this blog post comes in two versions, short and long. If you are not sure what Open Access (OA) means, take a look at Wikipedia's description here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access .
SHORT: Students now have their own Open Access platform, Open Students
Those of you who have already written longer scientific texts (e.g. assignments, bachelor, master or PhD theses, or research papers) will have experienced situations in which some particularly relevant piece of information seemed to be hidden in an article you did not have at hand.
What you would normally do in such situations is to check whether Google Scholar ( http://scholar.google.com ) or some other search engine can locate the paper for you, which is often the case, especially for articles published during the last decade. The problems start when you want to access the full text version - fewer and fewer university libraries can afford the high subscription fees publishers charge for providing access to the full text (this publishing model is generally called subscription-based, or toll-access), and even if your university is among the lucky ones, this does not mean you get access to the article while off campus, even if non-paper versions exist.
In many cases, the publisher will provide an option to buy electronic versions of the article (for typically some dozens of Euros or equivalent), and document delivery companies provide similar services (usually scanned versions) for older articles. Both options are rarely compatible with a student's financial budget, though.
In developing countries, libraries and students generally have further constraints, especially in terms of budget, but some initiatives exist to reduce that burden somehow. For example, Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA; www.aginternetwork.org), Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI; www.who.int/hinari/) and Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE; www.oaresciences.org/) provide free online access to the contents of many peer-reviewed scientific journals to most of the poorest countries of the world. A more comprehensive list of such initiatives is available via www.ifpri.org/library/devresources.asp .
Technically, there is no need to restrict free online access to developing countries, and so publishers like www.plos.org, www.biomedcentral.com or www.copernicus.org provide free access to all of the articles in journals they publish (a strategy called "Gold" Open Access), while others don't do that but allow authors to self-archive the final versions of their manuscripts (either the accepted drafts or the copy-edited final published articles) on their personal or institutional websites (a strategy labeled "Green" Open Access). To find out about the self-archiving policy of a particular journal, check http://romeo.eprints.org/ ; for detailed accounts of almost anything Open Access, see Peter Suber's blog at www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/fosblog.html .
Recently, a number of funding agencies (e.g. www.nih.gov) have issued policies demanding that publications resulting from the research that they fund must be made freely available to the public (i.e. via either Green or Gold OA). The reasoning behind this is (somewhat abbreviated; there have recently been a number of conferences organized on this topic) that the funder who had financed the research already has a low incentive to pay extra money to a third party (the publisher) for reading the results, especially since all the essential aspects of scientific publishing are normally done for free by researchers - those who had received the grant write an article, while other researchers in the field (their peers) review it.
This gets us back to the students' perspective: If students have the possibility to access any scientific article or - via tools like the BioText Search Engine (http://biosearch.berkeley.edu) - their figures or other supplementary information, they stand good chances to learn more effectively than the traditional way. It is thus natural that students will enjoy and profit from Open Access to research findings, and that's precisely the message I perceive behind the creation of the new web platform www.openstudents.org . In my eyes, this is an important additional step towards a collaborative global society, especially since many experienced researchers still hesitate to embrace the OA concept, mainly for reasons of tradition.
Further such steps to more interactive ways of studying will certainly include collaborative platforms like www.wikimedia.org or www.opensource.org and online lectures like MIT's OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/courses/courses/index.htm) or those collected by the World Lecture Project (www.world-lecture-project.org ; a WAYS partner). New ways of planning, funding, conducting, reporting, discussing and explaining scientific research (e.g. www.biogeosciences.net or www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/) or running a campus (www.thescholarship.com ; another WAYS partner) will also be part of this excitingly developing story, as will many things currently not or not widely known.
Finally, a nice way of interacting between and beyond students are, of course, blogs like this one, and the option to comment on them.