Developing OER

[Updated: 18 Mar 2024]

Open Educational Resources (OER) defined

"Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OER range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation." (UNESCO)

Things to consider when developing new OER

Copyright in your new OER

In copyright law, the author of a work is generally the copyright owner. However, if the work is created in the course of employment, then the copyright in the work would normally be owned by the employer, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. At the U of A, in the case of AASUA employees, in most cases the employee will retain copyright in their works under the collective agreement. For the work of any other employee, consult the agreement for any copyright provisions. Students will normally own copyright in their work, except where that work was performed under an employment agreement, in which case the terms of the agreement will govern.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Section 13: Ownership of Copyright

The importance of copyright ownership in OER

In order for a copyright-protected work to be made "open", the copyright holder(s) in the work must agree to make the work open. For collaborative works, all the contributors should be in agreement regarding how the work is to be made available, and this agreement should be in writing. Where some contributions have been made by university employees such that the university retains copyright in those contributions, then the university should also be a party to that agreement. The signatory for the university for such an agreement should be the Dean (or equivalent).

Making your new OER "open"

OER are normally made "open" through the application of an open licence to the work, like a Creative Commons licence. More information about the range of open licences available and how to attach a specific licence to a work is available on the Creative Commons website. Another useful resource is the licensing page on The Learning Portal website.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Open Licensing and Creative Commons

Including copyright-protected material in your OER

If you want to include copyright-protected third-party content into your OER, first identify any terms of use applied to that content. If there is no information to indicate how the material can be used, or if your intended use differs from what is indicated, you may need to contact the copyright owner for permission. These OER-specific sample permission letters provide a starting point for making such requests.

If it is not possible or feasible to obtain permission for your use of the content, it may be reasonable to rely on exceptions in the Copyright Act depending on the amount and type of content you wish to use, and the purpose for its inclusion in your work. CARL’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Dealing for Open Educational Resources offers guidance to help you make informed decisions, and explains how fair dealing relates to OER.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Including Third-Party Content in Your Work

 OER information resources

Copyright Office

U of A Library


For questions about copyright and OER

For any additional information regarding OER and copyright, contact the Copyright Office at


Student & Staff Guide