Keynote: Wim Westera OER introduction, OUNL and reflections

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Patrick McAndrew
2 November 2010

His main theme is that the knowledge balance of costs has overtaken material costs – “know how to produce is more valuable than the products themselves” (Amidon, 1997)

OUNL has a range of projects across the six areas of OER needs: content (OpenER), search (Share.Tec), metadata (MACE), Delivery (iTunesU), prosumers (wikiwijs), Interoperability (iCoper).

Reflecting on OER Wim’s main question to himself is why try to do this for free? His answers are around accumulation of knowledge – humans build on the past. Through data, information, knowledge and wisdom (Stonier, 1995) – the same item (e.g. e=mc^2) can be each of these to different people.

OER can fit in a matrix of syntactic/semantic and implicit/explicit knowledge in the simplest point (syntactic and implicit) but with suitable activity and community it can act in other ways – and that needs to be recognised.

But why free? This is in part down to digital artefacts having almost zero marginal cost. The almost zero though implies there is still some cost and so is micropricing a viable option?  – but there is a big difference (the penny gap) between free and some cost in the number of users. Adding any cost gives a mental overhead that keeps users away.

How to operate for free then? – the secret is cross-funding. This can be by subsidies, charging other customers (free for children), expensive other products (freemium), shift revenues to the future (first times are free), exchange effort from customers (Google extracting behaviours from free users), non-monetary incentives such as reputation (blogs, Wikipedia, twitter), rock-concert model (Radiohead give away recording – charge for concerts), negative price model (pay for absence – fitness clubs no show charging)

The summary is: the content is half the story, experiential learning and tacit knowledge, don’t charge for OER – think about cross-funding (freemium, user data, contributions), alternative incentives, and consider organising tantalising events .

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