Free? Yes. Open? No. Bronze Open Access Journal Articles as OERs.


The title of this blog is inspired by the title of a presentation ( by myself and Eamon Costello at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in Simon Fraser University in April 2019. As part of the editorial team of the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, an open access, peer reviewed journal published by the Irish Learning Technology Association, myself and Eamon have a strong interest and commitment to open access publishing. 


This interest has manifested itself in a number of ways (including a workshop at OER 19); however, the main empirical thrust of our work is a review of open access publishing from 2010-2017 [Paper submitted and under consideration]. Over the past year we (along with Tony Murphy) have been tracking Gold Open Access (OA) papers across 30 Educational Technology Hybrid Journals. As part of our background research it quickly become apparent that there is a wide range of terms associated with openness. For example, in terms of classification of openness there is Diamond and Platinum, Gold, Green and Bronze OA; all of which confer different degrees of copyright, ownership, cost and ultimately: access. As a consequence there is the potential for misunderstanding on the part of both consumers and producers of articles. 

Ostensibly, while the research has examined Gold OA papers in hybrid journals we also tracked the availability of Free or what are sometimes referred to as Bronze Open Access papers.  In his article [Bronze, Free or Fourrée] Eamon Costello (2018) describes Bronze in the following terms:

“Bronze shares attributes of Gold and Hybrid; like both, Bronze OA articles are publisher-hosted. Unlike Gold OA, Bronze articles are not published in journals considered open access in the DOAJ. Unlike Hybrid, Bronze articles carry no license information. Although this lack of identifiable license may not be intentional, without an identifiable license, the articles are free to read but do not allow extended reuse rights beyond reading”.

As such, this type of ‘Bronze’ articles certainly fall short of David Wiley’s 5Rs of openness; offering at best a limited and ultimately an unstable level of access. If a journal article is to become a useful and realistic Open Educational Resource (OER) it needs to be available and accessible. Thus, if an article can be withdrawn at any time it makes it very difficult if not impossible to meaningfully incorporate it into a teaching and learning strategy. At least with a subscription journal article you know where you stand, both as a user and an author and can act accordingly.

This begged the question: just how transient are these free Bronze access papers? Perhaps they were more stable/unstable than we imagined? Tracking the Free articles as well as the Gold access journals provided us with the opportunity to answer this question. 

Data Collection

The top 30 EdTech journals were selected from the Scimajo Journal Ranking (SJR) website which is powered by Scopus.  Individual journals were searched with the number of open access and free access articles per issue recorded. The initial search of the 30 journals was carried out  the start of the 2018/2019 academic year in early September 2018 which resulted in over 7,500 articles being identified. Out of this 7,500 articles just over 220 were noted as being gold open access while 161 were recorded as being free. Subsequently the free articles were tracked per issue at three further collection points:   the end of the first semester in December 2018; the end of the second semester in June 2019 and again the start of the academic year in the first week of September 2019. At each point in time the number of Gold and Free (Bronze) Access papers was noted and tracked over the year. In terms of categorization, only the number of original articles were recorded – editorials, errata, addenda or book reviews were discounted.


Of the 30 journal titles, fourteen had no free articles at the start or at any time throughout the year:

Internet Reference Services Quarterly 0
IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies 0
Distance Education 0
Interactive Learning Environments 0
College and Undergraduate Libraries 0
International Journal of Lifelong Education 0
Education and Information Technologies 0
Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning 0
International Review of Education 0
International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 0
International Journal of Distance Education Technologies 0
Journal of Global Information Technology Management 0
International Journal of Game-Based Learning 0
American Journal of Distance Education 0
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 1
Open Learning 1
Learning Environments Research 1
Reference Services Review 3
Adult Education Quaterly 3
Transforming Government: People 4
Internet and Higher Education 5
International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation 5
Electronic Government 5
New Review of Academic Librarianship 9
Information Technology for Development 10
Government Information Quarterly 13
Computers and Education 16
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 17
International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education 27
British Journal of Educational Technology 41

While it is our intention to publish a full paper shortly with a more detailed analysis of the data a number of issues are particularly noteworthy, not least the dramatic fall in the availability of the free articles over a one year period where we noted an almost 75% drop in availability.









This dramatic drop is very evident when one looks at a number of the individual titles. For example, the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) had one of the most dramatic drops; dropping from 41 in September 2018 to 11 by September 2019. The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning went from 17 to 0 during the same period of time. In some instances entire issues that had previously been free were no longer available without charge. 

As previously noted, it is our intention to formally publish a more comprehensive commentary piece drawing on the data. However, we consider that the data is of sufficient interest to the OA and OER community that in the interim it will inform and stimulate further discussion.

Please cite as: Farrelly, T., Costello, E. & Murphy, T. (2019) Free? Yes. Open? No. Bronze Open Access Journal Articles as OERs. Available from

Gasta at #altc in Edinburgh

Phew, what can I say. Three days at #altc with a Gasta each day in one of the most stunning venues I have even been in, the University of Edinburgh’s McEwan Hall.

McEwan hall

27 Presenters over the three days or should I say Gastateers all of who entered into the spirit of things, providing engaging and lively presentations and in the majority of cases (to the disappointment of the crowd) kept perfectly to time. It certainly isn’t easy being counted in and counted to STOP if you run over your allotted 5 minutes.

