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OER Toolkit : Section 2 - Finding and Remixing Openly Licensed Resources

This section of the Toolkit will help you to find Open Educational Resources (OER) from a variety of sources. It will also demonstrate how to legally remix OER to create your own content. It explains what Creative Commons licences mean in practice, and how they enable you to share your content with others on terms that you choose.

2.1       Finding open resources

The default rule for all content is that it is subject to copyright protection, and all of the copyright holder's exclusive rights are reserved, meaning that only they can exercise those rights.  You may have heard of the term All Rights Reserved. That's what it means - the rights holder has reserved all of the rights to reproduce, adapt, perform, communicate their material exclusively for themselves.  That’s the default legal position. Its closed!

But finding OER is easy, and there are three different logos you should look out for.

CC When you see the Creative Commons logo it signifies that more flexible permissions have been provided to use and reuse material.
CC Public Domain When you see the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark it indicates that the material is not subject to copyright protection, and is what is referred to as “public domain” material. There are no copyright restrictions.
CC Public Domain 0 When you see the Creative Commons Zero it indicates that the rights holder has abandoned their copyright over the material, and consequently it may be regarded as “public domain” material.  You may reuse it without restrictions. 

2.2       Using search engines to find open resources

You can find Creative Commons licensed content using special search functions of search engines and websites.  For example, the familiar Google search has an ‘advanced search’ that lets you search by 'usage rights' for content published to the Internet under an open licence.  It can be found at:

Google Advanced Search

The Google Advanced Search

The image sharing site Flickr allows you to specify that you are looking for Creative Commons content. It can be found at https://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/

Flickr Advanced Search
The Flickr Advanced Search

The Creative Commons search page allows you access to a range of different search engines and sites with various types of Creative Commons content including text, music and images.  It can be found at  http://search.creativecommons.org/

CC Advanced Search
The CC Search 

Here are some images resulting from a search for “dolphin” using the Flickr advanced search option:


Dolphin - aboriginal painting style
street art, Newtown, Sydney

by Neerav Bhatt, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

dolphin spinner

Spinner Dolphins, Big Island, Hawaii
by Steve Dunleavy, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

dolphin and ship

Dolphin and Ship, 8/4/10
by Louis Vest, CC-BY-NC 2.0


by lowjumpingfrog, CC-BY 2.0


Images are particularly easy to find and there is a large amount of openly licensed imagery available covering a huge range of topics.  For help finding Creative Commons licensed images, see the Smartcopying website:


Note that in the examples above, we have attributed the images alongside the image. However, this could also be done at the end of the document.

If you are simply looking for content to use in its original form (i.e. without modification), the type of Creative Commons licence doesn’t matter; as any of the Creative Commons licences permit this type of reuse.


2.3       Sites with Open Educational Resources

Apart from using a search engine, another way to find resources is to use dedicated OER sites. This is particularly useful if you are looking for OER for a specific subject or topic. OER content sites that provide school level resources include:

  • OER Commons (https://www.oercommons.org/). OER Commons offers over 160,000 OER easily searchable by refinable topics including subject areas, education levels, material type and media formats for all levels of education.
  • Curriki (http://www.curriki.org/). Curriki offers more than 60,000 curated OER easily searchable by refinable topics including subject areas, education levels, material type, languages and review ratings for all levels of education.
  • CK-12 (http://www.ck12.org/teacher/).CK-12 offers free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in primary and high school level maths, science, technology, engineering and many more subjects. It also offers interactive apps for smartphones and computers.
  • ORBIT (http://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/). The University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education maintains a site with many OER suitable for teachers. It includes ORBIT, an open resource bank for interactive teaching in maths and science, with many lesson ideas for primary and secondary. Each lesson idea is linked to particular teaching strategies, as well as ICT use. The site also contains a number of resources that are suitable for other subjects.
  • The DigiLit Leicester project (http://digilitleicester.com) focuses on digital literacy in schools, helping teachers and teaching support staff in the effective use of technologies to support learners. All of the project outputs, including the school digital literacy framework and survey content, and the outputs and resources from school-led projects and a range of activities organised by the project team, have been released under Creative Commons licences. These include e-safety resources for staff supporting learners on the autistic spectrum, the Siyabonga project, which involved learners collaborating via Skype on a live concert with children from South Africa, and work on a “Bring Your Own Device” trial.
  • PHET (http://phet.colorado.edu/). Educational simulations covering subjects including physics, chemistry, biology and earth science.
  • The Virtual Genetics Education Centre
    (http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/genetics/vgec). An online hub of genetics-related resources for teachers of all age groups. The site features a “Genetics for Schools and Colleges” section, with content available under a Creative Commons licence. There are also links to resources on external websites (with a range of licences).
  • Open Education Europa (http://openeducationeuropa.eu/). A large, searchable site with a range of resources and links to other sites, for different education sectors and under different licences. The search allows you to narrow the resource to primary and secondary education, as well as to Creative Commons resources.
  • Digital Futures in Teacher Education (http://www.digitalfutures.org/). This site offers professional development resources for teachers on new pedagogies facilitated by digital technology and new social media for learning.

For more resources see Appendix #7 and the Smartcopying website:

If you plan to reuse content with learners or other staff members, or share resources, remember to record the web address (URL) or source in order to acknowledge it.


2.4       Using Creative Commons content:  Attribution

Creative Commons helps you to easily find materials that you can use, makes permissions and restrictions on use very clear and lets you safely share your work through wider networks. Here are five rules that will help you understand what you can and can't do with licensed resources:

Rule 1:  Attribution

When reusing any Creative Commons content, you always need to attribute your sources.


