Collaboration is an integral part of being an engineering student. Information and knowledge is frequently shared and traded to achieve specific goals within a project. Often, the medium for collaboration is the internet. An abundance of materials and articles are available to aid not only engineering students, but all students alike, to achieve success within their discipline but it is not always that easy. Most of this information is not free. Many students, myself included, are required to subscribe to academic journals just to be able to access a few articles that might help our education. The journal business is so large that its prices have outpaced inflation by almost 250% over the last thirty years. This begs for an alternative.
Open access is a concept developed to rid this issue. It is about making products and literature freely accessible to all via the internet. Open access allows scholarly articles and research to be disseminated quickly and widely, causing the research process to operate more efficiently, benefitting the likes of students, teachers, researchers and scholars. Open access can be broken into two mechanisms, green and gold. The gold is where authors publish their articles straight to an open access journal, whilst the green mechanism is where the final peer-reviewed journals are deposited into an open access archive called a repository.
Sal Khan is an example of a content developer who has benefitted greatly from making his educational resources available freely online. Khan is the founder of the online non-profit school, Khan Academy. He makes use of open access by making whole courses on a variety of topics available for anyone to view and take advantage of. Khan’s motivation for his academy is his ‘belief that the current school system is outdated and deadens a child’s natural curiosity’. His beliefs are proving to be right as his videos are watched by almost three million unique users a month.
With almost anything, there are also some disadvantages posed to content developers from open access. I have provided a short presentation to display both the benefits and drawbacks of this concept.
I am, however, much on the side of open access, not least because it makes writing 3,000 word reports a lot easier. I feel open access creates a far more superior learning experience, as it enables extremely efficient and affordable sharing, the essence of education.
Debra Dunn, Forbes 2013. Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs
Wiley, Green and Soares, 2012. Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER
Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD comics), 2012. Open Access Explained
OpenAccess.nl. Pros and Cons
University of Leeds Library. What do I need to know about open access
Higher Education Funding Council for England. Open access research
Wiley, 2014. Understanding Open Access
Helena de Bertodano, Telegraph 2012. Khan Academy: The man who wants to teach the world
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