I really appreciated learning about the resources and reading the articles on open access education. I had never used Open@CUNY prior to this week and I was amazed at how thorough it is. I will definitely share it with students. While reading and going through this week’s materials, I kept thinking about their relation to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and particularly about how Open Access affects individuals from  different roles within academia and people outside of academia. Certainly for students, Open Access textbooks are a “godsend.” In theory, the same can be said for professors who want their students to read certain books or articles without restriction since OA/OER lifts the financial strain that serves an obstacle to learning. However, as Leslie Chan points out the economic conversation (e.g., cost models, etc.) are overshadowing the conversion about OA’s core principle of free access to knowledge. The costs of production are not something that can be totally ignored even if authors and universities are happy to make their research and books free to access. Chan states that “the irony is that while Open Access was supposed to improve the two-way models of knowledge access and dissemination, what we are seeing is that some models are creating new divides. For instance, these days, many OA models are now requiring that the authors themselves pay the (often exorbitant) fee to make their work openly accessible. The problem with this model is that it is simply re-solidifying the status quo, even more restrictively” Having authors pay exorbitant fees is certainly problematic for the democratic production of knowledge, it is likely to alienate any who cannot afford to share their knowledge. However, according to Peter Suber “most peer-reviewed open access journals charge no fees at all”. There are a few that may charge publication fees but they seem to be in the minority and based on the informative powerpoint from Jill Cirasella, when publication fees are charged by OA journals, they normally are not paid by the authors. Crisella mentions that a benefit of OA is that it is not exploitative. Indeed, if authors have to pay hefty fees this will limit access to and production of knowledge as we do see happening with traditional journal publishers. I was shocked to learn that when a paper is published by a typical well-established journal that the author/s essentially forfeit copyrights. I have published a few things when I did research and my PI never shared this apparent fact which is an apparently common practice. I actually tried to find some of the research I worked on after I ditched research for a career in teaching but I had to pay to access it so those articles were “forever lost”- or so I thought. This week’s readings made me try again and I am happy to report that most of my old research work (i.e., papers I co-authored)  is now OA, freely available probably more so because it’s old than any other reason as my PI was definitely the type that might shy away from OA due to career concerns.  Chan describes the issue that arises of “whose knowledge is considered most “legitimate.”… encouraging a definition of openness as a process rather than a set of conditions that need to be met. It is an adaptive and dynamic process, and one that is always changing…people have their own careers to worry about. And it is often their own careers that take precedence over their principles. And because they do well in their careers, they also advise their students to follow the same trajectories and not to take risks. So, it’s a cycle”. Those that fear change or fear being seen as less rigorous as a result of being published in OA journals rather than traditional journals are misguided in their anxiety. As noted by Suber, “open access journals can be first-rate: the quality of a scholarly journal is a function of its authors, editors, and referees, not its business model or access policy”. Those who worry that their careers will suffer by going OA are simply misinformed and need to get with the times. I suspect they are clinging to the old ways because they came up under the “banking concept” of Education that Paulo Freire criticized for its “attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power.” Open Access, in principle, contradicts the banking concept directly by extending control over thinking and action by allowing free publication (action) and free access (thinking) of authors and ultimately encouraging more creativity as views and research are shared freely. However, because we are in a capitalist system- the conversations about OA itself conceptually, socially, academically may get hijacked by conversations about what the business models should be, as Chan criticizes, which they are missing the point of how OA does/should/can invite “diverse stakeholders’ participation in knowledge production processes”. I do believe that the public has a right to view and learn from research and/ or resources that were funded by taxpayer dollars (also private dollars but at least taxpayer dollars); however, as was noted when we covered MOOCs & POOCs, having access does not ensure development of content knowledge or an even an educated public. I think that we need to consider a highly diverse stakeholder group when we think about open access education. Of course thinking about the college student is first on our mind as being able to pay for a textbook may be essential to learning content for a given course but making knowledge accessible to the general public and all of the stakeholder types that that entails has a different value and may need to have different forms of accessibility. Schools (at least every high school I ever worked in) tend to conflate intellectual ability with pursuing college,  and I have at times found myself questioning why we educators tend to push every student to pursue higher ed almost in a way that suggests that professions which don’t require degrees are made up of intellectually inferior/incapable people.  I think that part of Open Access as a movement requires us to delve into this bias which is common among the academically elite (although it may not be openly stated) otherwise we would not have any researchers avoiding OA publication and favoring long established fee-charging journal publishers because of fears about their careers, they would not have to choose their careers over their principles.

What does it mean to make knowledge accessible to the public, not just the academically engaged public of students and professors, but the rest of it? 

Who are the stakeholders that should be considered when implementing OA education?

How do/can we manage the knowledge production process within OA so that it is democratic enough to challenge the banking concept of the student-teacher relationship while at the same time “improving the two-way models of knowledge access and dissemination” that Chan cites?

How can we as educators and students do this while also allowing an open and ongoing “talk about the value — in particular the nonmarket social value — of public higher education” that Robyn DeRosa highlights.

If we do, a DeRosa implies we must, “begin to explore the distinctions between a knowledge commons and a public education system,” what do you think that the distinctions would look like? 

If our goal is an educated (not necessarily credentialed) public capable of digesting information in a way that makes us all (or the majority of citizens) immune to misinformation, how do we establish this using OA/OER for a “knowledge commons” vs public education system?

2 thoughts on “Provocation: OPEN ACCESS, OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES/ What Can OER Do?”

  1. Hi Shpresa,

    Yes, I wanted to highlight what you were saying about the financially barrier to cresting open-access materials. Nature (the top journal in biology) has recently released a new option for authors to publish open-access materials, for a fee. $11,390 for a single article. While the financial weight of this fee may seem light to larger research institutions, it may prevent community-wide access to publications coming from smaller institutions.
    Large up-front fees for publishing open-access materials can add to the reason why the research reputations of institutions like CUNY stay low.

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