Sustainability Models

Running and fueled up
Wiley (2007) describes sustainability as continuing operations and accomplishing goals.  For OER projects this will involve the infrastructure, the renewal of content and the reuse by the intended beneficiaries.   Before discussing models he points out that discovering sustainable models may not necessarily help with replicating them.

MIT, USU and RICE are presented as examples of practice of OER projects in HE.  Their approaches differ significantly in terms of control/centralisation, size/targets for output, costs per course ($10K-$5K-$0K) and size of organisation.  (It’s notable that whilst courses are contributed FOC to Rice the actual costs to the originator are not estimated!).   Wiley also points out other significantly differences i.e. whether the content is geared towards teachers or students. (Interestingly although  MIT structures its content for teachers only 16% of its users are educators.)    He also makes a number of pertinent points about types of content and ease of reuse – noting that textual content can be most easily edited using WYSIWYG editors (video, audio, interactive content requiring greater investment in tools and time).  The type of reuse envisaged by the OER project will influence the formats, platform and anticipated requirements for user support.  Where volunteers are engaged, OER projects need to consider how to provide incentives and galvanise support.  Finally projects need to identify funding models that are most likely to support their sustainability.

Ideally, open educational resource projects will become another service that the public simply expects of every institution of higher education, and each institution will find the will and the resource within itself to engage in these projects

So how does this fit with some current courses and projects:

Change MOOC

(I was one of the MOOCees that dropped out after a few weeks.)  The course was a one off “event” structured into week long segments overseen by experts who had volunteered their time.

“This course will introduce participants to the major contributions being made to the field of instructional technology by researchers today.” (from About)

Each offered materials to digest and comment on using blogs, tweets and Diigo groups.  The course was supported by a blog aggregator, and a clever daily email presenting a selection of blog posts and tweets.  The connectivist nature of the course doesn’t really lend itself to a post event course for a solitary learner, but it does contain a rich set of readings and resources which could be repurposed (eg. Alison Littlejohn on Collective Learning and associated recordings  marked CC-BY-NC-SA).

In terms of Wiley’s models it is closest to the voluntary/ zero cost of Rice, but this is essentially a static archived resource from a live event.  The materials can be reused, but there are no mechanisms to update them or permit resubmission of derivatives.

Jorum has clearly gone through a number of changes in recent years, notably a move to being a service run by Mimas.  As far as I can see it is funded by JISC.  But, there are hints of institutional service models creeping in (see Powered).  It has a small permanent staff team circa 10, but has positioned itself to be a central repository for UK OER resources:

…new vision where Jorum becomes a shared national service for discovering Open Educational Resources (OER) that also fosters the ecology of reuse of those resources across the sector and beyond. (Mimas News)

Part of Jorum’s vision is to influence and expand OER provision both in the UK and into Europe.  Resources on Jorum are geared to FE and HE and are submitted by individuals on behalf of institutions, they are in a wide range of formats including SCORM objects that can be imported into VLEs.  Jorum does not create coures, it is a Rice like repository, with strong sector support and government funding (via JISC).

Coursera is a venture capitalist funded, it works in partnership with “top universities” to offer courses on it’s platform.  Each partner commits to running a certain number of courses each year (Edinburgh Uni for example contracted with Coursera to offer 6 courses this year.)  The Coursera platform and reputation resulted generates significant enrollments for partners (eg 30K registrations for Digital Cultures MOOC).  Although different providers contribute courses there is a relatively common experience provided by the Coursera platform (fairly video dependent).   There does not seem to be any clear sustainability model yet.  My best guess would be to label it a franchised USU model?


Openlearn is a (2006) 2 year experiment that has kept going and has morphed to become an “integrated part of the OU” running over 600 courses and providing what looks to be a rich vein for research with advantages of speeding up technology adoption and providing a place for experimentation (outside “formal structures”).  It looks to me like OpenLearn is close to being the embedded function described by Wiley earlier!  It’s probably therefore closest to MIT.

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD

With thanks for the leg up from Inger-Marie C’s Blog

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One Response to Sustainability Models

  1. Hi Nuala – thanks for highlighting Wiley’s point that discovering a sustainable OER model does not mean that it is replicable. Sustainability is clearly a complex issue for individual institutions, but there does seem to be a major decision in the future – whether to go it alone with OERs/MOOCs or join a platform like Coursera or FutureLearn. It will be interesting to see how OpenLearn evolves.

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