Licensing Open Course Materials

I am a big fan of using open, sharable course materials. It could transform education on a worldwide scale. Unfortunately, the rules for licensing aren't totally clear.

There are a number of repositories where you can download sharable content, but there isn't a single licensing agreement. This is a particularly gray area if you want to combine material from different repositories into a single new work. Some repositories have no clear policy, or a more restrictive policy or use their own licenses.

The nonprofit Creative Commons has a new initiative called CC Learn aimed at creating a single, standard licensing framework that can encompass all open educational resources (OERs).

CC Learn would be for licensing what SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) did for interoperability and accessibility of learning objects.

Right now we have two major different licensing structures.

There's the GNU Free Documentation License. GNU governs the use of materials from places like Wikipedia and manuals, textbooks, other reference and instructional materials or any text-based work.

There's also the Creative Commons licenses used for an am estimated 200+ million digital objects posted online. The content of this blog uses a CC license as do many Flickr photos and MIT's OpenCourseWare project. Another example is Connexions, Rice University's course materials repository available for distribution and reuse.

But if you mix the two licenses (Wikipedia content combined with one of my blog posts and illustrated with a Flickr photo) it's not clear where you stand.

If the license terms are standardized, it will probably encourage more content creators to share their educational materials.


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