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Quick Tips for Teaching Online: Sourcing and Reusing Educational Materials

Creative Commons license icons next to images of people running away from copyright icons and a person asking for silence while others are reading.
Wed, 10 Feb 2021

By Angelica Risquez.

Reading Time: ~5 minutes.

Featured Image Source: ‘’Licencias Creative Commons en las Imagenes’’ by 4web is licensed under CC BY 2.0


In this post:



As you continue building your modules, it is useful to consider the many resources that are freely available for reuse. However, previous research  (National Forum, 2015) has found that most academics are aware of copyright licensing, but not so much of Creative Commons licensing. More worryingly, about a third of the participants in this study claimed to be unsure about how to deal with copyright issues, or even ignored them.

In this post I present some considerations to be aware of when sourcing and reusing content. 


Copyright automatically applies to resources that are placed on the internet, and just because you can access the resource freely, it does not imply the author’s permission to use it. Putting others' images or articles that are still in copyright into a VLE without the author’s explicit permission is copyright infringement because you are indirectly providing multiple copies. You may make material available in a VLE under the following conditions:

  • It is for the purposes of an examination or assessed work which contributes to the student's final mark, however the material should be removed from the VLE after the exam.
  • It is a transcribed extract from, or reference to, a source and is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.
  • You own the copyright or the material is out of copyright.
  • You may provide links to freely available websites.
  • You may provide links to electronic resources to which the institution subscribes (e.g. e-journals), if the licence agreement allows it.
  • You request written permission from the copyright holder to include it in the VLE.

Lecturers are strongly encouraged to use the reading list service within Sulis – if they send their reading list with module code to the library will do all the work resetting up the links and the students will be able to access them without difficulty. Within copyright limits, they will also scan non-electronic items if they are essential.

For more information on the implications of copyright for using resources on a VLE, visit the UL Guide to copyright.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Creative Commons Licensing

An alternative to the traditional copyrighted material are freely accessible resources (Open Educational Resources or OERs), usually shared openly under a Creative Common (CC) licence. To learn more, see this introduction to OER and Creative Commons, which is repurposed from the National Forum course Getting Started with Online Teaching

"Creating educational materials" by O'Suilleabhain and Garvey, adapted by Risquez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


To learn more about Creative Commons and sourcing and attributing OERs, watch this short LTF session (~20mins): ‘Source and Attribute images for your online content: Intro to Creative Commons’ by David F Moloney licensed under CC-BY 2.0. Following this presentation, you should be in a better position to make use and attribute OERs correctly. If in doubt, check Best practices for attribution.

Conclusion: Sharing back

The study aforementioned (National Forum, 2015) also found that most participating teachers felt inclined to sharing the educational resources they produce, but this occurs privately, between colleagues or within the close confinements of a virtual learning environment. For you reading this post, the next step may be to consider sharing the educational resources that you produce more openly, in ways that preserve our authorship and contribute to others. The National Forum Open Licensing Toolkit is a helpful resource to get you started.  

Put it in practice

If you want to have peace of mind and proof your teaching against copyright infringement, these are the starting steps:

  1. Revisit the educational resources that you are repurposing in the online environment for your module. If this is copyrighted material, ensure you have done so under the conditions stated in the UL Guide to copyright.
  2. If you are already using OERs in the online environment of your module (including images, documents, quizzes, videos, etc) ensure that you have attributed them correctly according to Best practices for attribution.
  3. Search for any additional materials that you need to keep building your online environment for your module using the Google advanced search to refine usage rights and attribute accordingly. 
  4. Attribute a license to the resources that you are willing to share with the National Forum Open Licensing Toolkit.

About the author

Dr Angelica Risquez is a Lead Educational Developer at the Centre for Transformative Learning. Engaging and modelling critical open educational practice (OEP) is a core tenet of her teaching philosophy. As argued in this post by Cronin, McAvinia and Risquez, this includes participation in multiple networks, blogging, use and creation of openly licensed resources, encouraging students and teaching staff in the use of OER, engaging in open education research, and overall, being a critical advocate of open scholarship.

References/Further Reading

Sources for educational resources

Creative Commons website:

Creative Commons search:

OER Commons:

To learn more about copyright

Copyright law and open licenses for digital learning, Darius Whelan & Catherine Cronin, Monday 29 June.
For accompanying resources see: