Open Access: Transitions and Transformations

Every two years, the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee publishes in College & Research Libraries News an article on the top trends and issues affecting academic libraries and the change our institutions are experiencing. We will be highlighting some of these trends through a number of blog posts over the next few weeks.

Open Access Week 2020 Banner
Courtesy: International Open Access Week

Welcome to Open Access Week 2020! As with many fields, research institutions and the Open Access community are reexamining how existing practices and systems are built upon historical practices of discrimination and exclusion. This year’s International Open Access Week theme is Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion. Check out the International Open Access Week site or follow the Twitter hashtag #OAWeek to learn more and join the conversation.

Open Access (OA) refers to “free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results” as needed (SPARC). The underlying principle behind Open Access is that making research and scholarly work open will benefit humanity as a whole by making knowledge available to all, and allowing other researchers to review and build upon work done by their peers. Advancement happens when “research results are made openly available to the community so that they can be submitted to the test and scrutiny of other researchers…new research builds on established results from previous research” (cOAlition S). We’ll consider some of the current trends in OA that affect academic libraries. 

The push toward Open Access has gained momentum in the past fifteen years as the relationships between research institutions and publishers has changed. Since the 1990’s, publishers have sold journal subscriptions as bundles to institutions (usually through their libraries), similar to a cable package. The publishers have benefitted by guaranteeing these revenue streams, and institutions have benefitted by being able to provide access to a higher volume of scholarly writing than they would if they were working with individual journals. Over time, however, the cost of these packages (referred to as “big deals”) has risen faster than most academic library budgets, and there is sometimes little flexibility in choosing the content available through these deals. 

Additionally, a great deal of the research done worldwide is publicly funded, so researchers generally create scholarly content and review the work of their peers at no cost to the publishers. Publishers charge institutions to publish research findings, and then again to access that scholarly content that their own researchers created. Scholarly publishing has become very profitable for publishers, even as the cost of subscription fees has grown increasingly prohibitive for institutions.

Libraries at many institutions have reassessed the value of these deals and whether or not the large expenditure for bundled journal access is worth it. There have been several high-profile examples of breaks between institutions and publishers in the past couple of years, including the University of California and Massachusetts Institute of Technology ending their contracts with Elsevier, and more. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) tracks the status of big deals cancelled by selected research institutions and consortia worldwide here

With many of these traditional agreements ending, institutions and publishers are finding new ways to work together. These kinds of contracts are called “transformative agreements,” which generally means contracts move away from the traditional subscription-based model and toward Open Access publishing. The term “transformative” is somewhat open to interpretation, and there are different definitions. In general, however, transformative agreements typically involve the following components: changes in cost structures (a “shift from paying subscriptions to paying for publishing”), copyright held by authors/creators rather than publishers, and making contract terms available to the public.

Open Access logo
Courtesy: International Open Access Week

One positive trend is the growing number of resources available to institutions and organizations looking to learn more about Open Access, and possibly rethink their contracts with publishers. These include the University of California Office of Scholarly Communications’ toolkit for negotiating with publishers, which was developed based upon UC’s experiences in negotiating with Elsevier. The Efficiency and Standards for Article Changes (ESAC) Initiative,  which aggregates information for the open access market and publishers, maintains a registry of transformative agreements worldwide as a resource for  institutions looking to change their own contracts with publishers. ESAC also maintains a collection of negotiating principles from institutions and consortia worldwide for reference.

An organization of European scientific agencies, called cOAlition S, formed in 2018 and launched an initiative to require that scientific research supported by public funds must be published in alignment with Open Access principles by 2020. Last year, this deadline was moved to 2021 in order to give researchers and publishers more time to adapt their practices. The fundamental principles of Plan S have not changed, and the plan includes guidance on how to implement this shift. The scientific community will no doubt be monitoring this plan and how it affects participants, but we may see a considerable shift in this direction.

Developers have created several tools to support users access the growing number of Open Access resources. These include Open Access Button, Unpaywall, Lazy Scholar, and Kopernio, all of which function as browser extensions to help researchers find Open Access versions of scholarly articles. There have been several recent studies that assess the usability and effectiveness of these tools, including these two published in Information Technology & Libraries that evaluate the user experience and effectiveness of such tools. As these tools are refined, and more are developed, we can expect to see additional studies on their usability and how they impact research.

Screen shot of Open Access filter button in SearchBox

When using SearchBox to explore the University Libraries collections, members of the CU community can find OA resources in their search results by simply selecting the “Open Access” filter in the left navigation column.


Additional Reading:


Suddenly Teaching Online? Help is Here

While we look forward to the return of students and faculty to campus, it’s quite evident that this upcoming academic year will look very different from any in the past. The last two weeks of the Fall 2020 semester will be taught remotely, and final exams will be take-home or online. In addition, many classrooms on campus will be upgraded to support hybrid learning environments.

With this in mind, many of our faculty are working hard to move course content online, as well as refine courses that were moved online on short notice this past spring. University Libraries has compiled some resources to support faculty in these efforts.

