Explaining Open Education Resources

Political Science Educator: volume 25, issue 2

Featured Essays

Josh Franco, Cuyamaca College

As instructors at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and universities, and governmental or corporate training programs, we are all familiar with books, textbooks, workbooks, journal articles, lecture slides, assignments, activity sheets, and simulations.

Some of us are authors, co-authors, editors, and anonymous reviewers of these educational resources. These resources, and the efforts that led to their creation, contribute to growing our information, knowledge, and wisdom of the individuals, communities, and societies in the past, present, and future.

Most of these educational resources cost money to purchase, rent, or get through a paywall. However, since 2001,1 Creative Commons has supported authors of educational resources to freely, and openly, license and distribute their work. While the emphasis may be on “free” in the sense of saving students money, I want to also discuss the notion of a resource being “open” in my explanation of Open Educational Resources (OER).

Open Educational Resources

According to Creative Commons,2 OERs “are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.” What makes an OER “open” are the 5Rs.

The 5Rs include reuse, retain, revise, remix, and redistribute. Creative Commons defines these activities in the following way:

  • Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource
  • Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource
  • Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
  • Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
  • Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others.

To facilitate the 5Rs, Creative Commons allows authors to choose among six different license types3 for their works.

Four of these licenses (i.e. CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, or CC BY-NC-SA) are considered “open” because the resource that can be edited. Resources licensed CC-BY-ND and CC BY-NC-ND are not considered “open” because they cannot be edited, but can be included in a CC-collection, such as a course reader.

Making OERs

These resources include revising existing resources, remixing two or more resources, and creating new resources.

Making OERs: Revising Existing Resources

Revising existing resources means you revise an existing CC resource to include new content that you are contributing to the existing resource.

For example, say you want to revise Introduction to Political Science Research Methods: An Open Education Resource Textbook4 to include a chapter on doing a literature review. You can download the PDF, make a copy of it, revise the copy to add your chapter between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, and publish the revised Introduction to Political Science Research Methods textbook with the chapter you added.

It is important to note that any CC-licensed resource that is Non-Derivative (ND) cannot be revised in any way. Only the following CC licensed materials can be revised:

Any resource licensed CC-BY-ND and CC BY-NC-ND is not “open” because they cannot be edited. However, the whole resource can be included in a CC-collection, such as a course reader.

Making OERs: Remixing Two or More Resources

Remixing two or more resources means you are melding two existing resources together or augmenting an existing resource with a newly created resource.

Making OERs: Remixing CC0, CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA

For example, say you want to revise Introduction to Political Science Research Methods: An Open Education Resource Textbook5 (that contains a CC BY-NC license) with an existing OER textbook that goes into greater detail about writing research papers in political science.

You can download the PDF of both textbooks, make copies of them, mix and match the chapters based on your logical ordering and understanding of the topic as you like, and then publish the remixed textbook that includes chapters from both of the existing OER textbooks. The remixed textbook that you published is now a derivative OER that you generated.

Making OERs: Curating CC0, CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA with CC BY-ND or CC BY- NC-ND

Remixing can also be known as curating, a process of combining two or more existing resources together.

For example, if you have 10 CC-licensed, peer-reviewed journal articles that you like to put together in a single course reader, you can do that whether or not they have an ND license because you are bringing together different licensed resources together to create a new object.

Bringing together differently CC licensed resources is not revising the underlying resource. You can combine ND and non-ND resources together into a single CC licensed course reader.

Making OERs: Creating New Resources

Creating new resources means you are generating a resource that does not exist and is not a derivative of a resource that already exists. Creating resources is one of the most time- consuming processes when making OER. The challenges include having the time needed to develop an idea for a resource, assembling a team to help develop the resource to having a template for a textbook, generating a list of potential chapter quiz questions, and compiling an accessible textbook or course material.

Interested in Learning More about OERs?

The resources below can help get you started:

Also, feel free to reach out to me by email and I’d be happy to chat with you about getting started with OERs.










Josh Franco is a guest contributor to APSA Educate. The views expressed in the articles featured on APSA Educate are those of the authors and do not represent APSA’s views.

Published since 2005, The Political Science Educator is the newsletter of the Political Science Education Section of the American Political Science Association. All issues of the The Political Science Educator can be viewed on APSA Connects Civic Education page.

Editors: Colin Brown (Northeastern University), Matt Evans (Northwest Arkansas Community College)

Submissions: editor.PSE.newsletter@gmail.com

APSA Educate has republished The Political Science Educator since 2021. Any questions or corrections to how the newsletter appears on Educate should be addressed to educate@apsanet.org.



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