Week 9 – Activity 10: Applying sustainability models

Timing: 3 hours

  • Read Wiley (2007), On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education. (This is quite a long document so you may want to skim read some sections.)
  • Then look at the following open education initiatives, and for each one determine which of Wiley’s three models of sustainability you think they are operating:
  • Consider the following:
    1. Was the sustainability model for each initiative apparent?
    2. Did Wiley’s models cover all approaches or did you think a different model was operating for one or more of them?
  • You can share these reflections in either the forum or in your blog.


Coursera: Rice Model, yet blended.

The Rice model holds that there are many courses offered with practically no control (Wiley, 2007:10). The latter appears not to be true, tightened by the fact that a majority of the organisations most successful courses are in partnership with well-established universities.

Coursera is an NGO, and gets revenue through payment for certificates. These are not mandatory, making the course available for free if you so wish.


BCCampus: USU

The organisation focuses on multiple areas, from Ed Tech to OER projects. They receive funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education in Canada (https://bccampus.ca/about-us/). Due to the larger variety of projects, and medium-size of the organisation, it is likely that there ‘per course’, or more applicable ‘per project’ cost is quite high, especially considering the number of staff. The organisation’s OER textbook programme is subject to the lack of control discussed in (Wiley, 2007:10), as many of the materials are adopted and not self-created by the institution.

FutureLearn: Rice and MIT

The FutureLearn organisation is wholly owned by the OU (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FutureLearn) and thus has the institutional backing like MIT to ensure funding. However, multiple courses are offered from a substantial list of partner organisations. The quality of the materials is likely to be very high due to institution alignment, although no overall standard can be easily kept.

In addition to the backing from the OU, funding/support also comes from a large array from private and public institutions.

OpenLearn: MIT

A branch of the OU offering courses in an Open environment. Materials are directly taken from taught traditional courses at the OU, ensuring a high quality. It is likely that licensing  costs, and the creation of materials in non-propriety formats requires larger funding than seen in the models above, which would source their funding through partners and not face them directly.


1. Was the sustainability model for each initiative apparent?

There were often links to the three models that could be made, however they are not so clear-cut. There were cases where funding might be given from multiple private/public institutions, which were not wholly accounted for in the Wiley (2007) reading, as this moved beyond government support (Wiley, 2007:16). There were also instances where partners were those providing free services, such as marketing for FutureLearn, which don’t fit into Wiley’s models directly.

2. Did Wiley’s models cover all approaches or did you think a different model was operating for one or more of them?

It appears that Wiley provided a good overview of options, but the grey areas were quite apparent and made the selections not as clear-cut. As the paper is around 9 years old, one has to wonder if certain models have not gained more prominence, such as the Contributor-pay model discussed (Wiley, 2007:15) since the rise of certificates and gadgets for a fee (Coursera). Various newer avenues, such as Kickstarts or Patron are also showing ways for initiatives to gather funding easily through donations. Furthermore, as governments continue to realise the benefits of open education, many have begun making increased provisions for this sort of funding, as was evident in BCcampus, which possibly drowns out some of the other models as being equally effective today as they were in 2007.


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