Sustainability in OER projects
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13 February 2009
Comment 1 by Robert Schuwer
6:58pm 3 March 2009
At the Open University Netherlands, a business model is developed, in which a variety of open content will be available. We aim at starting implementation of this model this year. We expect a full implementation to take several years. The main premise underlying this model is to publish everything, someone has paid for and for delivery cost nothing, open. A subscription model to paid courses and a list of several services should finance the open materials. The main goal for the open resources are seduction, although the majority of the open materials can be of use for our learners without having to subscribe to any services.
Comment 2 by Nicole Allen
5:59pm 4 March 2009
Textbooks are the ultimate inelastic and non-substitutable product... Professors assign the book, and students need to pay whatever price the publisher sets to succeed in the class.
Comment 3 by Brendan Guenther
6:07pm 4 March 2009
Gerry Hanley talked about OER as the thing of value needs to be seen as a must have (inelastic). How substitutable are OER from traditional means of acquiring content like textbooks?
Merlot gets funding from CSU, partner fees, conference fees, grants. Recieves in-kind contributions from volunteers throuhg peer reviewers, part-time project managers, software and programming support, institutional support for business infrastructure, and contributions from the community.
Merlot gives back the OER collection, web2.0 services, and a slew of 'partner-only' products and services.
Gerry described Leadership as:
- facilitating customer-leaders taking successful actions
- making successful decisions in managing organization
- building trust, enabling customer retention, communication and reciprocity
Facilitate your customer community taking successful actions!
Work withing the means you have. Make sure right people doing the right things. Continously develop interventions to meet changing needs of customers. Solutions need to be scalable and reliable to prevent rework.
Comment 4 by Brendan Guenther
6:20pm 4 March 2009
David Goddy from Scholastic talked about TeacherShare an OER site intended to help teachers help eachother by sharing resources and lesson plans.
Scholastic has a deep history of translating to new media and has a culture of working with teachers to create what they need. Teacher sharing is consistent with Scholastic's DNA.
Scholastic hopes there is room for free and paid resources, because teachers want both. Hoping that attracting the traffic drives loyalty and they build trust/credit through providing the help.
To be sustainable, needs to be fully integrated with what the enterprise is already doing. The traffic isn't sufficient to benefit from adverstising revenue. The conversion rate from free resources to paid resources is low (I want to buy that book after reading the free lesson plans). A hybrid model based on a whole set of objectives makes sense. The revenue helps offset costs, but you need to look at it as a necessary expense because of indirect benefits.
Vision is hundreds of thousands of teachers subscribing to resources while also consuming and contributing free resources to enrich practice.
Comment 5 by Brendan Guenther
6:34pm 4 March 2009
Connexions is trying to achieve scalability along these dimensions...
- pace is differs across authors
- quantity of contribution is variable
- length, size, quality of contributions all vary
Textbook authors need to get paid because of the magnitude of effort involved in getting a large, comprehensive, high-quality contribution. To attain sustainability in the OER realm connexions is pursuing large blocks of content that are sponsored by philanthropists. We still allow and facilitate the 5-minute contributions of wiki-pedia style contributing that updates and maintains the content.
Delivery Platform Maintenance & Upgrade/Update
At the moment it takes almost no effort to maintain the platform right now, RiceUniversity is sustaining it, but could turn it off at any time. Looking for long term solutions to this and have plans for a Connexions consortium to diversify revenue support. Also plan to have an "Enterprise" version of Connexions that can be hosted locally, even in corporations. May also see corporations sponsor development and provide value-add services around the software.
Comment 6 by Greg McKenzie
7:55pm 4 March 2009
Sustainability in OER projects
Presenters: Andy Lane, Gary Lopez
Short presentations by OER community members of the various ways OER projects model financial and organizational sustainability
Open education resources Is partly about reinvigorating openness.
We produce educational materials and then distribute. How can we sustain this activity?
Openness is something we think about.
Making materials freely available. Copyright materials. This movement is central to the vision of the university. Institutionally led project. Open access policy. What would this offer for the broader community? Offering education where not available and to the wider community. The issue of sustainability. Approaches.
3000 pounds for producing one hour. It's about building upon and enhancing activities we are already doing. Is there an audience? This is about cross-border education as well.
Developing your sustainability strategies. Follow the money and it's more than money.
- What is the thing of value? To others/ Their needs
o Product: you provide a product so others can do work.
o Service: You do the work so others don't have to.
- How inelastic is the "thing of value"?
- What do the others have that you need?
- Money, marketing, users, expertise, reputation, market analysis.
Funding: 350K in partner fees. 100K in conference fees, 100K in grants, 500K USC support
In-Kind Contributions: 600 peer reviewers, 15 part time project managers, software, programming, materials contributions, marketing, community of users, business infrastructure
12 years experience. Leadership is essential. You facilitate your customer-leaders taking successful actions. You make successful decisions; You build trust over time, Reciprocity.
Community: You facilitate your customer-community taking successful actions.
Recognition is cheap.
Manage your organization's productivity.
Have the right people doing the right work with the right tools and processes.
Continuously develop your products and services to meet the change needs of customers/users.
Design requirements: scalability and reliability
Funding, leadership, community service.
Vice President for Scholastic
2 million registered teachers. TeacherShare project. Elementary teachers spend most of their time teaching reading. Teachers need collaboration tools that are designed for their needs.
The end result is a larger body of resources. Large numbers of teachers are not technically inclined and we need to reach them.
Scholastic (89 years old) has a long history of translating new media into practical forms. Less top-down publishing. Teacher sharing is a big part of this. Intellectual property is important but we need to be involved in web publishing.
Moved away from the free part of our site to providing more direct services and tools. Teachers know that they have to pay for some high quality materials. Free material helps to drive our traffic and to better understand our customers.
