Activity 10: A model is a model is a model

In activity 10, we were asked to look at four open education initiatives and determine which of Wiley’s three models of sustainability they are operating. Wiley defines sustainability as “an open educational resource project’s ongoing ability to meet its goals” (Wiley, 2007: 5), so I decided to find out what the specific goals of the four open education initiatives are and then take it from there:

Change MOOC

Goal: Quite interestingly, I didn’t find any mention of a goal on the Change MOOC website. I only found this brief statement on the “About” page: “This course will introduce participants to the major contributions being made to the field of instructional technology by researchers today. Each week, a new professor or researcher will introduce his or her central contribution to the field” ( I interpret this as being in the true spirit of a c-MOOC (connectivist MOOC) the purpose of which is to bring people together to study a certain topic in an autonomous and self-organising way. Forming networks to explore the different aspects of the topic and to benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Model of sustainability: I find that the Change MOOC resembles the Rice model with its focus on the collaborative development of courses and modules. Authors from around the world engage and contribute. In the case of the Change MOOC, we see how experts from different parts of the world “host” each their week of the course. There is a high degree of decentralisation. The course and the learning of participants unfold in multiple spaces across the web.

The Change MOOC appears to be initiated and run by volunteers, pioneers, enthusiasts (no mention of any funding). Wiley’s way of describing the Rice model certainly applies to the Change MOOC initative: “passion plays a large part in the success of the project” (Wiley, 2007: 9).


Goal: “We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students” ( Note the stress on TOP universities here.

Coursera seems to be operating a mix of sustainability models:

The Rice model: Coursera offers courses from different universities around the world. These universities have been carefully selected though – only elite universities have been invited and admitted (Rivard, 2013).

The MIT model: Coursera is a very large and highly structured initiative. Furthermore, there is a high degree of control over courses offered. Courses must adhere to a certain standard specified in the contract between Coursera and the university offering the course (Rivard, 2013).

Like MIT OCW, Coursera has received a lot of funding but is also exploring different ways of generating a revenue, e.g. certification fees, introducing students to potential employers and recruiters, tutoring, sponsorships and tuition fees (


Goal: Up until July 2011, Jorum was a platform for sharing resources but with somewhat restricted access. Jorum is now dedicated to the sharing of OER under creative commons license (

Jorum emphasizes working collaboratively with international OER projects “in order to better understand the impact of use and reuse of learning and teaching resources and to improve discoverability” ( There is also a focus on “adopting new approaches to community and end-user engagement focused on realising benefits and measuring impact” (

Model of Sustainability: “The word ‘Jorum’ is of Biblical origin and means a collecting (or drinking) bowl” ( and on the Jorum web site, users are presented with the options of “Find”, “Share” and/or “Connect”.jorum

Image from

So you can choose to drink from the bowl and use/reuse existing OER or you can add to the bowl by sharing your own material. In this way, Jorum resembles the collaborative Rice model. Jorum is funded by JISC and my impression is that it is a somewhat large organisation with a number of employees who coordinate, administrate and innovative. Also there seems to be some control with respects to reaching out to and collaborating with communities and international OER projects.


Goal: OpenLearn was launched in 2006, funded by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The vision is to offer “free online education, open to anyone, anywhere in the world” (

OpenLearn contains learning materials from Open University courses (more than 8000 hours) and new course materials are continuously being published in what’s called the OpenLearn ‘Try’ section (

Model of Sustainability: OpenLearn seems to have a medium sized organisation with the OpenLearn team that supports academics in publishing open content ( So in this it resembles the USU model. All courses offered are from the Open University, I can’t tell, though, how large a proportion these make up compared to the full course catalogue of the OU. However, this approach to publication falls in somewhere between MIT and USU.

Having evaluated the four open education initiatives, we were asked to consider:

1. Was the sustainability model for each OER initiative apparent?

Not quite. Had a feeling that I was comparing apples to bananas to oranges. So it was all about open initiatives, but the flavours and textures were different. It wasn’t all that transparent either what the goals were, how the initiatives were organized and funded.

2. Did Wiley’s models cover all approaches or did you think a different model was operating for one or more of them?

I find that Wiley’s three models of sustainability are just that: “models”. The four initiatives, I studied do not seem to be that clear cut, rather they are mixes.


Rivard, R. (2013). Coursera’s Contractual Elitism. In Inside Higher Ed. March 22, 2012. Available at:

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education, Paris, OECD.


2 thoughts on “Activity 10: A model is a model is a model

  1. What an amazingly detailed and clear set of points! I agree with your general drift that these models are quite vague and overlapping, and do not necessarily help us very much.

    • Thanks, John. I did feel, I was struggling with the models and had difficulties pointing out one model only for each of the four different open education initiatives. So I ended up choosing an approach that made more sense to me 🙂

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