LinkedIn Learning Courses

LinkedIn Learning Logo
The LinkedIn Learning video course library is available to all within the CUA community.

Members of the CUA community have access to LinkedIn Learning, an online video training library with thousands of courses and videos on a range of topics. Here are some relevant courses and sections:

Learning to Teach Online

  • Beginner Skill Level, 46 minutes
  • This course is designed to help instructors update their skill sets to teach effectively online. The course instructor shows the links between high-quality instruction and online education. He provides a framework for creating a digital classroom and guidance to get students interacting with the course material, the instructor, and each other.
  • Link to course:

Moving Your Class Online Quickly and Efficiently

  • General Skill Level, 1 hour 7 minutes
  • As the name suggests, this course breaks down how to move a course designed for face-to-face instruction online. The instructors provide strategies for breaking down your existing syllabus and a step-by-step guide for moving the course online. This course covers the process of incorporating both synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning opportunities into a newly virtual classroom.
  • Link to course:

Teaching with Technology

Image of student watching online teacher
Courses available through LinkedIn Learning provide strategies for engaging students in online courses.

Teaching Techniques: Making Accessible Learning

  • Intermediate Skill Level
  • The section linked below provides an overview of some tools that can be used to increase accessibility for online course content.
  • Section 4 (16 minutes): Technology Accommodations for Learning

Teaching Online: Synchronous Classes

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 1 hour 12 minutes
  • This course provides tools, tips, and techniques for leading real-time virtual instruction. No matter which teaching tool you use, from Adobe Connect to Blackboard to Google Hangouts, instructors can apply these lessons to their digital classroom to increase collaboration and connection among students in a synchronous online class.
  • Link to course:

Blackboard Essential Training

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 49 minutes
  • While faculty at CUA already use Blackboard, the online test feature may be new to some. These sections walk through the process for developing, distributing, and evaluating tests through Blackboard.
  • Section 9 (45 minutes): Creating Online Tests
  • Section 10 (38 minutes): Deploying and Grading Tests

Teaching Technical Skills Through Video

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 43 minutes
  • For professors who teach technical skills such as programming, this course provides a variety of tools to deliver lessons via video. The instructor shows how to understand each student’s learning style and then use support material, adapt existing online content, and record videos to teach technical skills.
  • Link to course:


Image of a distance learner working on an online course.
Some of the e-books in the library’s catalog include interactive sections to support the process of online course design.

A Guide to Online Course Design: Strategies for Student Success

  • From the publisher description: “This book…includes effective instructional strategies to motivate online learners, help them become more self-directed, and develop academic skills to persist and successfully complete a program of study online. It also includes a more in-depth understanding of instructional design principles to support faculty as they move their face-to-face courses to the online environment” (emphasis added).
  • Stavredes, T., & Herder, T. (n.d.). A guide to online course design: strategies for student success (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips

  • From the publisher description: “Covering all aspects of online teaching, this book reviews the latest research in cognitive processing and related learning outcomes while retaining a focus on the practical. A simple framework of instructional strategies mapped across a four-phase timeline provides a concrete starting point for both new online teachers and experienced teachers designing or revamping an online course. Essential technologies are explored in their basic and expanded forms, and traditional pedagogy serves as the foundation for tips and practices customized for online learning” (emphasis added).
  • Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide

  • From the publisher description: “The Blended Course Design Workbook meets the need for a user-friendly resource that provides faculty members and administrators with instructions, activities, tools, templates, and deadlines to guide them through the process of revising their traditional face-to-face course into a blended format. Providing a step-by-step course design process that emphasizes active learning and student engagement, this book will help instructors adapt traditional face-to-face courses to a blended environment by guiding them through the development of course goals and learning objectives, assignments, assessments, and student support mechanisms with technology integration in mind. It will also help instructors choose the right technologies based on an instructor’s comfort level with technology and their specific pedagogical needs” (emphasis added).
  • Linder, K. (2017). The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide. Stylus Publishing.

The New Roadmap for Creating Online Courses: An Interactive Workbook

  • From the publisher description: “Whether you are an instructor, instructional designer, or part of a team, this interactive workbook will help you create effective online courses to engage your learners. Key features of the workbook include integrating cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of learning; explaining the central role of self-reflection, dialogue, and realistic application; the incorporation of themes, scenarios, and characters to provide relevant and meaningful learning experiences; and the use of semiotics for inclusion of diverse learners.”
  • Barber, C., & Maboudian, W. (2020). The New Roadmap for Creating Online Courses: An Interactive Workbook. Cambridge University Press.

Faculty members who are looking for e-resources to include in course syllabi may visit the Libraries COVID-19 Information Guide section on e-resources. The library website also has guides for specific subjects that include e-resources for students and researchers. Finally, faculty are encouraged to contact their subject liaison librarians to request specific resources and/or provide support for online and face-to-face instruction.