Note: This is part 3 of a series on OERs. Previous posts:

Can OERs make money if they’re open?

Or a slightly different question, can people creating OERs make money?

I would say yes. It requires a different view on revenue.

First, I should point out that many of us who work on OERs are funded by tax dollars. You can (and I do) make the case that OERs are the expected results of government investments. I personally think local, state, and federal governments would do well to invest into OERs through employing quality educators. It’s a better return on the dollars spent.

All that said, another model for funding would be to consider popular open-source platforms.

Say a future hypothetical OER organization begins to dominate the field. If OERs are open (anyone can use them), how does this OER org generate revenue to fund continual growth? They could:

  1. Offer customization on already existing OERs. Don’t like the cover image on an OER title? Pay $5 to update it to your school logo.
  2. Offer scope of work to develop an OER from scratch. A district gets an OER at the of the work (with an open CC license), but they’ve paid for the labor of developing the OER.
  3. Offer a subscription service for an OER. By joining the service, districts get updates on the OER (and a degree of support).

How Abre is Looking to Support OERs

As more districts and para-district organizations come on board with Abre, we’ve started to explore various ideas. For example:

  1. Providing an authoring platform in Abre.
  2. Providing APIs and integrating with third party APIs in order to bring the full ecosystem to schools.
  3. Providing membership OER apps. This address the funding model question. While OER content would still have a creative commons license, member districts would need to have the membership Abre app in order to access the content.
  4. Integrating the whole student picture (state assessments, curriculum maps, formative and summative assessments, 3rd party data points) with an OER suggestion engine

The Wrap Up: Why OERs?

Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the menial strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Clairvaux used to compare us to punt dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.

John of Salisbury

Open is good for education. It allows students and teachers to build on previous knowledge without encountering the walls of proprietary knowledge silos. It allows districts to adopt and adapt resources to the particular needs of their students and communities without some of the worries that arise from copyright.

OERs certainly have questions and issues that need addressing. It is my hope that the education community will work towards developing solutions that support their growth.