What is Open Access?
Open Access is a category descriptor for materials that are freely available to users of the internet without many copyright and licensing restrictions. “Open access stands in contrast to the existing “closed” system for communicating scientific and scholarly research” (“5.1 Open Access to Scholarship,” https://certificates.creativecommons.org/cccertedu/chapter/6-1-open-access-to-scholarship/ by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0). “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.” (“5.1 Open Access to Scholarship,” https://certificates.creativecommons.org/cccertedu/chapter/6-1-open-access-to-scholarship/ by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0).
What are Open Educational Resources?
“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (UNESCO, 2017). OER can be as granular as one worksheet to help students submit one assignment all the way through a fully designed curricular program that includes full courses with an OA textbook embedded, assignments, rubrics, test banks, lectures, and videos. A few qualities germane to OER are the ability for subsequent users to retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute the materials.
How are OA and OER related?
OA can be considered an umbrella under which OER exists; materials that are created with the purpose of allowing others to use, modify or share them with others. OA is often also associated with policies. You might hear that an institution or organization has an “OA Policy”–this means that those who publish or produce research are obligated to publish their work in journals that publish open access, researchers are obligated to fund the publication of their article as OA within a journal that does not exclusively publish in the open, or sometimes OA policies allow for researchers to share pre or post-print publications if their author’s rights agreements allow for it. An overlap between these two classifications can happen when an educator finds materials made available through an institution–this material can be considered an OER, given certain licensing conditions. This image from Paul Stacey provides some visual support for the relationship between OER and OA concepts:
Why is OA important for instructors, students, and our university community?
OA helps support information and knowledge access by removing barriers to research and scholarship. When researchers and instructors support Open Access or adhere to Open Access policies they might keep research, data, and scholarly materials freely available; they’re cognizant of prohibitive costs associated with the traditional publishing avenues; or they know that OA means maintaining access for everyone, especially for publicly funded research often placed behind subscription services. When researchers publish their materials in OA journals libraries don’t need to pay for access to those materials. This means that library budgets–especially academic libraries–often funded in part through student segregated feeds, don’t need to be used to pay for access to these materials.
Why are OER important for instructors students, and our university Community?
Below are some outcomes other universities have achieved after implementing their own OER initiatives. These outcomes are crucial for shaping the landscape of OER use at our University, but these also center the student success and retention over educational affordability. Using OER is considered an inclusive teaching practice–so for disciplines where the topics affiliated with culturally diverse authors, using OER intentionally can improve student success metrics like learning outcome attainment because students don’t need to wait for their financial aid to be disbursed in order to access the materials for their courses.
Reduce time to graduation and student debt.
One longitudinal study from Florida Virtual Campus between 2016-2018 found that students enroll in fewer courses per semester as the cost of required textbooks increases. By delaying their date of graduation, students take longer to complete their degree and may end up taking on more debt in total (Florida Virtual Campus, 2018). To add to this, e-book cost has risen dramatically over the last ten months as publishers take advantage of the disrupted learning environment (Price gouging from Covid: student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print, 2021).
Improve student learning outcomes.
One reason instructors have historically shied away from OERs is the perception that they’re lower quality. However, that has been proven to not be the case. Not only do OER resources not harm student learning, but they can also lead to improved student outcomes in comparison to commercial textbooks (Jhangiani, et al., 2019).
Reduce equity gaps.
Marginalized student groups – e.g., racially marginalized, first-generation, and low-income students – experience more extreme financial insecurity and borrow at a much higher rate than their more privileged peers. (Nusbaum, Cuttler, & Swindell, 2020). The rising cost of instructional materials like textbooks and online publisher sites is a barrier to student success—especially when students are faced with making tradeoffs at the expense of their other financial obligations: food, rent, gas, medical expenses, or childcare.
Increase student retention of part-time, first, and second-year students.
Research from 2015 shows that students do as well or better in courses with OER or open access materials and there are a lower number of Drops and Withdrawals within these courses (Hilton, Fischer, Wiley and Lane, 2015). Retention between semesters is supported by Hilton et.al, but newer research about “OER at Scale” and student success metrics associated with OER further demonstrates that their use leads to student retention for part-time students, as well as an increase in retention between the first and second years (Colvard, Watson, and Park, 2018; Griffiths, Mislevy, Wang, Ball, Shear, and Desrochers, 2020).
Creative Commons Certificate Assignment 5 by Kate Farley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.