Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online to students, educators, and the general public. They include textbooks, quizzes, class exercises, videos, and other learning objects that have been openly licensed so that others can adopt or reuse this material for their own purposes.
To be more specific, when we say that OERs are openly licensed, we mean that they can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. In practice this means:
For a textbook to be considered open, it must be licensed in a way that grants a baseline set of rights to users that are less restrictive than its standard copyright. A licensor's list of permissions must be clearly stated by the author.
Generally, the minimum baseline rights allow users at least the following:
Many authors also grant rights such as:
So, what is the difference between Open Access and Open Educational Resources? Both concepts operate under the same idea that "information should be 'free'" or as free as we can make it. While not naive in thinking that research is free to pursue or publish, it is believed that there are scalable barriers in making research and published articles available to the lay reader without exorbitant costs. Open Access is a creation, publishing, and access model that, according to Peter Suber, is "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions" (Suber). Furthermore, it has 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" (Budapest)
How is this possible? It requires a mental shift in academia--one that says that impact factor of journals is not the end-all, be-all of determining a paper's worth nor a professors professional contribution. If researchers and the schools they work for make a commitment to publish in Open Access Journals or to pay the OA licensing fee to retain some copyright over their work, paywalls come down.
The following is a quick explanation of the current model of publishing vs what Open Access proposes.
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As summarized by SPARC:
Transcript available upon request from Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
We are educators. We should have joined this field out of desire to spread knowledge, not lock it away behind a paywall, simply to secure our own tenure at the cost of benefiting larger society.
It is time we recognize that the old model of publishing is leading us down a constricting pathway. Yes, as faculty, we have access to much scholarly material, paid for by library budgets. But most around us lack that access. And as librarians, we are watching the new pricing models, the new procurement processes that are pricing even the wealthiest private universities out of the market. Right now, by adopting the OA mindset and model, we broaden access to others outside of academia. What we are also doing, however, is protecting our own access in the very near future.
OER and OA are two branches of the same tree. Each offers scholarly products (textbooks, ancillary materials, etc. and published research articles, respectively) to readers without the cost barriers of the traditional publishing model. Those outside of the classroom benefit as well, able to read vetted and frequently peer reviewed materials that they often have funded through their tax money.
What is the end goal here? The proliferation of knowledge throughout the world. Knowledge that will be built on and grow into new discoveries that benefit the work around us for generations to come. ("5.2").
"5.2 OER, Open Textbooks, and Open Courses." Creative Commons, creativecommons.org/cccertedu/chapter/6-2-oer-open-textbooks-open-courses/
"Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002." Budapest Open Access Initiative, www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/boai15-1.
"Open Access." SPARC, sparcopen.org/open-access/.
"Open Textbook." Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_textbook#Definition.
Suber, Peter. "Open Access Overview." bit.ly/oa-overview.