by

California’s Community Colleges Shift to Creative Commons Licenses

The board that governs California’s 112 community colleges has started requiring that courses, research, and other work paid for by the system chancellor’s office be made available free to all users under Creative Commons “attribution” licenses. While the system will retain the copyright on the materials, other users will be able to take advantage of them as long as the originators are properly credited.

Board members adopted the new policy this month, saying they believed the move would save taxpayers money by making works the public has already paid for widely available and by avoiding duplication of effort and expense. For the 2012-13 academic year, the chancellor’s office disbursed approximately 560 grants and contracts totaling more than $116-million, a spokeswoman says.

Before the change, if a faculty member at a California community college wrote a textbook or created course materials for a class and the work was paid for by the chancellor’s office, the system retained all rights to it.

Barry A. Russell, vice chancellor for academic affairs, says there was “no spark” that led to the decision—it was just something that, over time, board members knew needed to be changed. With community colleges continuing to expand in size and reach, he says, Creative Commons was the logical choice.

“As we move down a pathway forward on distance-learning education, and open education as well, it just made sense,” he says.

Beth Smith, president of the California Community Colleges’ Academic Senate, says the decision ultimately strengthens the colleges’ faculties. “All the work that they [faculty] accomplish through the grants to help our students will be available to all other faculty and colleagues trying to improve student success,” she says by e-mail.

Cable Green, director of global learning at Creative Commons, says that requiring work to be covered by Creative Commons licenses will allow people to get the most for their money.

He says he sees open educational resources growing on a national scale as colleges realize that Creative Commons licensing allows work to be widely disseminated and creates a collaborative working environment. In 2010, Washington State enacted a similar open-access policy for community and technical colleges.

Because the work is publicly financed, he says there is no reason it shouldn’t be available to everyone. “The public should get what they pay for,” he says.

Brice W. Harris, chancellor of the community-college system, echoed Mr. Green’s sentiments in a written statement. “The taxpaying public shouldn’t be required to pay twice or more to access and use educational materials, first via the funding of the research and development of educational resources, and then again when they purchase materials like textbooks they helped fund.”

Return to Top