Positioning the OER Business Model for Open Education

F.H.T. de Langen [Frank.deLangen@ou.nl], OUNL/NeLL, OERNED,
M.E. Bitter-Rijkema [Marlies.Bitter@ou.nl], OUNL/CELSTEC, OERNED, The Netherlands


The enabling power of technology, especially information technology and social software, prompts a radical shift in economic and social interactions in societies around the globe. Existing traditional school based, formalized learning formats are unable to accommodate specific new learning needs. Hence, customized to the respective purposes of personal wellbeing, inclusion or requirements for professional performance, lifelong continuous learning is no longer a choice but a necessity. At the 2011 Davos World Economic Forum it was already stated that the lack of adequately educated people not only limits personal fulfilment but will also hinder prosperity and economic growth in the near future. Since the learning needs and learning possibilities today differ fundamentally from the 20th century the question is how to unlock the learning potential of people in a situation where mainstream education still heavily relies on traditional institutionalized closed formats.

Since more than a decade the Open Educational Resources (abbreviated as OER) movement provides new ideas on how to generate and share educational resources for educational use (within and outside formal institutional, open education) by large audiences for a variety of learning purposes. The vision of developing and sharing OER resources for Open Education (OpenED/OE) is interesting in this context for its great potential to substantially help solving existing educational problems. Open education based on sharing (OER) open resources for education enables people across continents and organizations to transform their talents into professional competences and grow by removing existing (economic) barriers and invent new strategies to open up education. To date though the OER/OpenED vision materializes primarily in activities organized as dedicated sponsored projects.

Crucial for a sustainable future of this appealing approach and the capability to bridge existing “education gaps” is our capacity to translate the OER/OpenED vision and existing commitment into appropriate, sustainable business models for OER/OpenED.

Sustainability is a key requirement for the OER business model. Education in the 21st century has the character of life long education, so the question is not so much whether a specific OER project can be funded adequately but whether we can create an underlying business model foundation able to serve as a flight deck from which necessary OER based learning activities can be launched, as part of completely open educational offerings or embedded in hybrid educational constellations, across organizations and countries.

After sketching the scene in the introduction we move to paragraph 2 where we describe how the application of the OER paradigm radically changes not only learning itself but from a business perspective also the interactions and relationships between learners, “teachers”, creators and users of educational resources as well as relations between educational institutions, designers and service providers of both formal and non-formal learning offerings. In paragraph 3 we draw conclusions from these changing relationships, which leads to a new perspective on sustainable business models for, OER based, (open) education. Next in paragraph 4 we describe our ideas on the essential components of the proposed business model to become a viable sustainable living reality. Based on heuristics from research on learning networks, open innovation and collaboration we describe methods to frame OER/OpenED activities to lay the groundwork for sustainable learning ecologies. We end with concluding remarks and suggestions for future work.

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e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, MOOCs, ICT, information and communication technology, collaborative learning, internet, interaction, learning management system, LMS,

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