OpenEd: week 8 or the sustainability…

…of this course :-)! We talked about this issue, this week. Even with the best will in the world, it seems that an open course with 60 students worldwide blogging every week on such profound topics is unsustainable for a single instructor… and I strongly empathize with David on it…

I also reflected on my personal sustainability in attending this course. I admit I undestimated the workload, not being a full-time student… (to be more exact: I am a minimal-time student!!)

I know, I must now write about sustainability of OER :-).

Well, I want to make a comparison with Open Source software and, particularly, of OSS for education like LMS and LCMS. A well known case of success is Moodle. Well, do you know there are moodle.org and moodle.com web sites? Moodle.com is not a mirror of moodle.org but it is a distinct site, dedicated to services related to Moodle, i.e.. hosting, support, consulting, installation and so on.. Please take note that these are pay services, offered by a network of Moodle Partners, commercial firms that “contribute directly to the ongoing development of Moodle software via funding or expertise”. So the circuit is closed… Of course, you are always free to download Moodle free but you may also well decide to buy some services from a Moodle Partner, knowing that a part of your payment will be spent in the development of your preferred software. For me, it’s a good model of self-financing!

Could this model suitable for OER, too? Maybe, but we should think to which “services” we can offer via parallel commercial structures funding the developers.

What if MIT started a network of localized point-of-presences worldiwe, offering pay tutoring and, maybe, some form of certificates, based on OCW? A sort of franchising for OER?

Do you find I’m a little trivial thinking only to money? Maybe I receive some criticism from Elisa, who agrees with the Downes point of view that “money is only part of the problem”. Yes, it’s true, but I guess money is the most important part!

Another example is the SLOOP project (I blogged about it in week 5…). It’s an interesting project, very near to OER. It was funded by the European Union but now the funding period is expired and the staff have trouble about the future… Is this project able to survive as a volunteer community? I love SLOOP but I honestly do not bet on its unfunded survival.. This is, indirectly, an answer to the question about government funding: yes, for example, in Europe there are a lot of EU funded projects for education and some of them are related to OER. But they all work within the “project paradigm“: the project starts and we hardly work, it ends and… let’s try to start another one… In my opinion it’s not a very sustainable model!

A final consideration on the paper I liked very much this week: Common Wisdom. It seems to me that the author has identified a very subtle problem when he points out that contributing with a few sentences for Wikipedia is a peculiar “affordance” of that specific model (the wiki) but collaboratively authoring a textbook requires much more coordination and effort, because of the need of coherence of the internal structure. So, we need a stronger motivation from a smaller groups, for successfully obtain a complex OER such a courseware or a textbook, while an encyclopedia can be authored by a very larger group, without a strong committment. I guess these different affordances are critical for sustainability of OER: maybe the encyclopedia model is the more sustainable?

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2 Responses to “OpenEd: week 8 or the sustainability…”


  1. 1 Alessandro Giorni Ott 22nd, 2007 at 10:08

    We as Italians can’t forget the changing fortune and fate of the totally public funded course by INDIRE (www.indire.it).
    I’m attending now at one of them where 40 people have subscribed (no cost for learners, if you ever asked…) but only 5-8 of them are taking an active participation….
    I’m also subscribed to three other ones which aren’t so that much alive… And that’s all publicly funded and gratis for us – but not open (one need to be a working teacher of the school’s ministry in order to be allowed to subscribe).

    I didn’t think to the moodle.org and moodle.com pair, thanks a lot!

  2. 2 Pierfranco Ravotto Nov 1st, 2007 at 18:43

    Hi Antonio

    Thank you again for referring to the SLOOP project I have coordinated.
    Surely we couldn’t have run that project without the funding from the European Community. And I don’t bet against you on our unfunded survival …
    I think that we need to demonstrate that the first funded product is useful, that teachers use it, that it’s partially self-sustenaible in order to ask for new funds to develop SLOOP and the freeLOms.

    Speaking of sustainability of OER I refer both to voluntary work of many people who occasionally share learning materials and to funded or co-funded activities.

    As far as the “voluntary” activities, I’m happy to use your blog to say David Wiley that a starting point of our project comes from his words: “Faculty have all kinds of material lying around their hard drives as well: syllabi, lecture notes, research instruments, data sets, articles in progress, articles never published, etc. And faculty want access to more of these materials than they have as well.
    … Students have all kinds of educational material (learning objects) lying around their hard drives: essays, term papers, other types of homework, notes taken during lectures, etc. And every student wants access to more of these learning objects than they have.” (When Worlds Collide).

    All the best

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