The 3 Users Open Access Makes a Better World For in Online Courses

Adam Levick, Market Research and Analytics Analyst

Dave Malicke, Coordinator, Digital Learning Initiatives


Creating a MOOC requires shifts in pedagogy, structure, and content delivery. With Open Access (OA) week wrapping up, we wanted to highlight how important openly accessible content is for online learning, and how DEI is especially supporting the use of open access content for the benefit of three groups: learners, instructors, and researchers.


Lifelong learners in a MOOC take a course for a diverse range of reasons. They also come with diverse experiences and levels of education. The most obvious benefit of supplying these learners with Open Access materials is that they remove barriers of access and affordability, one of U-M President Schlissel’s top 6 priorities for this year.

Additionally, Open Access journal articles supplement what is being taught in the lecture videos and discussions within a MOOC, allowing for students to dive deeper into the materials and to learn from the same or similar sources as the instructors within their course. Students in MOOCs often ask for additional reading materials, and open articles are a great source of knowledge to meet their needs.


Instructors also benefit when choosing to use OA materials for their online courses. For example, since openly licensed journal articles are available for reuse and redistribution, they can be used within online courses without additional permission; a benefit of OA that helps to speed up the course creation process. Additionally, instructors that include OA materials within their online courses can rest assured that all of the students in the course will have access to the materials on the first day of class.

The added freedom provided by OA materials also allows instructors to more easily integrate materials into their own teaching and learning environments. Other faculty that access these courses are then able to learn from how the MOOC instructor structures their information and can easily build it into their own course. What may follow from this access to instructional knowledge are strong communities of practice for teaching within and even between different fields of study.


Many researchers have spoken to the challenges of scholarly communication, and how difficult it can be for the general public to access and contextualize information. By having OA journal articles included in MOOCs, the authors of the articles reach a broader and more diverse audience. Pairing this with the content’s ability to be altered, adapted, and combined with examples, public access and understanding can be greatly improved and new researchers interested in the field can be attracted.


By supporting OA in MOOCs we are supporting one of our core missions as a public research university: making research openly accessible to the public. As our momentum in creating online learning experiences with MOOCs increases, DEI will continue to support our faculty innovators in their use of OA materials for the good of learners, researchers, and faculty.


This blogpost is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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