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Sustainability of your OER project

Page history last edited by Jayashree Balaji 12 years, 9 months ago

At the time that your team met to plan for your OER project, you would have had thoughts for how you would like to implement the project to meet immediate objectives. You would have also been able to foresee that the project would need to be continued beyond the funded life of the project. You would have discussed sustaining the work because your team is so convinced of its value. You would have looked around for successful model projects. Does that sound familiar?


This unit will help you :


  • understand the meaning of sustainability
  • read exhaustive studies on how successful OER projects in the higher education sector have continued and grown
  • examine the models/strategies that OER projects have followed to sustain themselves 


What does an OER project need to continue its operations? 


An OER project depends on its ability to continue generating and sharing educational material. At the very minimum this would mean having to have someone create, adapt, convert, annotate or digitise content, checking for IP issues and having them sorted. The next step would be to make the content available - online or as physical copies on electronic media or paper. So the costing would be in terms of authoring costs, bandwidth or the cost of electronic devices for distribution of the material. These are the monetary obligations to continue an OER project. But there are ways to reduce the financial burden and we will read of case studies where cost reduction is directly dependent on the quality and usefulness of the resource.


Please download this article on the sustainability of OER intiatives in higher education authored by David Wiley :



He has considered the strategies adopted by three highly successful resources -


Each of these projects have followed different models, the first is highly centralized, organized with paid staff contributing work towards the project; the UtahState opencourseware project  is a hybrid of centralization and decentralization with both employed staff and volunteers contributing work; in the case of Rice Connexions volunteers provide almost all the services. The courses and modules structuring is not coordinated, neither is there a system to provide technical or pedagogical advice to content authors or editors. But all activity is extensively documented in the site. The quantum of voluntary contributions to these projects is a pointer that the profile of the project is adequate incentive to be involved with OER projects.


Another presentation on developing a sustainable OER ecosystem in higher education examines OER projects in the UK:

These slides speak of an ongoing initiative where 7 institutions have been funded  to generate OER and come up with approaches for their sustainability beyond funded life of the project. These recommendations are then being integrated to project an ecosystem for sustainability of OER projects.


Wiley's paper also looks at various OER funding models- that of Downes (Models for sustainable OER, Interdisciplinary journal of knowledge and learning objects, Volume 3, 2007. Accessed at  http://ijello.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p029-044Downes.pdf)

This presentation from the OLnet Initiative(an open learning network with a mandate to gather evidence of use and reuse of OER) explain Stephen Downes funding models and raise pertinent questions that could shape our thinking of OER. You may have encountered a number of the funding models discussed here - the contributor pay model is widely adopted in the scientific paper publishing community. The MIT OpenCourseWare project follows the institutional model, while open source content management systems like Drupal(http://drupal.org/) follow the conversion model where customers pay for tech support, advanced features etc. Eventually, your OER project must make decisions about which of the many models is most likely to result in providing sufficient funding for the project to continue meeting its objectives over the course of time. You will also have learnt that the project will sustain if it has value for its users.



Read this paper on the free textbook project - Flat World Knowledge



Discuss with workshop participants of what you understand of the funding strategy being deployed in this project. 


Comments (2)

Jayashree Balaji said

at 7:41 pm on Apr 30, 2011

Comment from the Review Workshop
--incorporate "sunken cost" concept

wayne mackintosh said

at 12:28 am on Apr 28, 2011

I think we also need to add a short para about sunken cost for investment decision making. I.e. sunken cost should not inform future investment decisions. At an institutional level -- OER does not require new money, but simply a reallocation of time to open content licenses or releasing existing outputs under open licenses. So no new money and easier to achieve sustainability :-)

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