Week 6 (4/22-4/26) - Open Access & Open Educational Resources

Week 6 - Open Access & Open Educational Resources

Goals: This week you will learn about Open Access, the Open Access movement, and Open Educational Resources (OER), which are learning materials that are freely available for use, remixing and redistribution.


While licensing has historically been used to restrict people's rights to use copyrighted content, the Open Access Movement uses licenses in a different way: To permit greater sharing and re-use of content, and to permit rightsholders to require attribution.

The Open Access movement takes its name from the "Free/Open Source Software" (F/OSS) movement, which was the first organized effort to use licenses to require access and distribution rights. The software using these licenses has become so successful that it underlies much of the Internet--everything from servers to local applications to the Android mobile phone operating system.

In time, creators, academics, and researchers came to see that the F/OSS movement, with its use of licenses to guarantee access, could be very useful in disseminating research and creative works.

In 2002, Creative Commons was launched, offering creators and rightsholders a simple way to mark their works as freely distributable. By tagging their work with a small piece of code that displays and links to a "CC-BY" license, for instance, the author or rightsholder tells users that they can freely distribute the work so long as they provide attribution to the creator ("BY"). A "CC-BY-NC" license tells users that they can freely distribute the work so long as they provide attribution to the creator, and so long as it is for noncommercial purposes ("NC"). Creative Commons also permits creators to dedicate their works to the public domain, using the "CC-0" tool. The motto of Creative Commons is "Some Rights Reserved", in contrast to the slogan often attached to copyright notices -- "All Rights Reserved."

Around the same time that Creative Commons was launched, the Open Access movement was picking up steam in academia. Over the course of the twentieth century, it had become commonplace for authors to assign the copyrights to their works to the publishers. But in the late 20th century, changing technologies and market forces in the publishing industry led publishers to significantly increase the cost they were charging back to libraries for subscribing to the content. Library purchases were squeezed, and even the wealthiest of institutions have found it unsustainable to continue to provide access to scholarly output. Researchers have resorted to back-channel methods of acquiring copies of research, such as the twitter hashtag #ICanHazPDF. Public outcry has grown over lack of access to medical information and other publicly-funded research. All of these factors have begun to shift relations between universities, their libraries and researchers, on the one hand; publishers on the other; and governments and funders on a third hand. In the past decade:

  • Some academic publishers have sued a state university to stop its library's ereserves program (Cambridge University Press v. Becker, aka the Georgia State University ereserves case);
  • Other academic publishers have been experimenting with charging authors to provide open access to research ("gold open access") in traditional "hybrid" journals, and the UK has authorized this with the "Finch Report";
  • Nonprofits have sprung up to develop open access journals; for example, PLOS;
  • Numerous organizations are experimenting with approaches to managing the peer review, publication, distribution process, and assessment of impact; for example, SCOAP3 for high-energy physics;
  • Federal agencies have mandated open access to biomedical research through the NIH Directive and data management plans for NSF-funded research;
  • The White House issued a Directive mandating open access to federally-funded research within 12 months of publication;
  • Congress has introduced legislation to mandate open access to federally-funded research within 6 months of publication (FASTR, introduced 2013); and
  • State legislators have been looking into open access as well, and in 2012 California passed legislation mandating the creation of open access textbooks for popular college classes.

As that last item suggests, the Open Access Movement hasn't been confined just to research and scholarship. Development of "Open Educational Resources" -- teaching and learning materials, like textbooks, syllabi, instructional media, quizzes, and study guides -- has been exploding as well. OERs take advantage of the ease of digital technology to facilitate distribution and access, as well as to experiment with new models of delivering content.

Remember, Case Scenario 3 is due April 28!

Assigned Materials:

Additional Reading and Resources

Discussion Questions:

Note: There are no discussion questions this week, as the Final Case Scenario will focus on Open Educational Resources.


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