Opening the Access to Scholarly Research

Open Access promo material
Open Access promo buttons - photo by biblioteekje, on Flickr

I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle's Tech Therapy podcast on the "Moral Imperative" for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.

This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.

"Information is power," Swartz wrote. "But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves."  He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.

His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.

David Parry calls sites like JSTOR "knowledge cartels."

The term "open" and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as "the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.

There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.

Similarly, we use the term "open content" with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it.  Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).

You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). This blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.

The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.

Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.

You can listen to the Tech Therapy podcast on The Chronicle site or subscribe to it with iTunes.


If you read about the Open SUNY announcement recently, you probably thought of it as another MOOC story. But it's more than that. You have one of the largest statewide systems in the U.S. trying to shorten up their time-to-graduation rate and also lower student costs.

The way they are planning to do that is in part by using Open SUNY to expand access to public higher education by leveraging existing programs or experiments already in place at member campuses or at the system level.

It has strong ties to Open Educational Resources (OER) concepts.

It build upon on SUNY’s current open and online initiatives. They claim that Open SUNY has "the potential to be America’s most extensive distance learning environment." That's strong language, but they are big enough to make the claim as a system.

The hope is to provide students with affordable, innovative, and flexible education in a full range of instructional formats, both online and on site.

It will network students with faculty and peers from across the state and throughout the world using social technologies and linking to open educational resources.

I knew about Open SUNY mainly because of their connection with the College Open Textbook group which I have participated in for several years. Open SUNY has their own Open Textbooks initiative and when they offered a course through Blackboard’s CourseSites, I registered for their "Locating, Creating, Licensing and Utilizing OERs" to see the content and how they were using CourseSites.

One of the stated goals of Open SUNY is to expand access to public higher education:

Launch of Open SUNY in 2014, including 10 online bachelor’s degree programs that meet high-need workforce demands, three
of which will be piloted in the fall. Open SUNY will leverage online degree offerings at every SUNY campus, making them available to students system-wide using a common set of online tools, including a financial aid consortium so that credits and aid can be received by students across campuses. Chancellor Zimpher said Open SUNY enrollment will reach 100,000 students within three years, making it the largest online education presence of any public institution in the nation.

These are some of the measures that Open SUNY will use to see how significant the experiment contributes to:

  1. reducing the time to degree;

  2. reducing the overall cost of obtaining a SUNY degree;

  3. meeting workforce and societal needs;

  4. improved graduate outcomes;

  5. increasing the SUNY completion rates;

  6. increasing the number of online learners;

  7. enhancing the profile of SUNY as an innovative leader in teaching and learning

Open Professional Development

I was asked to do some professional development at another college and part of what they are looking to do is use more open educational resources (OER). They would like the sessions to use OER in order to encourage adoption of open educational resources.

It is not an unusual request. I have found a number of professional development planning projects online and tips on encouraging adoption of OER through professional development.

Teachers need help getting through the volume of resources available. Professional development sessions can introduce useful tools that have been vetted and get people started in using them.

As with any technology, faculty have varied comfort levels with it. I'm not a big advocate of bell curves, but it does seem to work with professional development. You need your faculty "champions" to help others see the advantages in the tech. Faculty-to-faculty PD always seems to have a better acceptance rate.

I wouldn't introduce OER into a department or school that didn't already have some culture of professional development. Faculty and administrators (in some cases, students) should be involved. PD should be a regular occurrence and not a once a semester or year "day" full of workshops.

The best professional development doesn't just train people. It also empowers them. People need to hear the success stories from their peers.

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Open Education Week


This week is Open Education Week
, a time to celebrate the open education movement.

Word comes to me from P2PU about events like Open Video Sudan, a forum for  improving “A Look at Open Video” and creating new courses and resources on open video in Sudan and P2PU's Karen Fasimpaur who will be talking about Peer Learning this Wednesday.

They are announcing that their School of Open community has launched its first set of courses. This is the place to be to learn everything about anything open. Sign-up for facilitated courses is open already and courses will start during the week of March 18. Learn more about the School of Open, and their partners at Creative Commons.