Open Access: It’s time to learn more

Post prepared by Brenna Williamson

Welcome to Open Access Week 2021! This year we’re celebrating open access (OA) at StFX by highlighting open educational resources (OER). But first, for those of you wondering just what exactly OA means, here’s a quick introduction to OA!

Already familiar with OA? Scroll to the end of this post to discover tools for finding OER or contact StFX Librarian Meghan Landry, who is your Council of Atlantic University Libraries (CAUL-CBUA) designated Institutional OER support contact person.

What is OA?

According to the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), Open Access (OA) emerged as a potential solution to the ongoing rise in the price of scientific journal subscriptions beginning in 1989. OA initiatives are increasingly popular around the world.

OA content – including journals, books and repositories – is generally:

  • free of charge to access (helps remove barriers for readers)
  • mostly free of copyright and other licensing restrictions
  • available online and made possible through the development of the internet
  • still emphasizes the importance of the peer-review process

If it’s free, why would anyone publish in OA?

Scholars may consider publishing in OA journals or repositories to:

  • Support a more sustainable publishing model
  • to increase exposure and the citation of research through broader dissemination
  • increase access for researchers to scholarly literature and research findings
  • to comply with funding agency requirements (such as Tri-Agency Grants)

So now that we’ve covered some of the basics of OA, let’s talk about Open Educational Resources (OER)!

In the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, and the widespread shift to online learning, the use of OER in post-secondary education has become even more important. Let’s start with what exactly OER are.

What are OER?

OER include “teaching, learning, and research materials … 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.” Basically, OER are teaching and course materials that students can access online for free and are easily shared between instructors, students … well you can share OER with pretty much anyone. OER are usually digital and available over the internet. At present there are many OER initiatives in Canada, including the Council of Atlantic University Libraries OER pilot project.

OER can include:

  • Textbooks
  • Syllabi, tests and assignments
  • Instructional videos

Why use OER?

OER work well in introductory courses, where the content tends to be similar from course to course, and instructors may only need to alter a few aspects of the OER to suit their course’s content. The following list highlights several other reasons instructors may want to consider incorporating OER into their course design.

  • Reduced costs for students.
    • OER, which are free of charge,make textbooks more accessible
  • Easily adaptable course materials
    • Due to licencing that permits adaptation and redistribution, OER can be adapted to fit specific cultural contexts and course designs
    • For example, freely alter American examples to Canadian examples
  • Easier to update textbooks
    • OER are usually hosted online and so are easier to update and make changes to than print textbooks
  • Easier to share course materials with students.
    • Most OER are hosted online and can be shared through a simple link
  • Avoid licensing restrictions
    • Typical electronic textbooks have restrictions on how they can be viewed, shared or otherwise used
    • OER avoids many of these restrictions
  • Improve student learning outcomes
    • According to the Council of Atlantic University Libraries most studies show equal or improved student learning when using open textbooks

Interested in learning even more about OA or incorporating OER into your course design?

See the following list of resources or reach out to your StFX Liaison Librarian.

List of OA and OER Resources

  • Openly Available Sources Integrated Search (OASIS)
    • Allows you to browse open educational resources, by subject, source, title or author
    • Includes textbooks, books, videos and other open access course materials
    • Developed by SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library
  • OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories)
    • Lists repositories, of academic content, from around the world
    • Can browse by country, or search by subject, organization, content type etc.

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