12 Licensing

Practitioners of Open Pedagogy generally recommend that students have agency in their choice of license for a class project. This means they should be educated on the nuances of the license and what that means for how their work can be used in the future. In addition, they should have a choice in the matter of which license is selected. And that choice should not impact their ability to complete the assignment for class credit.

Licensing Issues for Content Created in Class Projects

Key questions to consider:

  • Can students in your class project choose whether to openly license their work or not?
  • What implications might this have for the usability of the completed work?
  • If they do choose an open license, can they choose which license to use?
  • If they choose a restrictive license, will their contributions still be part of the finished book?
  • Do all the students have to come to consensus, or can they choose the license for their individual contributions? What is the decision process when there are small-group contributions?
  • How do students want to be cited and attributed in their work and future derivatives?
  • What if they do not want to be cited at all and prefer to be anonymous or keep their work private?
  • How can students use the work in their portfolios or professional websites, if desired?
  • How will you take advantage of this topic to teach digital literacy to students around the concept of openness?

In a recent event at Rebus Community, we spoke with Robin DeRosa, chair of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University, Steel Wagstaff, instructional technology consultant at UW-Madison, and Amanda Coolidge, senior manager of Open Education at BCcampus, about their experiences working with students to create open textbooks

The three talked about pedagogy, faculty responsibilities, student rights, and agreements when students work on open textbooks and OER projects.

One of the key threads that emerged was the need for students to have agency over their choice of license–meaning they’re not forced into an open license without understanding what it is, and the alternatives.

Robin said she handles this by giving her students choices: They can choose whether to openly license their work or not, and if they do choose an open license, they can choose which license to use. (But if their chosen license is not compatible with the other licenses, their contributions may not get into the finished book, she said, citing the more restrictive CC ND license as one example.)

Robin said over the three courses in which she has focused on open, she has only had one student keep their coursework fully private inside the LMS.

“I don’t think there’s any problem giving them all of that choice. It only works to reinforce the Open Pedagogy, which is that you are in the driver’s seat and you have control over what you do,” she said.

Steel also mentioned the students’ intellectual property rights (i.e. copyright) to what they create.

“In part I think Open Pedagogy is empowering them to say, ‘hey this is your content. What do you want to do with it?’” Steel said.

When publishing an openly licensed book, he said, “our strategy was that we wanted to obtain consensus on the license.”

He also talked with students about the attribution component of the license and encouraged students to think about how they wanted their work to be cited and attributed.

Steel noted that students should be able to choose not to use the open license and still get credit for the course and meet its educational goals.

Amanda said Open Pedagogy provides a great opportunity to teach digital literacy to students around the concept of openness.

“What does it mean to contribute back to the public good, and is that something you want to do or is that something you feel restricted by?”

Key Takeaways

  • Get a librarian to talk to your students about the various types of licenses. You can read more in our Guide to Creative Commons licenses.
  • Conduct an exercise in which students can pick their own license.


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A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students Copyright © 2017 by Rebus Community is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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