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Open Education Week

We kick-off Open Education Week by defining some terms:

Open Access (OA)

Open Access (OA) is an international movement focused on providing free, unrestricted access to digital publications, data, images, and other forms of information (Suber). The Dutch national website,, defines open access publications as having “no financial, legal or technical barriers to accessing it - that is to say when anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search for, and search within the information, or use it in education or in any other way within the legal agreements.” OA specifically addresses affordability concerns of publishing and access to research. The more accessible human ingenuity is to the masses, the better off we are as a society.


Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials of any medium that are used for the purpose of teaching and learning and are from either the public domain or have an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with limited to zero restrictions. The philosophy of OA and OER are similar in their goal of promoting free access to information, but OER specifically addresses affordability concerns of textbooks and other course content. OER puts the content expert, the faculty, in complete control of the content in their courses. OER has also been found to increase student success metrics, due in part to the equitable availability of course materials in the classroom.

Learn about The 5R’s of Openness by David Wiley, an early proponent of OA and OER.


Affordable Resources: Low Cost/No Cost to Students

Affordable resources, either no cost or low cost to students, always contains copyright restrictions and requires a purchase either by the student or the institution. Therefore, you do not have as much freedom to distribute or adapt the content in your classroom.

An example of a no-cost-to-students resource is a project out of the LSU Library. Their E-Textbooks for Students program is an initiative where the institution pays a vendor to supply e-textbooks for students at no cost. Other examples include embedding library resources like streaming videos or ebooks into your online course or using library materials in your face-to-face classroom.

A low-cost-to-students scenario is one where a publisher provides a group of textbooks at a reduced cost. For example, students may have an entire collection of electronic texts in their major provided at a lower cost than purchasing each text individually. The cost of the text is usually rolled into their tuition, preventing them from having to make additional purchases. One example is inclusive access which allows students to opt-in or opt-out of automatically receiving digital course materials at a discounted rate.

While these affordable options do not offer the same freedoms and cost-savings as OER, they are still a big step forward in addressing the rising costs of textbooks.


Further Reading & Resources


Credits: Josh Hill, Ilene Frank, and Kathryn Walling provided valuable assistance with research!