Finding CC Licensed Content for your Course

There are a number of ways to use resources you don’t create yourself in your teaching, and they don’t all involve using CC-licensed materials.


If you use a Learning Management System, or a website of some kind, you can link to materials as long as it’s not itself in violation of copyright and you don’t mind sometimes directing students to sites that are populated by distracting advertisement.  The downside for this, aside from you having to vet the resources to make sure they are appropriate, is that when we link to an external URL, there is the definite possibility that, at some point or another, that link isn’t going to work anymore.  To mitigate this, you should always include the full name of the author, site of publication, and title of work along with the link.  Then, if the URL were to change, your students won’t be lost in the meantime because they can search look for the resource themselves.

You can also link to library materials that your students have access to via their identity at your institution.  Downsides to this include students not having access to this material after they leave the institution, and like any online resource you are simply linking to, you cannot adapt the material so that it fits seamlessly with your own original course materials.

Public Domain Works

There are countless free resources out there but don’t go photocopying your copy of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as  the text of that work may be in the public domain, but the formatting and overall presentation of the work in your Penguin Classics edition (and especially the content of footnotes or endnotes) are the intellectual property of someone else.  Locate the basic full text online and let your students have access to that, or transcribe the original yourself.  If you want to take pieces of a text and incorporate them within your own materials, you will need to check the status of the work (is it really in the public domain?) or talk to a librarian or contact the Copyright Advisor at your institution about fair dealing.

Using CC-Licensed Materials

But where can you find CC-licensed materials?   The Open Washington OER Network has created an entire “FIND OER” feature on their site with the intent of serving all your needs in one place.  This site provides a categorized search guide for all types of OER and we’ve organized these resources to help you make choices that fit your needs. For each resource you’ll find a list of unique traits, licensing information, and an example of how to attribute the source.  Start there to walk through how to find CC-licensed videos, images, course materials, and open textbooks.

Module 6: Finding OER

You can also watch these two videos for more information on how to find and vet OER.

How can I find OER? The Council of Chief State School Officers CC-BY 4.0

How to Find and Evaluate OER, Abbey Elder, CC-BY 4.0

CC-License Repositories


How might we find some free content for an introductory Linguistics course?  Let’s say we need to find some materials to help us teach the basics of phonetics.

  1. First, I searched for videos showing how people make English sounds  by going to  YouTube, searching for Phonetics, and then filtering by Creative Commons.  For example I found a little video on diphthongs that is licensed CC-BY 3.0 (
  2. Images of making sounds in the mouth – easy to search for phonetic simulations – for this, I went to Wikimedia Commons to find CC-licensed images I could use in my class (for example,, licensed CC-BY)
  3. Finally, for course materials related to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA),  I went  to the OER Commons, did a quick search on Phonetics, and here is what I found after looking through some of the sites:  an open textbook with a list of the IPA symbols and speech sounds, licensed CC-BY-SA.

When deciding how to use CC-licensed materials, you will need to consider if you will be able to adapt them, or just link to them, or just share them.  Some materials will be easier than others to adapt, and some (like videos) will be easier to link to or share.


And now to you!  Consider your own searches for CC-licensed content for your course(s).  What were you looking for, what did you find, and how were they licensed (and how did you use them)?

Now move on to the final section of this workshop, Creating/revising Materials and Licensing Them as OER.


The above content adapted from: