4.3 What do I need to consider when creating or remixing an OER?

You’ve looked at a range of OEP, locating and attributing an OER, and using and curating and reusing others’ materials to create a new OER but what about when you have material that you’ve created and you want to openly license it? Earlier the course looked at reasons educators might openly license their resources. The following sections of the course will look at how to openly license your work. However, beforehand, there are a few key questions to consider before you give a resource an open licence.

Is it appropriate to go open?

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Figure 4.2 ‘Truer words have never been printed on a mint can’ (Alan Levine, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ cogdog/ 23029370395/ in/ photostream/ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , CC BY 2.0)

Depending on what type of material you are thinking about openly licensing, you need to consider whether it is appropriate to apply an open licence to a resource you’ve created. Issues of confidentiality and lack of control over reuse might be a concern, particularly if you are encouraging students to work in the ‘open’ or are involved in research. Or perhaps you are concerned about how your resource or material might be reused: what happens if someone reuses your work within a context that you find offensive? Have you any grounds for redress?

As mentioned earlier, once a resource is ‘in the wild’ and available for download/reuse under open licence terms, it is very difficult to track its reuse, as people may retain copies of the material. This is why you cannot retract an open licence; your only recourse is to remove the original resource so that nobody else can reuse it.

With regard to reusing material in contexts that the creator does not support, CC has a number of guidelines and suggestions on how to approach this issue, should it arise, as you are not necessarily endorsing reuse of your material. Read the Creative Commons guidelines ‘Considerations for licensors and licensees’ and ‘Frequently asked questions’ for more on these questions and more general considerations before openly licensing material.

Copyright or Intellectual Property

Once you have decided that you want to openly license a resource it is important to first ascertain whether the resource(s) or materials you intend to license actually belong to you or whether you need to seek permission to openly license the resource you want to include. For example, if you create material at work is it considered to belong to your place of work or you? In other words, who owns the intellectual property (IP)?

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Figure 4.3 ‘Copyright graffiti’ (opnsource.com, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ opensourceway/ 5537457973/ in/ photostream/, CC BY SA 2.0; based on original, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ horiavarlan/ 4273272605/)
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Figure 4.4 ‘Copyright books’ (Casey Fiesler, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ cfiesler/ 18284828896/ in/ photostream/, CC BY 2.0)

Ultimately, and because of the different and varied rules at different organisations and institutions, the best approach is to seek expert advice and consult with an appropriate person at your institution or place of work regarding the rights and intellectual property (IP) of materials you create at work. See the further reading section of the OEPS course for resources on these topics and Section 2.4 for examples of institutional open licensing policies.

Facilitating reuse of your OER

Are you happy to go ahead and openly license that resource and sure that you hold the copyright? That is great! However, before you start thinking about what kind of licence you want to apply to your material, it’s worth taking time to think about how best you can facilitate reuse of the resource. To create a resource that can be easily found, reused and remixed can involve more than just openly licensing the material and ensuring that the open licence will ‘travel’ with the resource.

David Wiley’s 5Rs which highlighted characteristics of OER (see also Section 2.5) are useful to consider when thinking about best practice for sharing OER and how one can best facilitate ‘openness’ and make it easier for people to use OER. For example, how can you help facilitate the redistribution of the resource you create? Or how do you ensure that an OER can be remixed or reused? Moreover, how can you facilitate ‘ownership’ of a resource (the ‘retain’ of the 5Rs)? Take a look back at the matrix in Section 4.2 to consider how the material you choose to remix impacts on this.

In part this depends on what type of material you are openly licensing. If you share material online, how can you make it visible so that others can find it and easily determine that it meets their needs? For larger resources (e.g. courses) you will also need to make it easy for others to find specific content within the resource that they might want to reuse by providing an overview or summary. Think about how you can make your resource accessible to others, for example by providing it in different formats or by adding a transcript to a video?

It is useful, and often saves time, to address this type of question at the time of producing a resource (if you are making a resource from scratch or remixing/including OER in a new resource). To help make your resource visible and to facilitate reuse, here are some things to consider:

  • Inclusion of clear licensing and creator information within the resource itself and when you label the resource. This helps people to know who created the resource and how they would like it used. Remember that given the resource is ‘open’, if possible you want to provide this information in a way that will ‘travel’ with the resource as it is reused. If you have used others’ material this might limit how you can license your own resource (see Section 3.3) and you will need to ensure that you have included appropriate attribution in your own resource (for example with the material itself or in an acknowledgements section in your OER).
  • Appropriate metadata (labelling or description, e.g. tagging) will help people find your resource. How can you make your resource stand out? Find out more about metadata.
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Figure 4.5 ‘Accessible route’ (Jeremy Keith, https://www.flickr.com/ photos/ adactio/ 2535506956/, CC BY 2.0)
  • If appropriate, learning outcomes and a summary of what topics are covered by a resource can be useful to help people find material and decide if what you have created is right for them to reuse. What information do you look for when you are searching for documents or resources? Remember, not everyone has time to review documents in detail before deciding whether or not to download them.
  • What format(s) will you provide your resource in to make it easier for others to use and reuse? Can the resource be provided in a variety of formats? It is difficult to remix material that is in PDF format. It is also important to consider that not everyone has access to what might be considered ‘common’ software packages. Find out more in this guide: ‘FOSS open standards/ comparison of file formats’.
  • How can you make your resource accessible to others and where will it be hosted? It is important to ensure that as many people as possible can use your resource. Your institution or organisation may already have guidelines on accessibility. If not, you might want to review The Open University’s accessibility guidelines or read more about accessibility and OER in Section 4.6.

Ideally, in order to fulfil the practice of 5Rs, you want to make sure your resource is easy to find and use, has clear instructions on how to reuse it and its copyright (the open licence), in addition to giving some kind of overview and tagging to indicate what the resource includes (if appropriate). If possible, providing your resource in a few formats will also help facilitate reuse.

Activity 4B

Reflect on the following questions and write down your thoughts in your reflective log:

  • What kind of information do you think it would be useful to include with a resource?
  • What challenges or concerns do you have about releasing your own material?
  • How could you mitigate/address these?

4.4 What licence should I choose?