Credit: Daniel Weir, CC BY NC

I have been thinking about potential business models for OER core curriculum, in light of the fact that such curriculum is costly both to develop and to sell, implement, and maintain, and, as discussed, elsewhere there really is no “free.”

Of course, it is a given that the main open licensed digital instructional materials will in fact be available free of charge. But still those materials have a cost that must be covered.

To get there, it seems to me that there are at least two main areas to fund:

  1. Initial materials development
  2. Everything else, including sales, implementation, professional development, related non-free products (e.g. technology, print versions, ancillaries, premium products), support, maintenance and upgrades, etc.

Regarding initial development, most K-12 OER that I am aware of has relied on philanthropic support. I question whether this is a sustainable model long term, but for now, I’ll take that as the standard though I’ll offer a possible alternative later in this series of posts.

The “everything else” parts of the package are often ignored by OER publishers. I think that failing to consider these is indicative of a “build it and they will come” attitude. In K-12, just because materials are “free,” there is no guarantee that they will be adopted or used, especially for basal curriculum. In fact, the “sales” process is just as complex and costly for “free” products as for commercial ones. The result of failing to account for these things has often been a lack of adoption and/or underuse of high quality materials.

The dilemma then is how to fund a costly sales and implementation process for a product that is free.

(This is a part of a series on business models for OER K-12 core curriculum.)

Open business models, part 1: the dilemma
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