The Creative Commons attribution requirement is about acknowledging your sources fairly. Sometimes the creators specify how they would like to be attributed, but a lot of the time the creators of a work don’t say how they want to be attributed.  In that case, simply include:

  • the title of the work;
  • if the resource is hosted online,the web address (URL) where you found the work;
  • the creator of the work;
  • the Creative Commons licence under which the work is available (together with the URL for the licence).

There is no standard format for putting together an attribution, so you can rearrange the elements as you see fit, so long as all the information is included.

For instance, to attribute the reuse of the “CC Kiwi” image
on the right, the following elements are needed for the
white kiwi

Your actual acknowledgement will look like this:

CC Kiwi (http://creativecommons.org.nz/resources/) by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/nz/

or, with the hyperlinks included in the text:

CC Kiwi by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence.

If you use the CC Kiwi image in a document, you need to include the text above either where you use the image, or at the end of your document. For a presentation, you would acknowledge the image at the end of the presentation (e.g. on the final slide). If you were using the image in a movie, you would acknowledge it in the credits at the end of the movie. If you create a new image from the CC Kiwi (for example, by colouring it in), you cannot attribute by adding text, so you would use the ‘metadata’ function within the software used to create the image.

The attribution requirement applies to the six Creative Commons licences. Content that is in the public domain (e.g. with CC0 or the Public Domain mark) does not need to be attributed, although it's good practice to do so.  Remember, passing other people’s work off as your own is still plagiarism.

2.5       Remixing content without modification

Rule 2:  Using content without modification

You are free to use any Creative Commons content without modification or adaptation, so long as you attribute your sources, retain the original Creative Commons licence, and the use is NonCommercial.

This means that you can go online to find any Creative Commons content, and:

  • make copies, e.g. copying a lesson plan, copying worksheets;
  • share it with other educators;
  • post it online - on the school’s website or school intranet;
  • perform the work (e.g. music or plays);
  • include it in other documents, e.g. copy images into your presentation (without changing the images themselves).

All you need to do is to make sure that all your sources are attributed. Some Creative Commons licences allow you to adapt, and even choose, a different licence. However, content under any of the Share-Alike and NoDerivatives licences always retains its original Creative Commons licence. We can say that for Share-Alike and NoDerivatives, the licence travels with the content.

2.6       Remixing through modification and adaptation

Rule 3: CC0, CC Attribution and CC Attribution - NonCommercial

Creative Commons content under CC0, CC-BY and CC-BY-NC licences can be used freely (non-commercially, in the case of NonCommercial). You can do what you like, as long as you attribute your sources.

Content under these licences can be used freely (non-commercially). So you can adapt, modify and build upon work as long as you attribute your sources (as always). Public domain content can be freely adapted.

Some Creative Commons licences allow you to make modifications without restrictions. These licences are:

CC Public Domain 0 Creative Commons Zero (CC0)  
06-3.1 Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY)  
06-3.4 Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Licence (CC-BY-NC)  

Rule 4: Share-Alike

Creative Commons content licensed with Share-Alike can be used freely (including adaptation), as long as you make the original or adapted version available under the same Share-Alike licence.

Without adaptation, Rule 2 applies. The Appendix and documents accompanying this Toolkit further explain how to license when you adapt Share-Alike content.

This rule covers the Creative Commons Share-Alike licences:
Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Licence (CC-BY-SA)
Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial  Share-Alike Licence (CC-BY-NC-SA)  

Rule 5: NoDerivatives

Creative Commons content licensed with NoDerivatives can be used freely, as long as you do not modify or adapt, i.e. as long as you do not create an adaptation. Creative Commons content licensed with NoDerivatives always retains its original licence.


Rule 2 (‘Using content without adaptation’) explains how you can use NoDerivatives content.

For best practice attribution examples see Appendix #3.

You can use content licensed under any of the Creative Commons NoDerivatives licences, but you cannot change or alter the work in any way.

This rule covers the Creative Commons NoDerivatives licences: 

06-3.3 Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives Licence (CC-BY-ND)  
06-3.6 Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial  NoDerivatives Licence (CC-BY-NC-ND)  

2.7       What is an adaptation?

The following are examples of adaptations as defined by the Share-Alike / NoDerivatives licence:

  • modifying an image to create another image (for example,by cropping) is an adaptation;
  • translating a short story from one language to another;
  • photoshopping a picture to add to, or alter, its original elements;
  • using a sample from one song to make a new song;
  • adding a song as a soundtrack to a video.


The following uses are not adaptations:

  • including a short story in a collection of short stories;
  • using an unedited video in the background of a live concert;
  • reproducing an unedited image on a website or in a document (such as Word or Powerpoint).


When reproducing an unedited image in a document, you need to make sure that the image is really unaltered; you cannot overlay text, graphics or another image.


2.8       Creative Commons licence pathfinder

The diagram below shows the simple questions you need to ask yourself when finding and creating content for use with your learners and colleagues:

CC Licence Pathfinder

2.9       Acknowledgements

This section of the Toolkit is an adaptation of ‘OER Guidance for Schools’ (2014), by Björn Haßler, Helen Neo and Josie Fraser. Published by Leicester City Council, available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

This Toolkit is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC-BY 4.0) so that it can be shared and adapted openly, as long as attribution is given.

You are free to use this content as long as you attribute the National Copyright Unit, Copyright Advisory Groups (Schools and TAFEs)