What is a sustainable approach to OER development and sharing?


There are a range of business models that can support the creation and sustainability of OER. However, many of the existing OER services were established with ‘one-off’ initial funding by philanthropic organizations, government, or institutions, and sustainability has become a significant question in recent years. Several services have developed strong communities which come together through sharing both practice and resources, which helps to sustain and support continued development of OER (Source).

Although OER is free to access, it does require significant investments to develop quality OER. For example the MIT OCW Evaluation Findings Report in 2006 stated that MIT OCW’s cost to open a course ranged from USD 10,000 to 15,000 per non-video-based course to USD 30,000 per video-based course. Utah State University (USU) reported that their cost to open one course was approximately USD 5,000 (Butcher & Hoosen, 2012) .

For OER development to be sustainable and successful, the business models applied need to be flexible and dynamic to the changes that happen so rapidly in today’s knowledge and innovation economy.

The Good Intentions report identifies and examines a range of business models for sharing OER (International, National, Institutional, Sectoral, Subject Discipline), and found that many were in transition towards adapting their models towards more openness. Also, this report highlighted that the development of Communities of Practice around open learning and teaching materials was highly likely to impact on sustainability through the development of networks of people sharing practice and content. Utilising existing communities or networks is likely to be even more sustainable as the members are likely to have already identified common understandings, languages and cultures (Source).

Alsagoff, Z.A. (2013) OER Funding Models (CC-BY-NC).

From an OER funding perspective, Stephen Downes has identified 8 ways how this can be done:

  1. Endowment
    Charity or large organisation pays for content creation and dissemination.

  2. Membership
    Institutions/organisations pay to be part of larger consortium that handles creation and dissemination.

  3. Donation
    Public fund cost of creation and dissemination of resources.

  4. Conversion
    Resources created and disseminated for free with consumers converted into paying customers.

  5. Contributor
    Creator of resources pay for creation and dissemination.

  6. Sponsorship
    Cost of content creation and dissemination borne by sponsors in return for advertising space/promotion

  7. Institutional
    Educational institution pays for content creation and dissemination as part of its mission/mandate.

  8. Government
    Content creation and dissemination of resources relevant to governmental aims and objectives funded centrally by the state.

Overall, to make OER development and sharing sustainable over time, it is also essential to engage all the key stakeholders to get ‘buy-in’ (Deans, top management, academics, students, sponsors, etc.), especially regarding the benefits, challenges, and commitments needed to succeed in a long-term perspective.

For a survey of Open business models not limited to education, click here.

OER, development, sharing, sustainability, access, business, models, endowment, conversion, institutional, donations, contributor, government, membership, sponsorship

Butcher, N., & Hoosen, S. (2012). Exploring the business case for Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from http://oasis.col.org/handle/11599/57

Alsagoff, Z. A. (2013) The OER Workshop at OUM! (CC-BY-NC-SA) Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/zaid/the-oer-workshop-at-oum/

Stacey, P. (2016). What is an open business model and how can you generate revenue? Retrieved from https://medium.com/made-with-creative-commons/what-is-an-open-business-model-and-how-can-you-generate-revenue-5854d2659b15#.9quib8eyz