Introducing myself to #EdStartUp – How can we find sustainable business/funding models for open education? [update]

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This is my introduction to the other participants on the #EdStartUp MOOC. My main interest in taking the course is to explore ways of squaring up the demands of a sustainable business or other funding model with openness. My key question is how can we run open courses with open educational resources and using open platforms without the support of large institutions that can afford to treat things like MOOCs as advertising or loss leaders.

I think an essential part of this problem is solving the credentials and trust dilemmas as I’ve blogged about before here and here.

But the question could be put in even starker terms: Can we charge for participation in something like a MOOC? As I tweeted about recently: “We know connectivist learning doesn’t have to be massive, online or a course. But does it have to be open? Can we charge for open?” Some of the suggestions in the ensuing conversation included the obvious: “Open content & learning nets. But paid participation for official recognition.” In simplest terms: It costs money to review somebody’s work for the review to have some value (no robot grading but possibly some peer review models). But perhaps we need to reach for models of funding that are themselves open rather than based on an idea of scarcity. Thus this tweet: “Maybe we need a Kickstarter-style website for #MOOCs that could be truly open and not bound to the big companies & unis.” The Kickstarter models is not at all new. Book publication was often done on this model in the 18th century (it was called subscription) so maybe course design and facilitation could follow some of these ideas.

I’m involved in running the Inclusive Technologies for Reading course that is exploring some of these ideas. While it is entirely free and open in the first pilot run, we will have to find ways of making it sustainable in the long-term. Suggestions welcome.

Update

On reflection, I changed “business model” to “funding model”. In practice, they may look exactly the same but I think the difference in perspective is an important one.

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