Monday, September 24, 2018

Open Access Week is Around the Corner

Open Access Week (Oct. 22-28, 2018) is around the corner, and in this post I'd like to focus especially on open educational resources. But first, a few acronyms!

Movements to Free Scholarship and Textbooks 

image of an open access icon that is an unlocked orange lockOpen Access (OA) is a movement working to make scholarship both free to read and easy to share (free from most usage restrictions), which is important given the obscene profits made by big publishers. Ever find an article or book chapter you wanted to read only to be told you'd need to pay $$ to get it? That's called a paywall and it thwarts students, researchers, and even folks just trying to help sick loved ones.
Open Educational Resources (OER) is an important piece in the OA movement that focuses on making educational resources (e.g., textbooks, videos, handouts) both free to read and easy to share. Its value stems from the incredible rise in college textbook costs, the way use restrictions can hinder faculty from adopting the best material for learning, and studies that show the positive impact OER can have on student learning. From a marketing perspective, it's unclear why we as educators would support a legacy system that holds buyers captive at the expense of learning.
image of a captive cycle showing how publishers solicit professors to select a text which student then pay publishers to usean image of a more balanced market where buyers (students) push in one direction and sellers (publishers) push in the opposite direction

A Word of Caution

As OER has gained momentum and influenced legislation, textbook publishers have responded by providing their own OER and related materials. While these affordable (and sometimes questionably marketed as inclusive) educational resource packages can reduce the costs of education, these platform-based strategies risk reproducing the same kind of lock-in for students and more recently for institutions.

What You Can Do


screenshot of the OER Guide for faculty

Faculty, if you're interested in learning more, check out our OER guide where you'll find the latest news, why support is strong and increasing, and how you can review, adopt, and create OER.

You might also find the following of interest.


There are multiple ways students can get involved in OER. Here are just a few ideas.

Students can also provide valuable contributions to open textbooks... It might seem that only upper-level students would be able to do so well, but that need not necessarily be the case. As Plymouth State University professor Robin DeRosa puts it, “Students are the perfect people to help create textbooks, since they are the most keenly tuned in to what other students will need in order to engage with the material in meaningful ways.” -- from Students' Vital Role in OER

Advocates need partners, and we do make a difference.

College students are spending less by accessing free course materials, often assigned by faculty. They’re borrowing, sharing, and downloading the materials needed for their classes. Notable in the 2017-18 academic year is that nearly 20% of students surveyed reported downloading free course materials from a variety of sources. -- from the National Association of College Stores' Student Watch Attitudes & Behaviors toward Course Materials 2017-18 Report

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