About Openness

Open Access Open Educational Resources Creative Commons

Open Access Oxford supports researchers at the University in complying with funders’ requirements to publish their work in open access publications under a Creative Commons licence.


Open access (OA) publishing enables anyone, anywhere in the world to read the fruits of academic research free of charge through journals, monographs, etc. published with a Creative Commons licence. It is an exciting development that has been around for some years in science and medicine, and indeed many academics in all disciplines self-publish openly on the Web too. However, with the introduction of the Research Councils UK’s policy on 1st April 2013 open access now applies across the board to research funded by the Councils, in addition to a number of other funding bodies. During the spring of 2013 Oxford conducted an awareness-raising programme which included a dedicated Open Access Oxford website. The website and its accompanying blog continue to keep researchers abreast of the latest developments in OA, including publishers’ policies, directories of OA journals, toolkits, and guidelines on compliance.

What are OER?
Perhaps the most widely known definition of OER is ‘teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others’ [1]. 

The materials that can be considered as OER include ‘full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge’ [1], together with open software tools (such as learning management systems), open materials used for teachers’ professional development, and repositories of learning objects [2].

OER can be considered to have a number of core attributes that distinguish them from other resources [3]:

  • Open access: they are available free of charge and should preferably be discoverable directly through a general-purpose search engine (not hidden behind a gateway with which the user must first register).>
  • Open licence: they have been released with a licence that permits them to be distributed to others, modified, aggregated with other resources to create a new one, and repurposed (typically, a Creative Commons licence).
  • Open format: they have been designed in such a way that they can be easily modified.
  • Open software: they have been produced using open source software and/or use freely available third-party software or Web 2.0 technologies to support learning activities and collaboration.

In practice, the fourth attribute is encountered less frequently than the other three. Also, some definitions (e.g. one from the OECD [4]) leave out the ‘open licence’ attribute, but we believe that it is an important – if not the most important – characteristic that distinguishes OER from other resources.

What is Creative Commons?


Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.

Their free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardised way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.



[1] Atkins, D. E., Brown, J. S., & Hammond, A. L. (2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and new Opportunities. Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. 

[2] Andrade, A., Ehlers, U. D., Caine, A., Carneiro, R., Conole, G., et al. (2011). Beyond OER: Shifting Focus to Open Educational Practices. Open Educational Quality Initiative.

[3] Schaffert, S., & Geser, G. (2008). Open Educational Resources and Practices. eLearning Papers, (7), 1–10;
Masterman, L. & Wild, J. (2011). OER Impact Study: Research Report. Jisc Open Educational Resources Programme: Phase 2. University of Oxford;
Hilton III, J., Wiley, D., Stein, J., & Johnson, A. (2010). The four “R”s of openness and ALMS analysis: frameworks for open educational resources. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(1), 37–44. doi:10.1080/02680510903482132;
Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open Practices: a briefing paper. Bristol: Jisc.

[4] OECD (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.