Once you find an OER how to use it

Once you’ve located an Open Education Resource, this could be anything from a lesson plan, to a presentation, a piece of music, you name it, check the licence to see if there are any restrictions around using the resource to create something new.

All of the Creative Commons licenses, except CC0, require that you provide attribution to the original creator of the work. The Creative Commons licence terms don’t actually state how you should provide a licence, instead it requires that you make a ‘best effort’.

As long as you follow any restrictions placed by the licence, you can use the resource for any purpose.

What attribution information do I need?

When providing attribution good rule of thumb is to use the acronym TASL, which stands for Title, Author, Source, Licence:

Title – What is the name of the material?

Author – Who created the material?

Source – Where did you find the material? / Where can someone else find the material?

Licence – How can the material be used?

Lastly, is there anything else you should know before using the material? E.g. When was it created, is the content accurate, is the source reliable?

Make sure you get the attribution right

Here are three attributions for an image provided by Creative Commons:

Picture of a circular glass pate on a green table. The plate is covered in multiple cupcakes, each cupcake has a decoration with the letters CC inside a black circle.

Attribution A)

Creative Commons 10th Birthday​ Celebration San Francisco” by tvol is​ licensed under CC BY 4.0

Good –  This attribution includes the full name of the photo with a hyperlink through to the image source, the name of the author with a hyperlink to the author’s page, and the CC licence that has been applied to the photo with a hyperlink through to the licence details.

We could improve this by also including the platform where the image was hosted so that if the attribution was provided on a resource not connected to the internet, the image could be found by someone wanting to look it up.

E.g. “Creative Commons 10th Birthday​ Celebration San Francisco” by tvol on Flickr is​ licensed under CC BY 4.0​


Attribution B) Photo by tvol  / CC BY

Average – This attribution has included the author name and the licence with hyperlinks, but has not named the photo to provide context or provided the full name of the licence.


Attribution C) 

Photo: Creative Commons

Incorrect – Does ‘Creative Commons’ refer to the name of the photo? The content? The creator? We don’t know. This attribution provides no useful information in order to trace back the author of the photo, nor has it provided any licensing details. We don’t know where it came from or whether it is licensed for re-use.

If you are unsure whether or not you are correctly attributing works on a CC licence the Creative Commons Wiki provides detailed information on how to correctly attribute resources for a variety of licences: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/Best_practices_for_attribution

Can I apply an open licence to a work I create using CC licensed resources made by others?

You may apply a copyright statement and licence to any resources you have created yourself. The University’s Open Education Resources policy encourages the use of Creative Commons licences on learning and teaching materials where appropriate.

If you are applying a Creative Commons licence to your own resource, you must ensure any third-party content you include in the resource (e.g. images, media, etc.) has been released under a compatible open licence or is in the public domain.

For example, if you create a video that includes some media that is in the public domain, some on an Attribution license, and others with a Share Alike licence, your new resource must be shared under the most restrictive of these. In this case that would be a Share Alike licence.


© Charlie Farley, University of Edinburgh, 2020, CC BY-SA.

Using Materials with a Non-Commercial Licence

Think carefully before including materials in your resource that are under a Creative Commons non-commercial licence, which can come in any of the variations including CC BY-NC, CC BY NC-SA, or CC BY-NC-ND. This is because non-commercial licences prohibit the sharing of an otherwise openly licensed resource on any platform with a for-profit element.

Using Materials with a Non-Derivative Licence

When using materials under a Creative Commons Non-derivative licence, it is important to ensure you adhere to this licence by making sure the relevant material is completely unchanged – you cannot make any alterations, including cropping.

License your Own Work

It is important to remember to apply a licence to your OER once it has been completed. It is worth thinking carefully about what licence to release your OER under due to the impact this will have on the way the OER is used.

Think carefully about who and how you may want your resource to be used and shared. If you are considering applying a Non-Commercial licence to your work to prevent anyone from using it in something they will require other people to pay to access, you may find that applying a Share-Alike licence to your work will meet your needs by ensuring that any new work created must also be made freely available on the same licence for others to use and re-mix.

The information on this page is also available as a PDF: Once you find an OER how to use it (PDF 123kb)