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Open Access Educational Resources

Use this guide to explore and research Open Educational Resources.

Open Access Defined

Open Access means unrestricted access and unrestricted reuse.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

Open Access is part of a continuum ranging from completely closed, subscription/purchase only access to completely open, no barrier publishing. Open Access is not related to the quality of materials or the peer-review/non-peer-review status of the publications.

Most publishers own the rights to the articles in their journals. Anyone who wants to read the articles must pay to access them. Anyone who wants to use the articles in any way must obtain permission from the publisher and is often required to pay an additional fee.

Although many researchers can access the journals they need via their institution and think that their access is free, in reality it is not. The institution has often been involved negotiations around the price of their site license and re-use of this content is limited.

Paying for access to content makes sense in the world of print publishing, where providing content to each new reader requires the production of an additional copy, but online it makes much less sense to charge for content when it is possible to provide access to all readers anywhere in the world.

PLOS

Additional Information

Over the past decade, Open Access has become central to advancing the interests of researchers, scholars, students, businesses, and the public  - as well as librarians.  The digital environment poses new challenges and provides new opportunities in the sharing, review, and publication of research results. Ensuring broad, unfettered access to the knowledge contained in primary research articles and the rights to use these articles fully will play a key role in seeing that the scholarly communication system evolves in a way that supports the needs of scholars and the academic enterprise as a whole.

Increasingly, institutions that support research – from public and private research funders to higher education institutions – are implementing policies that require researchers to make articles that report on research generated from their funding openly accessible to and fully useable by the public. 

Helics Group

 

The open access movement began in the 1990s as access to the World Wide Web became widely available and online publishing became the norm. The forerunners of open access were open source and open courseware.

  • Development of open access journals: The Development of Open Access Journal Publishing from 1993 to 2009.
  • Statements about open access: the Budapest Open Access Initiative (Feb. 14, 2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (Apr. 11, 2003), the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (Oct. 22, 2003), the Lyon Declaration on Access to Informationa and Development (Aug. 2014), Public Library of Science (PLoS) (founded in 2000), and Creative Commons (founded in 2001).
  • Development of open archives: Open Archives Initiative (started in October 1999)
  • Adoption of open access policies (starting in 2003): ROARMAP: Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies.

CSHL LibGuide

Advantages of using OERs include:

  • Expanded access to learning. Students anywhere in the world can access OERs at any time, and they can access the material repeatedly.
  • Scalability. OERs are easy to distribute widely with little or no cost.
  • Augmentation of class materials. OERs can supplement textbooks and lectures where deficiencies in information are evident.
  • Enhancement of regular course content. For example, multimedia material such as videos can accompany text. Presenting information in multiple formats may help students to more easily learn the material being taught.
  • Quick circulation. Information may be disseminated rapidly (especially when compared to information published in textbooks or journals, which may take months or even years to become available). Quick availability of material may increase the timeliness and/or relevance of the material being presented.
  • Less expense for students. The use of OERs instead of traditional textbooks or course packs, etc. can substantially reduce the cost of course materials for students.
  • Showcasing of innovation and talent. A wide audience may learn of faculty research interests and expertise. Potential students and donors may be impressed, and student and faculty recruitment efforts may be enhanced.
  • Ties for alumni. OERs provide an excellent way for alumni to stay connected to the institution and continue with a program of lifelong learning.
  • Continually improved resources. Unlike textbooks and other static sources of information, OERs can be improved quickly through direct editing by users or through solicitation and incorporation of user feedback. Instructors can take an existing OER, adapt it for a class, and make the modified OER     available for others to use.

Disadvantages of OERs include:

  • Quality issues. Since many OER repositories allow any user to create an account and post material, some resources may not be relevant and/or accurate.
  • Lack of human interaction between teachers and students. OER material is created to stand alone, and since self-learning users may access the material outside of a classroom environment, they will miss out on the discussion and instructor feedback that characterize for-credit classes and that make such classes useful and valuable.
  • Language and/or cultural barriers. Although efforts are being made to make OERs available in multiple languages, many are only available in English, limiting their usefulness to non-English speakers. Additionally, not all resources are culturally appropriate for all audiences.
  • Technological issues. Some students may have trouble using some OERs if they have a slow or erratic internet connection. Other OERs may require software that students don’t have and that they may not be able to afford.
  • Intellectual property/copyright concerns. Since OERs are meant to be shared openly, the “fair use” exemption from the U.S. Copyright Act ceases to apply; all content put online must be checked to ensure that it doesn’t violate copyright law.
  • Sustainability issues. Since OER creators generally do not receive any type of payment for their OER, there may be little incentive for them to update their OER or to ensure that it will continue to be available online.

University of Maryland LibGuide

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