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Opening the Door to Learning: Open Access & Open Education

When one thinks of “open education resources,” or OER, initiatives such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare and iTunes U immediately come to mind. While these resources are of great value to distance and online teaching and learning, equally valuable, and in need of continued advocacy, is open access to core and quality academic materials. Today, MacLearning presented an online panel of experts in open education who discussed, in part, the necessity of open access to scholarly resources so that students can actively engage in complex and fruitful discussions and contribute in a meaningful way to their fields of study and research. Additional compelling reasons why open access matters to students can be found on the SPARC sponsored “Right to Research Coalition” web site. Founded by students in 2009, the Right to Research Coalition advocates for open access so that they as current learners and as future researchers and scholars can continue to have access to research and disseminate their own knowledge products to their peers. To that end, the Coalition issued a “Statement on the Right to Research,” which individual students and institutions alike have signed on to support and adhere to. In support of the mandates enumerated in the Statement and as important reasons why students should support and encourage open access, the Coalition advocates the following important points:

  • Open access is critical to a well-rounded education. Without access to the full body of research in their field, students are “artificially” limited in their learning. Further, their instructors, without complete access to research in the discipline, cannot fully meet pedagogical objectives by presenting current and ground-breaking ideas from scholars across the globe.
  • Reading good writing leads to good writing. A quality research paper includes citations to both seminal and time-tested scholarly research as well as to current thought. Access to either or both of these bodies of knowledge are severely curtailed without openness.
  • Students at institutions of smaller size and budget should have the same learning opportunities as those institutions that are larger and better funded. Smaller, yet high quality, colleges cannot maintain subscriptions to scholarly journals at the same pace as larger universities and as a result students are denied the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and quality content.
  • Open access promotes preparation for graduate education. If undergraduate students have access to a large body of quality scholarly resources, they will be better equipped for the rigors of graduate research and will be better prepared to become the scholars and researchers of tomorrow.
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