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Open Access in Education Goes Beyond Textbooks, to Encompass Online Courses, International Partnerships and Journal Publishing

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School opening in Zam Zam, North Darfur, Sudan, June 22, 2014 | © Courtesy of Albert González Farran/UNAMID/Flickr.

While the potential of online learning and open educational resources continues to unfold in developed and developing countries, in the field of education Open Access experiences dynamic development, as universities mandate Open Access to research results, integrate free online textbooks and launch online courses and programs.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In Ghana online education promises to fill an important gap in education accessibility, as digital and online learning programs based on openly accessible resources are increasingly perceived as being able to meet local learner needs, while meeting established higher education standards. In her interview given on June 27, 2018, Prof. Goski Alabi from Laweh Open University indicated that the highly structured nature of online education allows distance learning to maintain pedagogical soundness, while minimizing corresponding costs. In developing countries, this is especially critical as online learning can provide local students with flexibility, increase student enrollment ratios and contribute to the quality of human resources through higher education and skill acquisition.

In many cases, this is made possible by the availability of high-quality textbooks in Open Access, as course materials represent an important cost factor also in developed countries, such as the United States, where universities increasingly take recourse to open educational resources. Educational institutions, such as the Central Virginia Community College, also develop Open Access textbooks and online materials that can be integrated into both general education and specialized courses, such as in science. Furthermore, Open Access licensing also facilitates the development of individualized courses based on online materials without restrictions deriving from acquisition costs or intellectual property.

The adoption of open educational resources can also help students handle rising costs of universities and college studies, given the estimated increase in textbook prices of 82% between 2002 and 2012 in the United States. In recent years, this has driven upward the usage rates of Open Access educational materials that have reached reported 25% of American college students. In this respect, Open Access to educational resources also creates a globally level field in which universities from developing countries can be at the forefront of developing and implementing open education solutions.

This takes place on the background of the rapidly growing online education market that has been estimated to have reached 165 billion USD in 2016. Thus, Open Access is increasingly providing access not only to scientific knowledge, as governments and universities demand their faculty to make all of their research findings freely accessible, such as in Denmark, but also to education opportunities, such as the Open University (OU) of the Netherlands and the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO that are members of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) which seeks to promote online, open and flexible education, collaborates with policy-making bodies and promotes the adoption and development of open educational resources.

In this respect, Open Access in education also attracts growing attention as a distinct field of research and practice, as is attested by the recent launch of Open Education Studies, a peer-reviewed Open Access journal the editor-in-chief of which, Prof. Theo J. Bastiaens, appointed as a rector at the OU of the Netherlands on July 27, 2018, and also serving as a supervisory board member of the EADTU.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: School opening in Zam Zam, North Darfur, Sudan, June 22, 2014 | © Courtesy of Albert González Farran/UNAMID/Flickr.

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