Talking about the crowd, I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who actively engaged in the stomping, counting and swaying and more importantly, this years’ addition to the mayhem: singing!!! Gasta only really works if everyone comes with a positive attitude and makes a commitment to get involved. It’s all to easy for presenters at the end of the day to feel that they are part of the ‘graveyard’ shift 😦

Gasta (hopefully) encourages presenters to feel that they are part of something bigger and provide the audience with something to buoy them up at the end of the day. As MC (I don’t think the term Chair really does it in this case) I am genuinely impressed with the way that the presenters condense their work into a manageable and interesting chunk as they know that unlike other conferences five minutes means five minutes. Lightening talks take great skill; it reminds me of the phrase: I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter, I didn’t have the time to write a short one.

For me that is the most important thing about Gasta – it provides people a chance to give a shout out about their work and invite people to engage in a further conversation. How many times have you made a decision to go or not to a presentation on the basis of a title or an abstract? By sitting through a series of presentations that you know will finish on time, I believe that you are more likely to sit and be exposed to ideas, concepts and areas of work that may be new or novel that you otherwise might not have considered going to hear about.  And if nothing else it should get the blood flowing and the lungs exercised, surely not a bad thing at the end of the day?

I just want to say a huge thanks to, Maren Deepwell and ALT for their kind invitation,  Martin Hawksy who ran everything so beautifully in the background and my good pal and timekeeper Lawrie Phipps who kept us all honest!


Judging by the Tweet from Margaret Adamson we certainly got people talking.


Finally, here is a series of links from the ALT YouTube Channel with videos of the the 2019 Gasta sessions.

Gasta Sessions A-145, A-175, A-036, A-042, A-070, A-072, A-103, A-150

#altc – Gasta Sessions A-049, A-060, A-127, A-156, A-023, A-046, A-058, A-082, A-029

#altc – Gasta Sessions A-103, A-078, A-009, A-054, A-061, A-091, A-046, A-120, A-123

Continue reading “Gasta at #altc in Edinburgh”

You’ve been GastaEdTeched!

After a number of years I’ve finally got the wherewithal to set up a Gasta page. Seeing my good friend and collaborator Tony Murphy get into the Blog water before me I decided that it has high time to get off the fence myself.

First of all, what is a Gasta session?

A number of years ago myself and Tony Murphy of the E-learning unit in IT Tralee responded to the Irish Learning Technology Association’s (ILTA) call to host its annual conference. The call asked ideas that could add to the conference. In the submission I suggested the idea of a quick 5 minute presentation that incorporated a lot of participation on the part of the audience. Not wanting to use the protected term Pecha Kucha and in keeping with the Irish nature of the conference I decided to use the Irish word Gasta indicating quick or fast or rapid. Although IT Tralee were unsuccessful in the bid, the idea of Gasta was incorporated into the EdTech Conference for the first time in 2014. The aim is to create an engaging and lively atmosphere that affords presenters the opportunity to raise awareness about their work in a short period of time and thus give as many people as possible an opportunity in a relatively short period of time.

Over the past few year I have slightly tweaked the format but if you are going to host a Gasta session it should follow these principles:

  1. There should be an emphasis on energy and engagement on the part of the MC and the presenters – it’s often a good session to have towards the end of the day when levels of energy and interest may be waning.
  2. While there are no specific requirements in terms of technology, presenters should be mindful of relying on technology and platforms where there are a lot of moving parts so to speak.
  3. Organisers should ensure that all the presentations are readily available to each presenter in order to make the changeovers as seamlessly as possible.
  4. The MC should remind the audience that these micro presentations are intended to just provide a ‘shout out’ about the ‘project/research/initiative’ and should members of the audience want further information that they engage with the presenters after the slot.
  5. All presentations are counted in (5 to 1 or 1-5); generally in Irish in keeping with the theme but where appropriate the MC can make the decision as to the language – that said the countdown should finish with a resounding GASTA! from the audience, at which point in time the MC leaves the stage.
  6. Presenters should be alerted when they have one minute left and when they have 10 seconds left.
  7. When the 5 minutes is up the MC moves back to the stage, giving the presenter 5 seconds grace. At 5.05 the MC and audience countdown from 5 to 1 and that is the END of the presentation! Ideally the Gasta should be times between 4.50 and 5.00 for maximum use of time.
  8. The 2019 edition of Gasta has an added twist. Rather than the conference organiser allocating a time for each presenter all the presenters are allocated an overall Gasta time with each presenter allocated a number from 1 up. Using a random number generator the speakers are allocated a slot one by one with the next speaker only called at the end of the previous speaker’s slot.
  9. ENJOY!!

Certainly, not a requirement but anybody hosting a Gasta session might consider acknowledging @ILTATweets and myself @TomFarrelly.

Gasta goes across the water!

It was wonderful to be invited to unleash the madness that is Gasta at the 2018 ALT Conference in Manchester although I must admit that I was a little worried to see if the ‘crowd’ would embrace the concept, as you can see from the video, I need not have worried, it was a great session with everybody getting involved. One of the presenters in Manchester was Clint Lalonde from British Columbia in Canada who took the message back across the water; as I write, it is great to see that the ETUG 25th Anniversary Conference in Thompson Rivers University, BC, Canada is featuring a Gasta session.