How to use OERs

Re-using and Re-purposing OERs

Open educational resources are digital resources used in the context of teaching and learning that have been released under an open licence permitting their use and re-purposing by others.

The real value of open educational resources is that they can be adapted, customised, and re-contextualised to meet the specific needs of learners.  This might involve translating a resource, changing examples to a local context, using only part of a resource, or combining a resource with other materials.  There are many different ways you can re-use and re-purpose OERs.  However, it is important that you comply with the licence restrictions of any open educational resources you use, as outlined below.

Providing attribution

In order to use a Creative Commons licensed open educational resource you must provide attribution to the creator.  Good attribution includes the following information:

Title: The title of the resource.

Creator: The name of the creator or copyright holder of the resource.

Licence: The licence of the resource and a link back to the licence on the Creative Commons website.

Source: A link to the original source of the resource.

Additional information you may want to include are the date the resource was created, and a link to the Creative Commons licence.  Creative Commons provides information on Best Practices for Attribution.

Here is an example of good attribution:

Photograph of cupcakes with white icing and the CC logo on top against a green background.


CC hearts cupcakes by David Kindler,

CC BY 2.0, on flickr

If you change a resource in any way, or create a derivative resource from it, you must indicate how you have changed it.

Changes: Explain how the original was modified.

For example:

Cropped photograph of cupcakes with white icing and the CC logo on top against a green background.

CC hearts cupcakes by David Kindler,

CC BY 2.0, on flickr

Cropped from the original.

Black and white photograph of cupcakes with the CC logo on .This work, “CC cupcakes b&w” is a derivative of “CC hearts cupcakes” by David Kindler, CC BY 2.0, on flickr

CC cupcakes b&w is licensed CC BY 4.0, J.Smith, University of Edinburgh


Creative Commons licence restrictions

Some restrictions to be aware of when using open educational resources

You must always Attribute the creator of a resource.

You must always indicate how a resource has been changed or modified.

NonCommercial licences restrict the use of a work to non-commercial use only.  When using NC licensed content you should consider how the work will be used, not the nature of the organisation using it. For example, commercial organisations can legitimately use NC licensed content for not for profit purposes. Further information about using NonCommercial licensed content is available from Creative Commons here: NonCommercial Interpretation.

You must not make any changes to works licensed No Derivatives. This includes, but is not limited to, adding subtitles, making translations or cropping images.  This means that while CC BY-ND resources can be re-used, they can not be adapted, edited, or re-purposed.

You must share derivatives of ShareAlike licensed works under the same licence.

Combining Creative Commons licensed resources

Different licences dictate how you can use and combine resources.  If you plan to incorporate an existing Creative Commons licensed resource into a new resource you are creating, you must ensure that you observe the licence restrictions.  This chart illustrates which licences can be combined.  Further information is available from Creative Commons: CC Licence Compatibility.

CC Licence Compatibility, CC BY 4.0, Creative Commons,

Using Public Domain resources

If you are using a public domain resource, you do not need to provide attribution, however it is useful to mark it as a public domain resource and include a link to the original source so other users will know that they can also re-use it.

Digital Skills Support

The OER Service runs a range of digital skills sessions focused on understanding copyright and open licensing and finding and using open licensed content.  These include:

  • Copyright, Licensing, and Open Materials for Hybrid Teaching
  • Creative Commons Quick Start: A short introduction to using CC licences
  • OER and Open Education

For further information and to book a place, please visit the OER Service Events page.

Further Information

Creative Commons About the Licences

Creative Commons CC Licence Compatibility

Creative Commons NonCommercial Interpretation

Creative Commons Best Practices for Attribution

Creative Commons FAQ