Topic 5: Want to Read this Journal? That’ll be £20 Please.

Open Education Resources

(Image Credit: jisc.ac.uk)

Wherever we look on the Internet we can gain information for free, but things are beginning to change. Increasing amounts of information are becoming only accessible if you’re willing to pay for it, and it’s an area which is being targeted as a strong and legitimate revenue stream for companies (Lepitak, 2013).

For those not already familiar with the concept of Open Education Resources (OER’s) the video below details how it works and presents some of the benefits of such a system.

From a personal perspective, having just completed my Dissertation my perspective on OER’s is obviously influenced by this. Looking back at it, if I’d had to pay just £1 for access to each online journal I’d read then it would have cost me a considerable amount of money, on top of the amount I’m already paying to attend University. The danger is, if we start having to pay for access to resources the whole concept of University starts to become increasingly inaccessible for all but the privileged. This is highlighted in an article in Forbes where Baraniuk highlights that by making one of his books freely available online it has been downloaded 3 million times since 1999, particularly in the Developing world (Baraniuk, 2014).

However, Research costs. Studies aren’t free. And Academics need to make a living. If people aren’t making money from licensing of their research there is a valid concern that the quality and quantity of Research may suffer. But there are plenty of people between Researchers and the Student who make money from our desire for knowledge. If OER are severely limited and become viewed as a good ‘money-maker’ surely there is a concern that prices will be driven up and quality could be compromised in an attempt to satisfy the demands of a Multi-National Company with the sole aim to make a profit. Whatever happens in the future, there is no denying that the face of OER’s is changing and we’re currently in the middle of an Educational Revolution (Wiley et al., 2012).

References:

Baraniuk, R. (2014) The Future of Online Education. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2014/02/13/the-future-of-online-education/ Accessed: May 2015.

Lepitak, S. (2013) 90% of Online Content to be held behind Paywalls in Three Years Media Company suggests. The Drum. http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/04/12/90-online-content-be-held-behind-paywalls-three-years-media-company-survey-suggests Accessed: May 2015.

Wiley, D. Green, C. and Soares, L. (2012) Dramatically Bringing down the cost of Education with OER: How Open Education Resources Unlock the door to Free Learning. Centre for American Progress. Washington. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED535639 Accessed: May 2015.

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9 thoughts on “Topic 5: Want to Read this Journal? That’ll be £20 Please.

  1. Hi Olivia,

    I enjoyed reading your blog about OERs and what you mention about the prices you would have had to pay to research for your dissertation is insightful. Whilst there are many articles that we don’t have access to I think we take advantage of how easily we can use the web or even libraries to find different articles.

    I found your research about the Forbes article quite surprising. It proves how useful Open Access is to broadening ones knowledge especially for students! You discuss the popularity it had in the developing world which was something that I discussed in my video that explained the benefits of Open Access. The fact that many developing countries have such limited access to research is something that is not widely thought about. However the need for the developing world to have this access is even more important given their limited resources as a country. The ability for them to have more established research is critical in the development for programmes to solve against disease and environmental problems. As I previously mentioned, we are fortunate enough to have access to libraries as well as a large range of online journals. Do you think that we should devote more time and money to improving the resources and research in third world countries by providing them with free access to articles and journals?

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    • Sophie,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I think the discussion regarding Open Access in the Developing World is a very interesting one. I personally don’t think your access should be defined by where in the world you live, even in developed nations there is extreme poverty etc, and so access in my opinion should be totally Universal. Universities have engagement officers to ensure participation with the community etc and so to a certain degree I personally think that they have a responsibility to enable Open Access. Just because you’ve read an article or 2 it doesn’t mean that you automatically have a degree, they wouldn’t loose the revenue of the students who attend so I struggle to see what the negatives would be. It would also heighten the profile of their Researchers and Departments, something which would only increase future potential funding.

      Olivia

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  2. Hiya Olivia!

    I completely agree with you about Reach costs and Academics do need to make a living- Sustainability issues can increase since OER creators generally don’t receive any type of payment for their OER, there may be little incentive for them to update their OER or to ensure that it will continue to be available online.When quality and quantity of work produced are suffered due to this, the students are at the receiving end of it..

    I certainly hope that OER will change for the better for both academics and students and that Educational Revolution which was expected by Wiley et al in 2012 is making this change.. what do you think that’s happened in the past three years regarding this?

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    • Hi! Thanks for you comment, I definitely agree that quality can be an issue when Research is made available for free. But Researchers and Lecturers are paid a wage by the University and gain funding in order to conduct their Research so publishing and journals are not their only revenue stream. I’ve often been recommended a book simply because the lecturer wrote it and there’s a room full of 60 willing students who will rush out and buy it based on their recommendation, regardless of whether the book is actually particularly well written or useful. By having access to a huge number of Open Access Journals we’re able to research the topic further, make informed decisions and partake in the independent learning that the University system promotes.

      In regards to the last 3 years I have to confess my specific knowledge is rather limited so if there is anything you can add that would be great! What this topic has shown me however is that there is a growing level of awareness about the benefits of Open Access and I think as students we’re definitely demanding it much more now that we’re paying so much to get a degree.

      Olivia

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  4. Hi Olivia,

    Vey informative blog post. I found the video and its explanation of OERs and their benefits really interesting. It really highlights the advantages of free access in our globalising world today, particularly the opportunities it can provide to ambitious people who weren’t born in the West where education is a given.

    Nonetheless, your point at the end is crucial. Of course writing good quality journals isn’t free. Someone has to do it and get paid for it. I’ve been focusing on a similar problem, but in the world of the online press.

    In the same way that OERs are massively beneficial in terms of granting everyone with Internet access the right to education, free online press grants everyone the chance to remain informed on current affairs and important events happening in the world, which is really important.

    But the free online press is also currently at risk, as many online newspapers are creating paywalls as a way to earn revenue for their content.

    Someone commented on my blog post suggesting crowdfunding journalism (https://medium.com/de-correspondent/a-short-guide-to-crowdfunding-journalism-b495ecba710) as a way for online press to pay its journalists without having to erect a paywall.

    I wonder whether a similar concept could be applied to academic research… A system in which wealthy people with a particular interests in certain areas of research would fund the academic to research and write the journal, which would then be made freely available to anyone. Could this work?

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    • May,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that the Press is an area where Open Access is a very interesting topic. If we take for example the guilty pleasure of the Daily Mail, its pretty widely agreed that the Journalism isn’t as good as it could be, but it’s totally free to access, funded by Sponsored Articles and Adverts. I often find it really frustrating that the Times want to charge me just to read a quick Article and as a result I often just rely on BBC news due to it being free. I think the problem is, if some News Outlets are supplying their content for free to users, it makes it rather hard for others to charge for it. News isn’t unique, we can’t only find it on the Times etc, we can find it in countless other sources for free so what actually justifies paying for it?

      The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an example where an incredibly wealthy couple has contributed a huge amount financially to Research by funding the actual Research. I definitely think a couple such of this establishing a website to provide Open Access would be a really good and viable source of information!

      Olivia

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