In the Open wide space…

As visitors or residents (White & Le Cornu, 2011), every day, we are faced with an immense open space of information through internet access. There are numerous opportunities to access resources to learn about something of interest. The challenge is to select trustworthy content from the available options. Of course, each one interests depend on many (structural) variables that may condition access to quality information. This reflection stays for another ride…

Topic 2 has prompted me to reflect on various aspects related to the resources available in open access. Here they are:

1) I often use OER to improve my learning about different interests I have in life, be it personal or professional. My favourite platform to do some MOOCs is Coursera. I believe it is trustworthy. I’m currently attending two courses. One about Research Methods, and the other about Data Analytics. All the content to learn about the topic is available to anyone, but to get a certificate, we must pay. Thus, the knowledge is openly available, but the proof of the knowledge acquired is not. I understand. But do the fees for obtaining a certificate go to the course creators or to Coursera? Are the authors of the courses being compensated for their work?

2) As an academic lecturing research methods with the support of a given software, I’ve been struggling for years with the idea of creating YouTube videos to explain data analysis using that software (there are already a lot in English, just a few in PT). Never advanced with that idea because of (time constraints, for sure) fear of creating a public resource and having someone steal my work. Now, I know (just) a little more about copyright, but I am still not sure about how to secure my work. Thus, for now, my option is not to make it.

3) As researchers we have like a demand of our job to publish our research in academic journals (publish or perish). Ok. That way, we share with the wider community the knowledge we acquire with our work and contribute to the wider knowledge on the field. But, even keeping the authorship of our paper, we give away copyright to publishers. If it is a real open access journal, we don’t pay APC and can share the article right away. The article is free to anyone. But, if it is a so-called ‘open access journal’ that charges APC, researchers have done the work, but to get the article available to share right away, they must pay a big amount of money (that not every researcher has available)… Then there is the option of not paying APC and having the article closed for sharing for at least 18 months… The article is available to download for anyone who is willing to pay for it. However, researchers do not get any of that amount. Well, maybe I can understand that publishers must earn money and pay their employees, but it is (maybe again) an easy way to get money with others’ work. Notice that usually, the journal editors are academics, not being paid to be editors (as far as I know); reviewers of the papers are not paid either (some get discounts to buy publishers’ publications; others get a sort of credit that can be discounted in APC). So, that leaves the administrators and employees who do the editing to get paid. And, of course, if they work, they shall be paid. But it seems to me it is a big industry and an easy way of making money. Maybe (also) I don’t know enough about the issue. The only thing I know is that, as researchers, we’re stuck in this trap.


White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).


Alexandra, in your opening you have noticed a very important aspect of practical usefulness of digital content available – the curation of information. I think this is where our expertise as researchers and teacher can make a big difference.
To address your first point – the concern about sharing a video with your work on Youtube, perhaps you can approach it from the perspective of how helpful it would be for you to use this resource. For example, if you made this video, could you use the same one in your course instead of repeating in person the same lecture over and over again (especially in online teaching). Do you see benefits in using your video for this? If you do, there are many possible ways how you can secure the relative control about who can see your video. Of course, there is always a possibility that someone uses your resources in a way you don’t wish them to, but that is not a risk exclusive of videos or digital materials in a more general way. I mean, the online lecture accessed through a personal computer can always be recorded without the knowledge of the participants with any number of screen capture software.

Thank you for your comment, Cvijeta! I’ll reflect on your questions. 🙂

In answer to question 1. MOOCs are not really open even if they were at first. ONL is an example of an open course with a CC license. Coursera, EdX and FutureLearn are big business and all the content is fully copyrighted. Universities create the courses and teach them and pay a lot of money to be on those platforms. The teachers are paid by their universities as part of their regular work. There are still examples of truly open courses where the content is CC licensed and both the structure and content can be reused by others (crediting the authors and obeying the terms of the CC license). ONL does this and you are free to copy the whole course structure and much of the content as long as you clearly give credit and link to the original – see the page foot of the main course page.

Thank you for your explanation, Alastair!

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