When building course content, virtual teachers should seek both Open Educational Resources and content licensed under Creative Commons. Open Educational Resources (OER) are openly licensed materials designed for educational purposes; they are monetarily and obligation free. This means that teachers and students do not pay fees, subscriptions, or tuition, and that users are not limited by how they use, modify, or redistribute them. Some OERs have conditions that address attribution, share-alike, or modification, but for the most part, they are easily accessed and used. Both Wikipedia and MITOpenCourseWare are two well-known OER projects that inspired many other projects. Today, Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia in the world despite early criticism and doubts that could have harmed its acceptance and growth. MITOpenCourseWare began in 2002 when MIT published most of its course materials online for other programs to use and share. Since then, MIT has published over 1800 courses, and other universities, such as Harvard and Yale, have followed its example. As more universities, schools, and foundations continue to create and share resources, the quality and quantity of Open Educational Resources will make them preferable to for-profit licensed content. To learn more about OER, see the Open Educational Resources Educator Handbook here: http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook/educator_version_one
Materials under Creative Commons (CC) licenses are similar in that they allow others to copy and distribute materials while protecting the licensor’s creative credit. Within CC, there are four elements that mandate how the work can be used, modified, and shared: Attribution, Noncommercial, Noderivitives, and Sharalike. Creative Commons license with Attribution means that others must credit the licensor. Noncommerical means that others may not share, modify, or copy the work for money. Noderiviatives prohibits others from modifying the work, and Sharealike stipulates that copies or modified versions of the original must carry the same CC license as the original. For more information see here: http://creativecommons.org.nz/licences/licences-explained/
Virtual teachers should seek OER and CC resources first not only because they help teachers avoid questions about Fair Use and copyright, but also because by using them, teachers support the movement toward sharing and free, open, and high-quality resources. More importantly, the teacher should model this practice to students, so that as they grow and become leaders, they can invent new ways of sharing free, quality resources for the future.