Whilst is is possible for an individual to quickly make their own materials open by hosting them on the web through their own website or through a community wiki or ‘shared space’ it is important to consider a range of issues affecting release. Most individuals have some connection to an institution and may need to consider issues such as ownership, licensing and branding of learning materials produced for enrolled students.
Institutions have many issues to consider and really need to take an institution-wide approach involving teams which include strategic managers, departmental managers, central services staff and course teams. Strategy documents, policies and practice will need to be adapted and staff development and training will need to be a central part of any plan to openly release content.
These activities provide an excellent opportunity for institutions to take stock of existing practice, share good examples and improve those that are less effective.
The relationship between OER and Creative Commons has previously been somewhat ambiguous. However, clarification of Creative Commons as an OER supporter rather than competitor was forthcoming early in 2010. See, for example, this interview with Cathy Casserly on Open Education and Policy.
'It is clear that business models associated with OER are in their infancy and whether any institution pursues models based on for example Self Learn and the sale of assessment and accreditation; OER as a reputation builder; or OER as a means of enhancing recruitment via ‘Showcase’ will be highly dependent on any given institutions business strategy. Any local approach to OER will need to be thus aligned.'
OCEP project final report, University of Coventry
There are a range of different business models that support the creation, management, and release of OER. These models are usually linked to both the original intentions behind such a ‘service’ and by the funding mechanisms. Business models need to be flexible, to respond to changes that can happen very quickly, and sustainable.
Many existing OER services were established with ‘one-off’ initial funding and based on an altruistic notion of opening resources worldwide and sustainability has become a significant issue 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.
The Good Intentions report examined a range of business models for sharing learning resources (ranging from international, national, institutional, sectoral, subject discipline) and found that many were in transition towards adapting their models towards more openness. This study looked at the business models from three aspects or sub-models:
The various financial models could be said to shape the resulting services but are also the element of a business model which needs refining as services go through various stages of maturity. Clearly finance models are closely linked to sustainability of services.
Crucial to all service models is an understanding of the market. If the service model is about the 'route to market' it stands to reason that we should know the market. Often there may be several tiers to a market – the primary group/community to which the service is closely modelled and also possibly secondary markets (either known at start-up or emerging through queries/use) that the service can serve. This may affect future development and funding models if the new market is prepared to be involved in funding/contributing in some way. One outcome of developing OER for specific markets (or groups of stakeholders) is that resulting resources may not be accessible, either technically or pedagogically, for wider groups to use.
In relation to sharing learning resources, suppliers and consumers may often be from the same sector, community or group. So we could say that teachers in FE and HE are the group of people who are potentially both supplying or consuming the resources. In reality there are so many different contexts of use, and such variation within this broad group, even within one department of one institution, that it is not easy to develop a generic model. The groups that are contributing may not actually be consuming, consumers may also be suppliers but not necessarily.
All of these sub-models are affected by some overarching issues which include: issues around competition and choice; variety and range of stakeholders; sustainability; adaptability and flexibility of model to change; partnerships and networks.
The approaches available from a funding point of view have been identified by Stephen Downes as:
- Endowment (charity or large organisation pays for content creation and dissemination)
- Membership (institutions/organisations pay to be part of larger consortium that handles creation and dissemination)
- Donation (public fund cost of creation and dissemination of resources)
- Conversion (resources created and disseminated for free with consumers converted into paying customers)
- Contributor (creator of resources pay for creation and dissemination)
- Sponsorship (cost of content creation and dissemination borne by sponsors in return for advertising space/promotion)
- Institutional (educational institution pays for content creation and dissemination as part of its mission/mandate)
- Government (content creation and dissemination of resources relevant to governmental aims and objectives funded centrally by the state)
Jisc/HE Academy UKOER programme
The Jisc/HE Academy UKOER programme aimed to provide funding and support to enable individuals, subject communities and institutions to openly release existing materials and to investigate issues affecting release, use and re-use. The lessons learned, approaches adopted and barriers overcome have been well documented to inform the wider community and offer models and guidance to support wider release in the UK.
Emerging models of release reflected a need for flexibility and sustainability. Institutional release requires strong infrastructure (including technical and hosting solutions, IPR policies, support teams/staff) and significant cultural change (supported by senior management and appropriate staff development) and this has an impact on sustainability. Institutions developed an awareness of the need for branding and quality management to support marketing and showcasing motivations, which has had a knock-on effect of the lone individual release model. There is room for both high quality institutionally branded OER and individually released smaller chunks of learning materials (such as lecture notes, screencasts, podcasts, Powerpoint presentations).
Within one institution there may be several models of release operating in parallel. The same OER can be released as individual chunks or packaged with other materials and given pedagogical support or context. The availability of a wide range of hosting choices means that OER are not limited to one method of release. This has positive implications for different stakeholder (end user) groups, some of whom may want small assets for quick re-purposing (e.g. other educators) or others who may want to use the resources within the context they were developed (e.g. students on a particular course).
Community models of development and release (often supported by community repositories or hubs like HumBox, LanguageBox) focus on the strength of expertise within the community and common (or similar) focus or goals. This can result in collaborative development and use of resources, peer evaluation and review and shared practice. This model offers sustainability as long as the community remains active, but also supports the development and accessibility of subject collections. An individual may release OER independently, through a subject community or through an institution – or all three and can be operating across several different models with different procedures and policies.
UKOER projects developed a range of models as appropriate to their stakeholder needs. Those projects that worked with stakeholders outside the education sector had some interesting lessons to learn and had to balance a range of different demands and needs. Interesting examples include those working in the Medicine and Health fields (ACTOR, PORSHE, PublishOER, SCOOTER, HALSOER), those working with commercial publishers (HALSOER, PublishOER, Great Writers, ALTO UK) and those working with a mix of public sector, charity and private sector bodies (CORE-SET, REACTOR, PARiS).