Block 2 Activity 10: Applying Sustainability Models

For this activity I have been asked to read Wiley (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education.

Wiley (2007) has provided 3 sustainability models:

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

Wiley also discussed potential funding models which help sustain OER projects and initiatives.

Wiley’s three models of sustainability have to be considered during an investigation of four open education initiatives.


Coursera provides access to 1866 online courses (1041 of which are free) through it’s partnership with 143 top universities across 28 countries.

Funding gained to support this Coursera initiative has come from businesses around the world.  This funding may be used to support open source software.  Courses available link to partnership universities who I would imagine pay some form of contribution to pay for using Coursera as a platform to their free resource.  As the majority of these courses appear to be free I would suggest that there will be some form of conversion model used by these partnership universities. As of 2015, Coursera were not making a profit.

I would also suggest that Coursera are using a form of the Conversion Model as they are leading users into free courses offered by providers who will hopefully convert these into paying customers.  However, Coursera itself offers more free courses than fee paying courses and I am assuming that the fee goes directly to the source university with a percentage paid back to Coursera.

Funding organisation could be seen as being members within the membership model suggested by Downes (2005-6 OECD Report) and Coursera would do well to further investigate working with these contributing employers to recognise Coursera accreditation certificates which users need to purchase at the end of their courses or exams.

In considering the 3 models of sustainability I would suggest that Coursera follow aspects of all three.  MIT where they have contracts with vendors to gain access to additional services; like USU, Coursera model could be replicated and they are sustainable and like the Rice model, not all courses and modules are taught by Coursera.


I see BCcampus as following aspects of the Rice Model as they are bringing together multiple partners to build curriculum for a variety of system needs which is similar to Rice Connexions who want to enable collaborative development of educational models and courses by authors from around the world.

BCcampus’s biggest project is their Open Textbook project which is Canada’s first government funded open textbook project and this follows Downes’s Governmental Model.

Other aspects on offer through BCcampus include the development of e-tutoring and their AskAway library reference service.

Some courses offered are free but the majority are expensive.


FutureLearn is a private company wholly owned by the Open University.  FutureLearn work with 82 partners from around the world to offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions. Main funding comes through sponsorship from the Open University crossing over between using a sponsorship/institutional model.  Partners could be seen as funders through a membership model and additional funding comes through students paying for Statements of Participation or Certificates of Attainment.  Again similar to Coursera this is an are where certification could be developed to be recognised by employers.

I can see aspects of the MIT and Rice models within FutureLearn.



OpenLearn is one of many of the Open University’s OER projects.  Funding has come from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (support through foundation is similar to USU model and the Foundation Model) and within the OpenLearn website there is access to a donations link (aspects of a Donations Model where donators are encouraged to support the project, however the amount received through donations is unlikely to sustain the project development on its own).

The Open University owns and retains copyright for its course materials and takes aspects from other licenced open sources which they adapt into their courses.  Being an open resource OpenLearn supports users re-using and encourages contributors to share their adapted works using the university’s creative commons policy through OpenLearn Works.

There are aspects of the Conversion model where OpenLearn is seen as a stepping stone to participants enrolling with other fee paying OU courses.

All four open education initiatives appear to be sustainable as they are looking at open education from a different approach.  However if the institutions that are heavily involved in using Coursera and BCcampus were to branch out on their own, I don’t feel that they would be sustainable in their current format as they are more reliant on funding than FutureLearn and OpenLearn who have the Open University behind them.



Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD.  Also available online at http://www.oecd/edu/ceri/38645447.pdf (last accessed on 6 April 2016).

Image credits as follows:

BCcampus –

Coursera –

FutureLearn –×152/public/futurelearn_823185.png?itok=Dbmdb9_Q

OpenLearn –




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