Open Access and Education: a work in progress

31 October, 2013

Open Access Week

Last week, Oct. 21-27, the International Open Access Week was celebrated: a global event, now in its 6th year, promoting Open Access as a new norm in scolarship and research. The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) took part of it by preparing a competition consisting in a questionnaire on copy rights and open access and a Workshop on OER, which were organized by Cristina Vaquer from the UOC Virtual Library. The workshop was broadcasted.

 This year the University decided to focus on licenses and copyright, so the workshop was named “Open Access, repositories and copyleft“. It was conducted by Julià Minguillón and Ignasi Labastida. Julià Minguillón, faculty member at the Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunication Dept. of the UOC, who is a strong advocate and expert in OER research and use, spoke about the concept and uses of Open Educational Resources. He emphasized the importance of interacting with and feedback from users and also pointed out some threats and weaknesses, as cultural differences may bring distinct, sometimes opposite meanings to an original material, or language can act as a boundary making resources not feasible to be used anywhere.

 An UNESCO survey in 2006 showed that there was a huge need for awareness of the OER potential. However, Minguillón considers that the impact of OER now is growing and many new initiatives have been launched. Open Up Education is an example of the increasing presence of OER and the boost given to the movement by institutions and professionals, e.g. Andrew Valls from the Oregon State University, who wrote in CHE:

 “we should look upon online lectures and similar materials as a way to draw on others’ expertise…One should hope that eventually there would be a wide variety of lectures available online from which professors and students could choose”.

 Ignasi Labastida from the University of Barcelona, who represents Creative Commons (CC) in Spain focused on open licenses. Producing open content entails providing creators and users with open formats that make possible that these are copied and freely accessible but also that authorship is publicly recognized. In this regard, CC licenses display a wide range of possibilities: authors can allow or forbid commercial usages of their work, as well as permit or refuse that their resources are used in further research or OER, and so forth.

 CC licenses are not the only ones but the most often used by authors who share their materials in the UOC Institutional Repository. 5000 documents are available on that platform with more than 2 million downloads to date. The UOC promotes open access to research and teaching resources produced by the UOC community in order to make them available not only in UOC but also in similar portals in Catalonia, Spain and the European Union.

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