Popular among the digerati and forward-thinking artists, Creative Commons licensing has yet to break through to the mainstream consciousness. But the copyright system for the commons has been given a considerable boost with the U.S. Department of Labor’s announcement of a $2 billion education fund to create Open Education Resources (OER) for career training programs in community colleges. All new resources produced by the funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution license, ensuring that the materials can be used and altered by anyone. It’s a strong commitment to the Open Education Resources movement on the part of the Department of Labor, and demonstrates some level of government support for Creative Commons.
The OER movement aims to improve the quality of, and access to, educational materials by encouraging a free exchange of knowledge and ideas that transcends borders. They’re as useful and accessible to higher education institutions as they are self-learners. Materials range from lectures to syllabi, lab activities to learning games. Announced at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries, the movement has grown into a worldwide effort to collect and evaluate the quality of available materials, with Universities and foundations from every hemisphere committing to the project. OER is used by Teachers Without Borders in over 180 countries as a source for free teaching materials. With the U.S. Department of Labor’s $2 billion vote of confidence, the movement gains considerable momentum.
To find out more about OER, visit the OER Commons, a collection of over a hundred thousand OER materials, as well as the OER Commons Wiki. Also worth checking out is The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources, which identifies OER and seeks faculty to evaluate the materials, and the OER blog Open Education News.