In the first post of this series, I mentioned that most OER publishers rely on philanthropy to fund initial product development and that I had questions about how sustainable this model is. First, if more K-12 OER doesn’t achieve higher adoption and use rates, I wonder how long funders will continue to fund it. More importantly, as a movement, it’s not wise to be reliant on handouts. In addition, the categorization of development costs as a one-time cost is outmoded.
So what are the options?
One might be to tap into a broader pool of funding that might include government grants, social impact bonds, or partner participation as described in previous posts.
Another is to think about this as a traditional business. Generate revenue streams as discussed earlier that fund not only sales and implementation costs, but also product development.
Now this sounds a lot like a traditional publishing stuff. Sales, costs, maybe even reinvestable proceeds (“profits”). And while the price under this scenario would be higher than under a model under which development is funded through philanthropy, I think it would still be less than commercial products.
Another important distinction is that in this case the primary goal is social impact not profits.
There are a number of other benefits as well.
- The affordances of an open license not only make “free” product available, but also lead to other unanticipated benefits.
- Teachers professionalism and student learning can increase.
- There is a loop for continual product (and process) improvement.
- Open collaboration across states and districts using common materials leads to more collaboration and richer learning for everyone.
- (and perhaps) OER moves the system toward more openness.
Ultimately, learners benefit.
To me, these things are the foundation of what makes OER appealing.