OER the hills and far away

OER (Open Educational Resources) are “digitized materials offered openly and freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research.”1 Referring to the openness of open educational resources, John Hilton [et al] has written that

“the ‘open’ in open educational resources is not a simple binary concept; rather, the construct of openness is rich and multi-dimensional. To use an analogy, openness is not like a light switch that is either ‘on’ or ‘off.’ Rather it is like a dimmer switch, with varying degrees of openness.”2

It seems to me that one important aspect of defining what is meant by “openness” is to consider how easy the OER is to locate.  Discoverability of an OER is thus an important consideration as to how genuinely open it really is. In order for OER to be reused it is necessary for them to be found. If an OER cannot be discovered, from a practical perspective it might as well be closed behind an institutional firewall.

Along similar lines, as Peter Suber points out in his Oct. 2013 Guardian article “Open Access: Six Myths Put to Rest,” there seems to be quite a bit of confusion in academia as to what open access does and doesn’t mean, and how it does and does not function. The difference between journal-delivered “gold” open access and repository “green” open access, for example, needs to be clarified and publicized in a clear way. Authors of scholarly articles, regardless of discipline, need to learn that their work can most likely be shared via green open access repository, even if the  work initially appears in a conventional academic journal. I doubt that most scholars want their work to  languish unread on remote library shelves and behind firewalls. If more people in the academic world knew what their publishing options actually were, and that rendering their work accessible is often an author-initiated choice, surely more of them would opt to open their scholarship to a potentially wider audience. Right?

1Bissell, Ahrash. “Permission Granted: Open Licensing for Educational Resources.” Open Learning, The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, vol. 24. 2009.

2 Hilton, J., Wiley, D., Stein, J., Johnson. “The Four R’s of Openness and ALMS Analysis: Frameworks for Open Educational Resources.” Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, vol. 25. 2010.

4 thoughts on “OER the hills and far away

  1. Maura A. Smale (she/her)

    These are great points, Josh and Pamela. I completely agree that within the disciplines is a logical place for discussions of open access publishing (and scholarly communications in general) to happen, though it can be tricky because the disciplines often have very different traditions of and standards for scholarly production, and often very different levels of experience/interest in OA. It’s always seemed much more beneficial to me to publish OA because I retain my rights and anyone can read my work, though I know in many disciplines the quality of the journal is critical for the tenure and promotion process, and the flagship journals in a discipline may not be OA.

    As a library faculty member I’ve been successfully able to argue that publishing OA is important in my discipline (and I’ve also done research and published on OA as a topic, which I think has helped my case.) But part of the responsibility rests on us as scholars, I think, to keep having conversations about changes in scholarly communications, and on senior scholars especially to publish in OA venues (and support their junior colleagues who do the same). I also wonder whether junior faculty publishing in OA venues can help change the landscape, or does that seem too risky?

  2. Joshua Belknap (He/him/his) Post author

    @Pamela Thielman – Pamela,
    I agree. I was not aware of the nuances and different kinds of openness until reading Suber’s article. It seems to me that this should become a more central component of the general discussions about publishing and professional development in Ph.D. programs– regardless of discipline– owing to the misapprehensions to which you refer.

  3. Pamela Thielman (she/her)

    I think you’re right about author education being necessarily. I was not clear until this week on the differences that you outline above, and I think that many PhD students are laboring under the misapprehension that once their work is in a journal it is forever of their hands. It seems to me that part of the PhD process should be making sure that this kind of information makes it way to students. The GC library and other groups within this institution offer workshops and such where someone can learn these things but by nature these reach people who are already seeking out information on these issues. It would be nice to see these kinds of discussions happening as part of the professionalization within disciplines, especially since each discipline is going to have a slightly different perspective on “openness.”

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