouTube and/or iTunes.
6.4 Khan Academy
The Khan Academy has a large library of videos covering math, biology, chemistry, physics and even the humanities, finance and history. Khan videos aren’t so much recorded lectures as short 10 minute long tutorials with an instructor narrating explanations and working things out on a board by hand on your computer screen. Check out Khan’s library of videos.
Searching for open textbooks? Try:
7.1 Open Textbook Library
The costs of college is going up every year, and it’s not just tuition that weighs on student’s minds and bank accounts. According to the College Board, undergraduates spend an average of $1200 on textbooks annually. Faced with these costs, the academic impact is seen in classrooms across the country–many students choose to not buy a required text, take fewer courses, and some even drop or fail a course completely. Open textbooks are a solution. The Open Textbook Library provides a growing catalog of free, peer-reviewed, and openly-licensed textbooks. As part of their service they provide a listing of Open Textbooks by Subject.
7.2 BCcampus OpenEd
The goal of the project is to make higher education more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of openly licensed textbooks. BCcampus was tasked with co-ordination of the project because of our 10-year experience funding OER in British Columbia, Canada. Specifically, the project was asked to create a collection of open textbooks aligned with the top 40 highest-enrolled subject areas in the province. A second phase was announced in the spring of 2014 in which an additional 20 textbooks targeting trades, technology, and skills training would be developed. As part of their service they provide a listing of Open Textbooks by Subject.
7.3 College Open Textbooks
The Community College Open Textbooks Collaborative, funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is focused on driving awareness and adoptions of open textbooks. This includes providing training for instructors adopting open resources, peer reviews of open textbooks, and mentoring online professional networks that support for authors opening their resources, and other services. As part of their service they provide a listing of Open Textbooks by Subject.
7.4 Open Stax College
OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. OpenStax free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of courses. See the free, CC BY licensed, high quality textbooks they provide here.
Siyavula supports and encourages communities of teachers to work together, openly share their teaching resources and benefit from the use of technology. Siyavula has created a series of open textbooks for math and science Grades 10-12. They have also developed an online practice service, modelled on exam questions, which allows learners to practise math andscience questions they may find in their tests and exams. This practice service is well integrated with the Siyavula textbooks and these resources work together to ensure learners excel in Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Learners are able to practise using their mobile phones or computers.
CK-12 offers free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects. By providing these free resources, CK-12 is working toward educational equity for all. CK-12 provides an integrated set of tools for learning including digital textbooks, concept-based learning, SAT prep, and interactive Algebra curriculum (with additional math and science subjects in progress). CK-12 resources are openly licensed using Creative Commons.
Boundless is offering services that use OER to create a free replacement to a student’s assigned textbook that covers the same key concepts more efficiently. Boundless is currently focused on AP High School and Introductory level College courses in the following 8 subjects: American History, Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Business, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and Writing. They are planning to expand into more subjects.
PhET provides fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free. PhET simulations enable students to make connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, deepening their understanding and appreciation of the physical world. All PhET simulations are freely available from the PhET website and are easy to use and incorporate into the classroom. They are written in Java and Flash, and can be run using a standard web browser as long as Flash and Java are installed. The PhET Interactive Simulations are distributed under the Creative Commons-Attribution 3.0 license and the Creative Commons GNU General Public License. Here’s a list of PhET simulations.
Searching for modular course components? Try:
Connexions is a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc. Anyone may view or contribute. Content is licensed with Creative Commons.
Curriki is a leading K-12 global community for teachers, students, and parents to create, share, and find open learning resources that improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. Curriki has OER for Arts, Career & Technical Education, Education, Educational Technology, Health, Information & Media Literacy, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Languages all licensed using Creative Commons.
MERLOT is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT provides collections of peer reviewed online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services. Most, but not all, Merlot resources are Creative Commons licensed.
WikiEducator is a community project working collaboratively with the Free Culture Movement towards a free version of the education curriculum. Driven by the learning for development agenda WikiEducator focuses on:
The OERu initiative taking place in WikiEducator is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.
Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning. Wikiversity has thousands of learning resources licensed with Creative Commons.
Jorum is a JISC-funded Service in Development in UK Further and Higher Education, to collect and share learning and teaching materials, allowing their reuse and repurposing. This free online repository service forms a key part of the JISC Information Environment, and is intended to become part of the wider landscape of repositories being developed institutionally, locally, regionally or across subject areas. Jorum contains learning and teaching resources, shared on a worldwide basis under the terms of a Creative Commons (CC) Attribution Non-Commercial licence. The creators and owners of this content are willing and are able to share their content on this basis
Searching for complete courses?
Have a look through these OER initiatives from around the world:
10.1 Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative
The Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative (OLI) is a grant-funded group at Carnegie Mellon University, offering innovative, Creative Commons licensed, online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. OLI’s courses are delivered on their unique platform which uses student data to generate targeted feedback. Courses range from French language to biology, statistics, programming and more. OLI is one of the OPEN partners providing a range of services to TAACCCT grantees. See http://open4us.org/services/ for a description of OLI services you can tap in to.
The Open Course Library is a collection of expertly developed educational materials – including textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments – in 81 high-enrollment college courses, providing faculty with a high-quality, affordable option that will cost students no more than $30 for textbooks. All materials are shared under a Creative Commons (CC BY) license unless otherwise noted. Open Course Library is an initiative of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.
10.3 MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT campus based course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity. Courses are Creative Commons licensed.
10.4 OpenCourseWare Consortium Search
Several universities publish their course materials for free online, under the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, as described on the OpenCourseWare Consortium website. OCW Search is an independent search engine that indexes all these courses so you can find these courses faster. Currently, the following universities’ OCW are included in OCW Search:
– Stanford Engineering Everywhere
– Open University LearningSpace
– University of Massachusetts (UMass) – Boston
– University of Tokyo
– Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
– School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins
– Notre Dame
– Delft University of Technology
– Yale University
10.5 UK Open University Learning Space
The UK Open University Learning Space has 600 free online courses available from introductory to postgraduate level. All courses are licensed with Creative Commons.
Saylor.org is a free and open collection of college level courses developed by a team of experienced college professors to fulfill the same learning objectives as traditional college courses. Courses are licensed using Creative Commons.
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This is a partial listing of OER sources which we hope you find useful. We welcome additions or revisions to this listing. Send your feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Jennifer Freeman and Deborah Zulick of the Massachusetts Community College/Workforce Development Transformation Agenda for sharing their list of OER sources.