Topic 5: #UOSM2008 Open access to online materials for all – utopian dream or unstoppable force?

Explain the advantages and disadvantages to a content producer of making their materials freely available online: 

Open access to information is a tricky subject to tackle; primarily as the advantages and disadvantages of making content free differ significantly  between industries. The music and film industry have lost vast amounts of money due to illegal downloading, and are fighting hard to stop sites that freely distribute their content.


The Financial Times  is a pay-to-view news service that prides itself on producing content that is objective and unbiased. This quality reporting could not survive if it relied on advertising and gave content away for free. I feel that as a society we need realise that if we want quality content, whether on the Internet, in our cinemas or on our TVs, we have to support the people who produce the content we enjoy. We are willing to pay for the medium: our internet broadband, TV licence or TV streaming, so why are we so against paying for subscription only content. According to a new study by the GFK Group, Internet users do not want to pay for online content, ever, no matter the content. We need to stop taking free content online for granted. A recent study by Simon-Kutcher & Partners, a global pricing community, found that 90% of online content is likely to be held behind a pay wall in the next three years. Get ready to see your access reduced.

Alternatively, with the subject of open access to educational material I have to take a very different stance. Over the last few years, a number of open educational resources have been developed with the aim of giving the opportunity of education to the masses: Udacity, Coursera, MIT’s Opencourseware etc. This has great potential to help young people across the globe and especially in undeveloped countries. Although Internet access is not widely available, (only 3 in 5 people worldwide have access) there are a number of on going projects to make this happen. According to Claudio Pinhanez, access to educational material can help underdeveloped countries to evolve economically. The advantages of free access to education worldwide are endless.

I, while studying at university, have found these websites invaluable. As a mature student, coming back to the classroom was quite an overwhelming experience, particularly when I found myself faced with A-level statistics. Unfortunately, in my early teens I had not grasped the value of a good education, and my frivolity resulted in a less than poor attendance in maths classes. I soon realised I had no grasp of the basic principles of mathematics, which made understanding the more advanced almost impossible.  With a Udacity course (College Algebra) I was able, within a couple of days of dedicated viewing, to understand the material fully. In school, I had always been intimidated by maths,  up until recently I would have proclaimed I was awful, but as it turns out I’m not too bad.  The one-on-one experience of an online course allows learners to go at their own pace in a comfortable environment. With the help of the course I was able to quickly catch up to the level of understanding necessary to excel in my exams.

Furthermore, with the costs of tuition fees rising, students are expecting more from their university experience. Open access university resources can add significant value to the educational process, allowing students to get more from lessons and lectures and also allow them to learn topics which are of interest to them.

Open Access

Within the academic community, the real topic of conversation regarding open access to information regards research papers.  Here, the content creators are funded by the taxpayers and so surely their research should be free for us to read, it’s not. If I were to produce a research paper and submit it to a journal, the journal editors would send it to other academics to be reviewed without remuneration. The editor will, based on the review, either publish or reject the paper. If I agree for it to be published it will cost the taxpayer further money in the form of a publishing fee. More than that, any tax payer that wishes to read my paper will have to pay to do so. Surely with the advent of the Internet there is a better way for this to be done. According to Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eise prices have outgrown inflation. This is a huge hindrance to scientific progress and the spread of knowledge. Students’ and academics’ research depend on access to literature.

The only disadvantage of the open access of research papers is that certain Journals are regarded more highly than others. This way of judging the quality of research could be easily amended through, a Reddit style rating system for academic research perhaps.

For further reading on the issue of open access to research this is a great paper, ironically it is closed access. Open Access: An Evolving Alternative-by Lorraine J. Haricombe, L. Ada Emmett, and Perry Alexander


  1. Lepitak, S. (2013). 90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggests. Available:://
  2. Yoskowitz, A. (2009).People don’t want to pay for content online, ever. Available://
  3. Pihanez, C. (2013)
  4. Shockey, N. & Eise, J. (2012). Open Access explained. Available:
  5. Haricombe, L.J, Emmett, L.A, and Alexander, P. (2012) Open Access: An Evolving Alternative. Available

5 thoughts on “Topic 5: #UOSM2008 Open access to online materials for all – utopian dream or unstoppable force?

