Open Business Models #ioe12

The question that seems to arise from throughout the course topics is one of sustainability and the open business models topic considers this area in more detail.

When looking at particularly the concept of OpenCourseWare (OCW) there is the concern that it can’t be achieved without major subsidies. The MIT OCW seems to always be quoted, as is the investment figure running to millions of dollars required each year to maintain the initiative.

[Aside: However, this approach seems to be based on maintaining and propagating the existing systems of higher education structures. “How can we get to a (financially) sustainable position of providing openness in education whilst still doing what we are doing?” And if we have seen anything over the last decade or two, existing systems/business models adapt or die. Cable Green in the next topic, Open Policy, makes a valid point that possibly we are asking the wrong question. “What are we trying to achieve?” is the primary and fundamental question. If we are trying to achieve the maintenance of the existing educational system then possibly the answer is different to us trying to expand and open education much more fundamentally to enable access to all who want it. From an institutional or organisational perspective openness is a question of mission and strategy, which includes community outreach, marketing, retention, student satisfaction, etc. Financial sustainability is part of a larger strategic discussion. However, there are moral and ethical issues for the sustainability position of openness to consider.]

So running through the course readings for the Open Business Models.

The Johansen & Wiley, 2010, ‘A  Sustainable Model for OpenCourseWare Development’ article/paper is primarily devoted to analysing the possibility of adapting courses at Bingham Young University (BYU) to create OCWs, and the financial implications of that process to reach financial sustainability.

[The main cost of adapting existing courses is ‘copyright scrubbing’. This is the process of identifying copyrighted content, identifying the rights holder(s), negotiating for rights to use the material(s), and paying any applicable fees. Alternate solutions after identifying copyrighted content are to remove any such content, or to create your own alternative content (still requiring resourcing).]

The paper works through the analysis, drawing on concerns about the potential loss of revenue from participants learning from the open courseware balanced against the potential increased sign-ups to register on the formal, paid-for course enrolments. Examples like that of the Open University in the UK are highlighted, I’ve written about this myself previously.

Figures are calculated within the paper of the revenue levels required versus the costs of adapting to OCW for BYU example courses. It provides a useful resource for institutional policy makers looking to perform a similar analysis.

However, I think my recommendations would be to ensure that resourcing factors are taken into account at the course production stages – record staff time to produce the course. Also, copyright and licensing of material should be considered from the onset of the production process for materials destined for open use.

The other ‘readings’ from the topic centre on book authoring and publishing, be it general of textbook specific. I personally found the Hilton & Wiley, 2011, ‘Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet’ of interest. In this article, 10 authors were asked a set of questions about their views on open publishing and whether there were affects on sales. The general consensus amongst the authors was that they had a desire to increase the exposure of their works; open publishing achieved this by increasing readership to those who wouldn’t otherwise have accessed the works. They felt that there was little impact in relation to loss of sales of people who accessed the open publishing rather than bought the book. Indeed, the authors felt that sales of the books actually increased as a consequence of the open publishing availability; arguments related to accessing the works to see whether they were worth buying, and preferring to read a ‘hard’ copy than off the screen. Since publication, however, sales of electronic copies of books to Amazon’s Kindle eReader have outstripped their ‘hard’ copy sales of equivalent titles. In light of this statistic, it would be interesting to see subsequent analysis of open publishing to eBook format and whether there is any affect on sales.

The textbook model related topic readings relate mainly to The Flat World Knowledge (FWK) approach, of which David Wiley is the Chief Openness Officer; with passing reference to Rice University’s Connexions and Wikibooks. FWK uses a ‘freemium’ strategy, giving away some elements and charging a ‘premium’ for other services, however it doesn’t subsidize with advertising revenue. So students can access full online versions of the textbooks for free, or pay for printed, PDF or audio versions for example.

Advertisements

Kahn Academy – DIY OER to Educate the World

Last Friday was an interesting day. I was tipped off by a colleague, Paul Leman, about the Kahn Academy when he sent me a link to Glen Moody’s blog post. At first sight the Kahn Academy looked like a fantastic resource, with 1000+ videos on various topic for students of all ages. But being one who never takes things on face value, I wanted to check things out and see what others were saying about this resource. That’s when I found David Wiley’s post which explained how there was no Creative Commons license attached to the content. I had a look and he seemed to be right. David had written to Sal Kahn the creator of the Kahn Academy previously, but he decided to drop him a further email. Then, as is evident from the comments David received on his post, everyone was immensely pleased to see that by the end of that day Sal had acted on David’s call and prominently displayed the CC license on the Kahn Academy homepage making it an OER for reuse, remixing, sharing, etc. I immediately embedded this video in my Daily Interests blog under the title Education for the World until I had time to write in more detail.

Now I have to take my hat off to Sal Kahn for a truly immense resource. What he has achieved with the Kahn Academy is nothing short of incredible. Single handedly generating instructional videos covering subjects including:

What a wealth of information. This has to be place in the category alongside Academic Earth and Udemy.

This story excites me on a number of levels. Perhaps one of the most significant is the difference anyone can make by openly publishing knowledge online to freely educate others. It’s an approach I’m trying to take myself to make a difference, however small; it is something that I passionately believe in. More power to anyone and everyone doing the same.

Next Generation Textbooks – Flexbooks

Sometimes you encounter something that changes your own mindset, the way you work, the way you want to do things. You want to get involved, to make this better. I’ve just come across one such idea.

The work of the CK-12 Foundations is mindblowingly excellent. Their mission is to create access to cheap textbooks both for the US and Worldwide. How will they achieve this? Well, they’re pioneering the ‘Flexbook‘, which is an open-content, web-based collaboration model where it’s possible to take Creative Commons Licensed content from one of the available standard text on the site and repurpose it for the learning experience required. This is achieved using the online software to extract chapters or sections from the text, mix it with your own content from a Word file for example, and package it together into a ‘book’ that can be exported to a pdf file for printing out and use with learners.

For cK-12’s much better explanation:

Screenshot of Flexbook site

This needs to be made to work in a much wider contexted. This template could be used throughout education. It’s brilliant. It works for both formal learning setting and individual, informal learning.