Applying sustainability models

This week we are looking into Sustainability of OER projects. In 2007, Wiley identified three models of sustainability which he labelled as

  • the MIT model
  • the USU model
  • the Rice model

There follows a brief review of the following open education initiatives against these three models.


Not directly related to any of the three models. Elements of the MIT model (employs own large  team) and the Rice model (modules taught from organisations across the world)


  • Private company
  • Large corporate structure with leadership team and many employees
  • Partners with 143 organisations in 28 countries and offers 1859 courses
  • Corporate university option to build a bespoke approach for the organisation
  • Charges a fee to study – with financial plans and loans available
  • Technology: apps and technology can be shared with user organisations

Funding comes from Venture Capital and from students and organisational users of the courses provided.


Most closely related to the USU model (small team, no third party owned materials) though with significant differences


  • Offers free teaching, learning and educational technology support across all 25 post-secondary sector organisations in British Columbia
  • Content created collaboratively with faculty instructors and institute staff – curated content
  • Develops OERs for professional development and academic support
  • Publicly funded

The Open Textbook initiative has saved students an estimated $1.2m to $1.6m


FutureLearn most closely relates to the Rice model in design (modules and courses from authors across the world and self organising) but not in scope and again there are significant differences


  • A collaboration of work from 82 partners – universities and other organisations such as British Library, British Museum
  • Organisations provide and lead their own module
  • A Ltd company, owned and funded by the Open University in the UK, no investors and not currently appearing to make a profit. It is unclear what the profit target is as this has not been published.
  • FutureLearn employs a small group of people with experience of designing learning for mobile and elearning technologies
  • IT platform provided by the Open University

 From a sustainability perspective FutureLearn looks vulnerable as there are no obvious signs of funding other that from the Open University


OpenLearn is a website offering free ‘taster’ courses for the Open University. It can almost be described as marketing activity for the OU and as such does not appear to fit within any of Wiley’s sustainability models


  • Taster courses from the Open University with over 800 modules available at all levels from entry to post graduate
  • Participation certificates and digital badges are available
  • Funding is unclear but as OpenLearn is hosted on the OU website and is focused on OU courses it can be assumed it is funded via the OU

As a showcase for a much larger organisation OpenLearn will continue so long as there is perceived benefit to the Open University.


Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD. Also available online at edu/ ceri/ 38645447.pdf


Week 9 Activity 10




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