For Unit 5, we looked more into the roles of open access and open education resources, including why they are and will continue to be important.
Defining Open Access
When I think about open access, I think about sharing research and information without restriction, as well as eliminating barriers to access.
Two definitions about Open Access mentioned in this unit follow here:
1. “Open access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access stands in contrast to the existing “closed” system for communicating scientific and scholarly research. This current approach is slow, expensive, and ill-suited for research collaboration and discovery. And even though scholarly research is largely produced as a result of public funding, the results are often hidden behind technical, legal, and financial barriers or paywalls. Open access publishing is an alternative model — one that takes full advantage of digital technologies, the web, and open licensing to provide free access to scholarship” (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
2. “As defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Open Access (OA) to research means free “availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of [research] articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited” (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
I want to also take a moment to share a couple of critical elements as it relates to Open Access. These include the author’s keeping their copyright, no embargo periods, providing access to the data associated with the research article, and providing a CC license (“Open Access to Scholarship” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
I would also recommend checking out unit 5.1 for the discussion on Open Access myths.
Defining Open Education Resources
Unit 5.2 defined OERs here:
“Open education is an idea, a set of content, practices, policy, and community which, properly leveraged, can help everyone in the world access free, effective, open learning materials for the marginal cost of zero. We live in an age of information abundance where everyone, for the first time in human history, can potentially attain all the education they desire. The key to this transformational shift in learning is Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are education materials that are shared at no cost with legal permissions for the public to freely use, share, and build upon the content” (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
What makes OER a possibility is that the majority begin in digital format and shared for free, the internet allows for efficient sharing of information, and CC licenses allow creators to keep their copyright and share their work broadly (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
When I think about OER, I think about free resources with no restrictions to reuse, recreate and share widely. I also, due to my work, tend to think of them as removing financial barriers for students. Further, for this initial conversation about OER, we need to address the 5Rs: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.
“The 5Rs include:
- Retain – permission to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
- Reuse – permission to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
- Revise – permission to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
- Remix – permission to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
- Redistribute – permission to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of to a friend)”
The 5Rs reflect that fact that OERs can be almost anything, from a screencast to a textbook.
Finally, I want to share how to make sure a resource is an OER as it relates to Creative Commons:
“The easiest way to confirm that an education resource is an *open* educational resource that provides you with the 5R permissions is to determine that the resource is either in the public domain or has been licensed under a Creative Commons license that permits the creation of derivative works – CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, or CC BY-NC-SA.” (“OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
Relationship between OA and OER
Open Access and OER go hand-in-hand. As we have discussed earlier in this post, Open Access is the practice of making research and associated data/information freely available to read and share widely. Part of this practice to educate creators about retaining their copyright and to push back against traditional methods of scholarly publication that add to barriers to information access and have exorbitant costs. OER are the teaching resources that are made available due to the open publishing practices made possible by Open Access.
Unit 5.4 further states:
“Openness in education means more than just access or legal certainty over what you are able to use, modify, and share with your students. Open education means designing content and practices that ensure everyone can actively participate and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. As educators and students revise others’ OER and create and share new OER, accessibility should always be on your design checklist” (“Creating and Sharing OER” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
This part of the relationship between OER and OA represents the shift in knowledge production from sheer ownership and profit, to one of public good, and to move ideas and education forward without limitations. OER and OA make information freely available and more accessible to learners.
Open Access and Open Educational Resources are Important for Faculty and Students
I want to preface this last section with a quote from unit 5.5:
“When education institutions support their educators, staff, and learners in moving from closed to open content and practices, open education thrives. Educators want to design the best courses, adjust their practices and pedagogy to empower learners to co-create knowledge, and push the limits of knowledge by openly sharing their ideas and resources with a global audience. But educators can’t do it alone. They need political, financial, time, staff, and policy support to shift to, and fully realize, the benefits of open education” (“Opening up Your Institution” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
This is important to state because educators can’t do it alone, they need support from their institutions and each other to move this important work forward. As librarians well know, scholarly publishing continues to get more and more expensive. This means it is more difficult for library budgets to purchase the information students and faculty need in their own work and learning that libraries provide access to. Textbooks are just one example where OA and OER can cut costs and contribute to new, freely available resources for better student learning, and cutting educational costs for students.
Despite what we hear about OER quality, that argument has become outdated:
- “In this increasingly digital and internet connected world, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is growing outdated. New models are developing across all aspects of society that dramatically reduce or eliminate costs to users, and this kind of innovation has spread to education resources.
- OER publishers have worked to ensure the quality of their resources. Many open textbooks are created within rigorous editorial and peer-review guidelines, and many OER repositories allow faculty to review (and see others’ reviews of) the material. There is also a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that OER can be both free of cost and high quality—and more importantly, support positive student learning outcomes.”
For faculty, OER are now more robust tools to support student learning and engagement. The flexibility afforded by OA and OER allow for the 5Rs, which allow for curation of OA resources. For students, OER increase the accessibility of education by providing zero cost course materials that build better engagement with the course. Also, unlike textbooks and inclusive access models, students can easily refer back to course content after they have taken the class. From personal experience, I know how students struggle to have course content purchased in time to start a class. OER can eliminate this barrier as well.
In terms of OA, students and faculty can have quicker access to OA publications because they don’t have any embargo restrictions like traditional publishers. In addition, because the information is OA, students and faculty also have access to associated data that authors would have used in their writing. Openness also promotes sharing, which means information is more accessible to a wider audience. More people will see the work, which is not only good for faculty writing about their research or creating OERs, but it makes publishing more accessible for students who are looking to build their resume and have confidence as information creators.
Finally, because of OA, OERs can be more easily adapted to become accessible for student who may not be able to see or hear. Remixing of information, like the 5Rs, allow this to happen with less restrictions.
To conclude this unit discussion, I want to share this excerpt:
“At its core, OER is about making sure everyone has access. Not just rich people, not just people who can see or hear, not just people who can read English – everyone” (“Creating and Sharing OER” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
This is what we are working toward together for OA and OER. Providing quality information easily, more broadly and accessible than with traditional publishing models. Education around these concepts, especially about CC licenses and retaining individual copyright, will continue to be important. As educators, it will also continue to be important to support each other in this work so it can have an even stronger impact, removing barriers to learning.