Funding Models for Open Educational Resources

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Typology

  1. OER Membership-Based Funding Model
  2. OER Endowment-Based Funding Model
  3. OER Donations-Based Funding Model
  4. OER Conversion-Based Funding Model
  5. OER Contributor-Pay Based Funding Model
  6. OER Sponsorship-Based Funding Model
  7. OER Institutional-Support Based Funding Model
  8. OER Governmental-Support Based Funding Model
  9. OER Funding Models Based on Partnerships and Exchanges

Discussion

The effect of the choice of funding models on the technical logic of OER development

Stephen Downes:

"A consideration of the sustainability of OERs would be incomplete without at the same time considering how the development and distribution of OERs is to be accomplished. As is the case in so many initiatives, merely securing the funding for the project does not ensure sustainability; it is expected and often required that the resources thus funded will be useful, and the manner in which this is accomplished could have a significant effect on the level of funding needed and received.

In the field of OERs, financial considerations have driven technological development. The widely touted concept of the `learning object' was driven, at least in part, by the hope that sharable and reusable learning resources would reduce the cost needed to produce them. (Downes, 2001) This, in turn, imposes requirements on the nature of OER design; as Walker (2005) argues, it requires interoperability between data, software and services.

Friesen (2001) suggests therefore that learning objects must be discoverable, modular and interoperable.

What this entails has been the subject of considerable discussion (and dispute) over the intervening years.

Two broad models have emerged (UNESCO, 2002a):

  • Free use, used locally- the OERs are used `as is' without modification by the educational institution; use consists (in a sense) of the `putting together' of a collection of resources, as for example, aoms are put together to form molecules, or lego blocks are put together to form toy houses. (Wiley, 2000)
  • Resources are downloaded, adapted, and sent back to the system repository for vetting and potential use by others. It is noted (in UNESCO, 2002a that translation is part of adaptation, not a separate function. It is also noted that in order to effect these and other recommendations, an appropriate level of user registration may be indicated.

It should be noted that these two approaches characterize a dichotomy not only in the realm of educational resources, but also in other content types. Creative Commons, for example, when licensing multimedia resources, found it necessary to allow authors to add a `no modification' clause to the three conditions available in Creative Commons licenses (described above). Moreover, the ability to modify software for one's own use is often touted as one of the major distinctions between software that is merely `free' and software that is `open source'. (ABA, undated)

Access and usability are also important considerations. The development of an OER network will require tools for access, including browsing, search and data-mining, syndication, and even resources such as a virtual speakers bureau (Hanley, 2005) Such considerations also comprise mechanisms to assist dissemination, adaptation, evaluation, and use of open courseware materials. For example, in UNESCO discussions of OERs (UNESCO, 2002a) participants suggested the establishment of a Global Index System, the purpose of which is to help potential users to find courseware and then to make it easily accessible." (http://www.downes.ca/files/FreeLearning.pdf)