Using Creative Commons Licensed Material in Your Classroom

CC in EducationPreviously at ProfHacker, I’ve discussed talking about fair use in the classroom and George provided some links regarding intellectual property. All of the ProfHacker content previously found at and now here at the Chronicle carries a Creative Commons license, and ProfHacker authors are committed to providing content under such a license whenever possible. For example, on many of our own web sites you can find course material licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license or something similar.

Your mileage may vary. You may want to keep your course content entirely to yourself—after all it is your work product—and that’s just fine, of course. This post isn’t about that, or even about open courseware in general. For Chronicle coverage on such matters, see their articles such as “Students’ Push for Open Education Meets Faculty Ambivalence,” “Free Online Courses Don’t Hurt Paid Enrollment,” and “College 2.0: More Professors Could Share Lectures Online. But Should They?”, among others. Instead, this post simply points to examples of Creative Commons in Education and asks how you as educators use or see yourselves using Creative Commons licensed material as you prepare your own courses.

Whether you’re a graduate student looking for ideas as you design your first course, a veteran faculty member looking to try something new, or a staff member teaching a workshop for the first time or pinch-hitting outside of your area of expertise, the availability of schedules, reading lists, assignments, problem sets, and related materials from institutions such as MIT can help with that process. Specific to computer science, Google Code University provides tutorials and sample course content for such topics as AJAX programming, algorithms, distributed systems, and web security. These are but two of many examples.

Personally, as a graduate student for the last five years, I benefitted from the availability of Creative Commons licensed material. While true that my departments had a physical file cabinet full of photocopied syllabi from years of classes, being able to see and modify/adapt/remix assignments from other instructors at various types of institutions proved incredibly useful. Even if I didn’t explicitly use an assignment from someone else, at least I had a greater sense of what others were doing at other institutions—boundaries being pushed as to subject material, methods, pedagogy, and so on.

How have you integrated Creative Commons-licensed material into your course? Directly, such as using assignments with attribution, or indirectly by just browsing the thousands of courses listed in the Open Courseware Consortium and gathering ideas, or not at all? What would you like to share about your methods of using or integrating open source course materials in your classroom—success stories are always welcome, but so are examples of failure, from which we can all learn. Tell us in the comments!

[Image in this post from Creative Commons in Education.]

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