  1. Hi Jazz,
    Hope you had a nice Easter.
    As always, this is one great post. You could cover both media and education at the same time, as well as provide examples from personal life experience. I could fit only the educational part and a bit of my personal experience, unfortunately. Examples you have mentioned are quite right, and to be honest I have personally used one of the online courses you have mentioned, “Coursera”.
    However, at the same time I have to disagree with the very last point you have mentioned: “The only disadvantage of the open access of research papers is…”. Similar to you, I also thought that there shouldn’t be many disadvantages of this easy looking question. However, if you have a look on my post, or the articles I’ve provided link for you below, you will be surprised how many disadvantages it might lead to:
    To sum up, just a quick question to you. I also saw the study of GFK Group about the predicted percentage of closed access to the online content. I will be honest, I personally believe it could be vice versa, because of the increased use of the Internet nowadays. What about you, are there any thought on this issue? Will it rise or drop? I don’t need an exact number, just interested to know your opinion
    Best Regards,

  2. Hello Jazz,

    Thank you for your enjoyable article regarding the open access topic. Firstly, I would like to point out that I liked the introduction of your post. You have talked about Internet Piracy which is not a frequent discussed subject among students.

    You have addressed the need of paying for quality articles. I partially agree with you. I find that the work of the authors and of the company should be rewarded in a way. But this is not the case for an non-frequent user. For instance, why should I pay a full subscription if I only like to read a few interesting articles online ? The Economist, a prestigious magazine, founded an efficient solution. It allows you to read 3 articles every week free. Then, if you enjoy them and want to read the entire articles from the publication you can opt to pay. From my point of view it is a fair solution for both categories of readers: occasional and everyday ones.

    Other interesting points which I have noticed were the personal experience with a MOOC from Udacity (I took also a course from this platform) and your open view regarding the access of internet to developing countries as a way of self education. To sustain your latter idea., I would invite you to watch these videos for project and then to tell me your opinion regarding them:

    Thank you again for the post,
    Your mate,
    Cristian Sima

    • Hey Cristian,

      Thanks for your feedback and bringing these video’s to my attention. The one problem with open access to information is it often isn’t available to the people that would benefit the most from it. It is great to see that there are companies out their with good intentions. It will be a great day when the internet is available at an affordable price everywhere across the globe. It’s just a shame that such technologies will not be introduced for a number of years.

      Thanks again for your comments,

      Kind regards,


  3. Hi Jazz!

    It’s interesting that there’s been a study to say that Internet users do not want to pay for online content, ever, no matter the content – I know what they mean! I don’t know what it is about the Internet that makes us think like that. My aunt in the film industry said that because we are so spoilt for choice, it’s hard to make people want to pay for content. I guess this is where you have to start talking about the value they give to people. But then if we take a medical prospective, isn’t it unethical to force them to pay up to $60,000 for information that could impact society in such a huge way? Maybe if it was selected open access to professionals then it could work.

    One other point, i think it’s great you could use online tools to learn, especially as you can go at your own pace. As you said, they are INVALUABLE! And if people are providing these services free of charge online then all fool them right.. but then how can we distinguish between good quality content if there isn’t a clear cut financial boundary?

    Great post, I look forward to reading your reply! Anna

    • Hey Anna,

      Thanks for your comments. I think its really important that when we think of open access we understand that each industry has very different needs. I’m quite happy to pay for a magazine or film because I understand that I’m paying for the cost of production, however with research that is paid for by the taxpayer it should definitely be freely available.

      Regarding your comment about the quality of online learning materials, Udacity for instance was started by professors from Stanford University. With online learning we can access the highest level of educational teaching in the world if we pick are courses wisely. With the internet we have access to plentiful amounts of reviews, so it is easy to determine the quality. On Amazon you can download Charles Dickens work for free, does that mean its bad quality?

      I hope this answers your question,

      Best wishes,


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