:sync: Building a Social Framework For Sustaining Open Educational Resources

Authors: Paul Stacey, David Wiley
Institutions: Open Education Global, Lumen Learning
Countries: Canada, United States

Topic: Global Collaboration, Strategies, & Policies in Open Education
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Sustainable OER
Session Format: Workshop


Context / goals:

Open has existing well defined legal and technical frameworks that have resulted in multiple, highly effective OER options for many courses taught in schools, colleges, and universities.

However, the social and human process for managing and sustaining those resources has not been well defined. We have succeeded in creating a large pool of open resources but have largely failed to realize that their ongoing value and usefulness is dependent on them being maintained and improved over time.

A social framework and set of processes for sustaining OER is needed to complement existing legal and technical frameworks.

Stewardship will play an essential role in any successful sustainability model.

To create such a social framework we need to consider:

Who creates all these OER? What is their motivation? Who manages the resulting OER? How are they curated? How will these OER be updated and improved, and by whom? What would motivate a person or organization to make a long-term commitment to updating and improving OER?

A viable sustainability model needs to consider the value proposition of the resource, the social good potential of the resource, the community of users / contributors who have a vested interest in the resource, and what their varied interests entail.

The successfully managing these OER will require a form of stewardship in the form of organization, defined processes, and human involvement. What does this stewardship social framework look like? For example, what proportion of the community who benefits from OER should participate directly in this stewardship?

Processes and social frameworks may differ dramatically depending on whether OER are considered public goods or common pool resources. Do we need to choose between these two forms of goods before we can develop a viable sustainability framework? Do we need multiple sustainability frameworks?


OER, social framework, motivation of creators, managing OER resources, process for updating and improving, stewardship, public goods, common pool resources, sustainability

Thoughts on Sustainability

Yet Another Hybrid Framework

Social Framework for OER Sustainability Activity | Richard S.

Thinking on your questions …

  • Who decides which OER to sustain? How?

Ultimately at the end of the day that comes down to the end users of the OER, and whomever is hosting the OER on their platform. From the end user perspective, are they invested enough in the OER to makes changes to it and update it? From the host perspective, does OER provide value to the site or is it time to archive this content?

  • Who chooses and prioritizes the activities necessary to sustain this OER? How?

Again this goes back to end users who are invested in sustaining the OER or the host of the OER. I know on our platform, some of the activities that some of our instructors built on outside platforms are a pain in the derrière to maintain, so at some stage of the game, our team will likely look at building those activities or elements in the OER out in a different way, to make the OER easier to maintain.

  • Who identifies and provides the incentives necessary to persuade people to do the work necessary to sustain this OER? How (including where does the money come from)?

Generally the host of a platform that has a vested interest in the content being relevant. Currently for our new ed portal, I am making this a part of our operating budget - so a portion of the money from our paid courses goes towards this.

  • Who recruits, trains, and retains the people who will sustain this OER? How?

With our new ed platform this currently falls on my shoulders, and we are using some grant money to develop this. Long term my hope is that our operating budget from paid courses on the site will help to maintain this.

Great questions by the way, and great session. Can’t believe how quickly 2-hours whizzed by. It is good to see that there are others that recognize the need to figure out these models - both to pay your team and yourself. Sometime when you are the one responsible for raising the funds in a sector that is predominantly institution or non-profit based, you feel a bit judged for the suggestion that figuring out a funding model for a given project is necessary.