Wiley (2007) On the sustainability of Open Educational Resource initiatives in higher education
At the time of writing there were were over 2,500 OERs in existence, running from over 200 universities. Primary markets were the USA (1,700 courses), China (451 courses), Japan (350 courses) and France (178 courses). The non-HE OER market was also growing fast, mainly through free articles (e.g. Wikipedia).
Sustainability is defined here as the ability of the OER to continue meeting its aims and there are two sides to sustainability – being able to keep producing the resources and being able to keep distributing them.
There are costs associated with:
· Creation – writing, researching etc
· Distributing – having enough bandwidth, compatibility of systems, localisation etc
· Licencing – ensuring that licencing principle (e.g. ShareAlike) are adhered to.
Wiley considers three OER models:
· MIT – there is a commitment to publish all the university’s courses openly and a massive organisation behind this to which MIT has allocated resources and secured funding from donors. The annual budget is US$4million.
· USU – similar to MIT but smaller in scale (US$127million p.a.). Also attracts donor support but unlikely to be sustainable.
· Rice Connexions – courses do not only originate at the university – authors are from all over the world. Most courses are not financially backed – they are provided voluntarily by authors.
Wiley lists the following types of OE resources and media:
· Teaching resources – these assume that the teacher is already a subject matter expert and aim merely to support
· Learning resources – these need to be much more comprehensive
· Resource formats – e.g. JPG, PDF, HTML, XML Flash.
Different resource types and formats require different levels of input and therefore expenditure; they also may vary in their educational value.
Reuse of the resources also varies – they may be put into alternative formats, translated into another language, adapted for different cultures or teaching styles; making this as easy as possible will contribute to sustainability but can be at odds with the original design and format used.
A number of funding models have been proposed by:
· Endowment – interest earned from a capital sum invested
· Membership – organisations buy in and are allowed to influence the direction of the OER
· Conversion – “consumers” are attracted by the free offer and eventually start paying
· Contributor-pay – authors pay to have their work “looked after”
· Sponsorship – from commercial organisations
· Institutional – sponsorship but from HEIs
· Governmental – the taxpayer pays
· Replacement – the OER takes over from existing resources and their budget is allocated to the OER
· Foundation – ongoing funding from various interest groups on the basis of the size and significance of the OER
· Segmentation – the OER can provide value-added services as a bolt-on and can charge for these services
· Voluntary support – fund raising.
If OERs are to be sustainable, there need to be incentives in place for authors to contribute and for institutions to participate.
OER projects need to take into account:
· What type of organisation/structure is needed to make the OER work
· What type and format of resources it needs and what can be done cost effectively as well as being pedagogically effective
· What kind of user resue is helpful and practical
· What funding it can attract and how it attracts it
· How it can contain costs generally
· Which funding model is most suitable.