Advertising alone will not make your effort sustainable.
One million users a month. A lensing feature for peer review. Scalability. High quality digitized educational materials offered freely and openly for anyone with access to the Internet. The William and Flora-Hewlett Foundation.
J. P. Morgan. Said this society is not sustainable. He helped to build a tax infrastructure for philanthropic activities.
We are still searching for sustainability. Content and Platform
Content Creation: Open site 10 years ago with "blank slate." Struggled with the wiki model. People will contribute small amounts of time but textbooks require sustained effort.
Content Maintenance and Update: Community-based learning site. Once the core block of content is there people will contribute a few minutes for free. That model is sustainable.
Delivery Platform: Open Source platform. Maintenance is fairly straightforward. Low cost. Not sustainable enough. We need multiple revenue streams.
Enterprise Solution: (Allows running own platform.)
Building Self-Sustaining OER
NROC: High quality digitized educational material offered freely and openly.
Only individuals or institutions have resources to pay.
- Value should have an existing budget allocation
- Value purchase decision should be one or few decision makers
- Value purchase decisions should happen in a timely manner.
- Value purchase should not dramatically increase costs
Make sure content can be used within popular CMS's and Repositories. Customizable by teachers, districts, etc. Correlated with state standards and popular textbooks. Complete teaching materials.
NROC Network Online Community
After two years have gathered over 120 members.
NROC Revenue: Have moved from licensing to membership. $650,000 in revenue last year.
Global financial crisis might help us. Lining up new members.
Growing nicely. 190,000 visitors a month.
Only advertising is institutional student recruitment, which can be turned off by the institution.
Google searches for "free homework help" hippocampus is near top of results.
Resistance to advertising is reducing. How do you control appropriate advertising? Ask the users. Advertising consistent with the site is more acceptable. Interest in advertising in the educational category is not that great. You can create a more attractive segment for advertisers.
Web services are another source of advertising. Collaboration, partnerships, v competition. Underwriting, Ethical consideration with underwriters. Tough decisions.
Socialism v sustainability. Profit v Nonprofit. Worried about the "open and free" aspect. Is sustainability a trap? It's an economic problem. Economics also involves public money economics and social economics. This is an interplay between these economies in terms of how education is structured. In some countries education is far more private. Putting scholarship back into the hands of scholars. Not in the boardroom. Ultimately who's going to pay for the privilege? Having scholars and educators control education is costly. The end goal is to build a sustainable educational system. What are we making sustainable? The entire system? It's really important to understand what economy you are supporting. The public, tax dollars, economy involves building efficiency for the public.
Leveraging materials: As workload increases there will be less graduate students and an increased reliance on online learning. The debate is not whether this is educationally valuable but about whether we can afford NOT to do it.
Community developed content: Building awareness about what content/knowledge is needed. The idea of lenses (community driven content review) is a good tool for finding gaps. Sharing communities can identify gaps. Teaching commons. How do you leverage existing organizations? You need to be able to find those discussions.
Comment 7 by Brendan Guenther
8:52pm 4 March 2009
Andy Lane from Open University UK talked about...
Under the original grant Open University UK was taking existing educational material and needed to port it into Open Learn. Moving forward for sustainability, under institutional funding only, they will now develop most/all new educational material in Open Learn where it is ready to be released as OER natively.
3000GBP per hour of educational materials for student use. Reworking it for open distribution costs an additional 300GBP. Creating it open to begin with, or mainstreaming it, should be a very marginal cost in comparison to the suplemental cost described above.
Comment 8 by Greg McKenzie
6:55pm 5 March 2009
Breakout Discussions, Project Planning
Join an emergent discussion, join a different breakout group, or continue to meet with the same group from Wednesday breakouts
(Sample of comments from Thursday morning session.)
You can't leave things static. That means higher overhead. Hosted institutional activities v initiatives from a community or group. In the UK sustainability is always understood from the outset, that anything of value it will be mainstreamed. In terms of funding, it's part of general activities. Marketing, for example, we spend 20 million pounds annually. Marketing on the web offsets some of that cost. Surest way to sustainability is to make sure the activity is essential to the organization. The OER should not be a separate project with a parent institution. The halo effect?
Once you reach a certain plateau you have more options. The institution can restrain your funding sources. What organization you are in makes a big difference. What is the best venue for a particular project? You need to document your performance, often in terms of the number of teachers you can reach. It is difficult to track what happens after someone downloads a text. How do you know how it was used and by whom? You don't want to create barriers to entry. You might be required to log in if you want access to an advisory board, for example. Ask the users if they would participate in research activities. This allows them to opt in and gives you a group to get data from. Once you start collecting registration you can break them into "buckets" that you know more about. Then do a micro survey. There is ambiguity over what happens with users who don't register. You have to decide how much data you need. There is a high response level to micro surveys, if the survey is targeted and narrowly focused. If they value the site they will want to assist the research. The more data you have the better for your presentation to a funding source. You can engage power users to help facilitate discussions amongst the user community.
Advertising has to be tasteful and relevant. If the interest matches. You should screen for appropriate partners. The key is that you have to finesse the relationship with those who want to put their brand on your site. Does the relationship also direct people to your site? Managing these relationships requires staff time.
Speed of delivery is linked to sustainability because funding sources are interested in getting material out quickly. This can be a challenge. The WIKI model is a challenge. Vetting is a problem. The preferred people need to have credentials. There is a danger in having the site open. You need to control who contributes. Teachers are sometimes interested in making presentations on your project/content. The user population can help you promote.
Student volunteers can be used. Students like free textbooks and will remind their professors that there are other options to expensive texts. Students will hold "sales meetings" on your textbooks once they are convinced.