An important element of open educational resources is that they are openly licensed, but what does that mean?

An open licence allows the creator to retain ownership of their work, while allowing others to use, share, and remix it, without requesting their permission. And for most open licences, all that is required of the users is to attribute (give credit to) the creator for their work. In this challenge, we will focus on the most common open licences which are Creative Commons licences, or CC licences.

Licence plate with the word open

In Challenge #1, you were able to access open textbooks in the eCampus open textbook collection because they have CC licences. In Challenge #2, you evaluated the open resource and thought about ways you might adapt it for your learners. In this challenge, you will interpret the open licence associated with your resource to determine if you can make those adaptations.

CC licences are useful to educators for two reasons:

  1.  As a user of materials, they communicate whether you can use, remix, adapt, share a resource.
  2. As a creator of materials, they allow you to tell others how they can use, remix, adapt, share what you’ve created.

Please watch this short video (2 minutes) for an overview of Creative Commons licences. You can enable closed captions by pressing the “CC” button in the bottom right corner of the video after you have pushed play. You can also access the transcript below this video.

Transcript – What are Creative Commons Licences?

This video will introduce you to Creative Commons licenses, which makes copyright easier to understand.

Let’s say you create something. 

This thing could be creative, like a picture of your cat, or scholarly, like an essay about cats.

Because you are the creator of this picture or this essay, copyright allows you to decide what people can do with your creation.

When you are the copyright holder, people have to ask you for permission before putting your cat picture into a powerpoint or adapting your cat essay into a movie. 

Getting permission can be time consuming and complicated for both the creator and the user.

This is where Creative Commons can help. 

Creative Commons exists to make permissions explicit and straightforward.

Creative Commons licenses use icons and simple language so that creators can make their intentions clear and users can be certain that their use of a work is legal. 

These different licenses help people understand if and how they can use, share, or build on a work.

CC BY-NC logoThis icon means that only non-commercial uses are permitted, so no one can profit from using your picture.

CC BY-ND logoThis icon means that no one can make changes to the original work, such as photoshopping a dog into your cat picture.

CC BY-SA logoThis icon means that someone can change your work but their version must be shared under the same license as yours.

CC-BY logoAll Creative Commons licenses give credit to the original creator, preserving your reputation as a creative genius while the world engages with your work.

Licenses can be attached to most things, including blog posts, images, artworks, journal articles, and more! 

To learn more about Creative Commons licenses, visit the Creative Commons website or check out some of the other videos in our series.

Check your understanding of CC licences with this short matching game. There are 6 questions – you can use the blue arrow in the bottom right corner of the activity to move to the next question. If you would like a refresher on what the individual CC icons mean, click open the accordion menu with the transcript for the video above – you will find them listed there!!

Your Challenge

Let’s apply this knowledge to the OER you found in the first challenge. Return to the OER textbook you found in Challenge #1 (you can find it in the Padlet below). Look specifically for the CC licence associated with your resource. Click on the licence hyperlink to access the “CC licence deed”. Read about the permissions and restrictions associated with your resource. Here is a 2-minute video walkthrough of this process:

Watch “Licence Deed Walkthrough” on YouTube

Below, you will find the Padlet we completed in Challenge #1. Find your contribution, and add a comment below your own post that includes the following:

  • What is the licence of your OER textbook? You don’t need to include a link, just type the licence (i.e. CC BY-NC 4.0). 
  • Briefly indicate whether the licence allows you to make adaptations to your resource.

Made with Padlet

Optional – Dig Deeper

This section provides some optional, additional information about open licences.

Generally, CC licences are easy to find when you search for resources in an OER repository. However, sometimes the licences are not as obvious on resources you find on the open web (blogs, websites, videos, etc). The following two-minute video will help you find and interpret open licences associated with blogs, websites and videos.

Watch “Finding and Interpreting Open Licenses” on YouTube

Transcript -Finding and Interpreting Open Licences

Additional Resources

If you would like to take a deeper dive into licences, here are some very valuable resources:


This challenge was inspired by, and adapted from, The Open Education Challenge Series by Leva Lee and Tannis Morgan is licensed under a CC BY 4.0.

It also contains adapted content from:

What are Creative Commons and Open Licences? by BCCampus OpenEd is licensed under CC BY 4.0

What are Creative Commons Licenses? by U of G Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 

Creative Commons License Quiz by Lillian Hogendoorn is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 

Image Attributions

Licence photo by James Sutton on Unsplash