Category: Week 9

Week 9 – Activity 11: The advantages and disadvantages of big and little OER

Timing: 3 hours




  • Can reach a large audience, and thus boost the institutions presence (think MIT CW).
  • Quality of OER can be maintained through internal regulators.
  • The big name reputation, such as the OU or MIT, can carry more weight in influencing the OER industry.
  • A larger budget can result in higher quality. This is especially beneficial for learner-targeted materials where instruction is needed – think of creating online tasks with animations and automatically marking.
  • Greater chance of being taken seriously, such as OpenStax textbooks being adopted by formal learning organisations.
  • Can have a broader effect on the OER industry as a whole, forcing other institutions to follow suit or be left behind.


  • Significantly higher costs, both financial and through effort, especially if the broadcast approach is taken (Weller, 2011b:03)
  • Lack of traditional publishing means. Lack of ‘open’ journals and other avenues to spread materials.
  • Quality can fluctuate largely due to a lack of protocol and journal-based standard.
  • Funding options can remain a challenge. Being sustainable requires the selection and adoption of a carefully chosen approach.
  • For sharing, gaining access to open materials, such as those used in MOOCs or through iTunes you, can be a challenge. Especially in different non-propriety formats.

Small OER


  • Do not need to take extra time, can be as simple as moving to an open and shareable format as appose to in-company notes (Weller, 2011b:06)
  • “Unlikely to attract large audiences, but all of them are capable of gathering niche audiences, which would collectively fulfil a large element of university’s public engagement function”(Weller, 2011b:05)
  • Allows for bottom up innovation, as is the nature of internet-based innovations (Weller, 2011b:06)
  • As a result, many academic staff could collectively take this type of approach and thus result in a large constant flow of open materials (“it gave me confidence to get on and try it”) (Weller, 2011b:07)
  • The idea of sharing and getting involved in OER as being fun, boosting interest, making social connections, engaging with the community, and boosting the ego/esteem of contributors (Weller, 2011b:03)
  • Low cost to nothing depending on how it is handled by staff/individuals – i.e. moving documents to an open format, or recording a lecture for YouTube upload is practically free.
  • High reuse potential, due to the materials being available in a more ‘casual’ environment, as appose to through EdX or other more closed systems.


  • Smaller audience reach, ‘niche audiences’ (Weller, 2011b:05)
  • Requires a pre-existing network is an important factor in seeding their (the OERs) uptake (Weller, 2011b:07)
  • If other networks as used, such as SlideShare to spread material, cost will be lower, but so will the institutions presence (Weller, 2011b:03).
  • Lacks the institutional fame that might make resources appear reliable.
  • Smaller budget impacts the options for high quality and accessible resources (i.e. multiple formats are unlikely to be shared within organisations)



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 ( 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 ( 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.