…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?