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Anna Greathead

Sustainability Models

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The three models given in the Wiley paper essentially modelled the 'three bears' from the Goldilocks story! 

The MIT model is big, ambitious, well funded. There is a while department of paid staff. Monies have come from foundations, private donors and other support sources. The budget runs to the millions of dollars. 

The USU model is middle sized! There is a small staff and they engage the services of volunteers and make supporting the project part of the coursework for students on some related courses! The budget is around 5% of the MIT budget and the scope is much more narrow. 

The Rice model is the budget option! It works by utilizing the quid-pro-quo economy over cold hard cash. Multiple institutions contribute and benefit. The project is described as a 'passion project'. 

When trying to apply real examples to a neat model system there is always a certain amount of dissatisfaction. Real life examples may have created the models but each other example could legitimately become its own model and few fit neatly into any category; in fact most stubbornly resist classification including the four we've been invited to look at! Crucially - what was lacking in Wiley's models was a commercial model where the learner pays for a service and resource which have been paid for in advance by investors rather than philanthropists. 

Coursera looks closest to the MIT model in size and scope with slick resources and courses but in Coursera the courses are accredited and only available for a fee. There is also a lot of institutions contributing to the service which would be more in keeping with the Rice model. There is little information about funding on the site but it does seem to operate mostly on 'pay per study' indicating it is a commercial enterprise with a profit motive driving the development of the services.

BCCampus is funded by the tax-payer (presumably Canadian ones) and other grants. It has paid staff provides open text books free of charge. This is closer to the MIT model in funding and access though it seems to be a slightly smaller operation so may be closer to a USU model. 

FutureLearn is another service which operates on a 'pay-per-learn' basis. There are free versions of some of the shorter courses but accreditation costs (a certificate of achievement) and there is clearly a push to ensure clients opt for the paid service. It doesn't fit into any model fully but looks comprehensive and slick and advertises links with a number of universities. Aspects of it fit within all three models. 

OpenLearn is developed and provided by the Open University. There are hundreds of free courses which appear to be developed entirely within the confines of the Open University. None of the free courses come with formal accreditation but there are digital badges and statements of participation. This actually appears to be closest to one of the Wiley models of all four examples - the MIT model. This appears to be an inhouse OU project and it is free to users. 

Wiley's models sound comprehensive but the lack of the 'paid study' option is limiting. It is obvious that an easy way to ensure sustainability in anything is to make it commercially viable. (That said - I am excited to see how many fascinating and free things I can learn online. In the early days of the internet I used to lose whole days clicking on links within Wikipedia.... this looks like a much more expansive and satisfying version of the same thing!)

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Vicky Devaney, Wednesday, 3 Apr 2019, 17:07)
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