OER Sustainability Models

Photo of City Farmer garden near my home in Vancouver. Since 1978, City Farmer has been teaching people how to grow food in the city, compost their waste and take care of their home landscape in an environmentally responsible way.

I’m looking forward to being a panel speaker at SPARC Europe’s Open Education Cafe on October 10, 2023 at 7am Pacific Time . This, the fifth in a series of open education cafe’s SPARC Europe has arranged around the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER), is focusing on the Recommendation’s fourth action area “nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER”.

There is a huge need for easy to understand and replicable OER sustainability models and I am super interested in this topic so I am thankful to be part of this panel. Special thanks to Paola Corti for organizing this Cafe and inviting me to speak.

As preparation I have written a Sustainability Models post.
In that post I:

  • critique existing sustainability models
  • advocate that “open” be central to sustainability models
  • illustrate how open can be integral to the model through three example models; 1. National OER Framework, 2. Open Operating System, and 3. Global Commons

I look forward to sharing these ideas in SPARC Europe’s upcoming Open Education Cafe on this issue. I expect many of you have thoughts and ideas on this topic too so welcome discussion and suggestions here.

Thanks to OEGlobal, and in particular @cogdog for providing this forum for discussion.


Nice. Is there a link to the Cafe? I cannot find via a simple search.

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So interesting to see and learn from their experience… thanks for sharing

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Nice to hear from you Paul, and thank you for sharing the beautiful photo of the City Farmer garden. Such initiatives are a testament to the endless possibilities that await when communities come together with a shared vision.



Thank you Paul for sharing this information on sustainability and OER and your blog post.
I have also been reflecting on sustainability in the last months and came accross the work of Stephen Sterling which really changed my perspective on sustainability. In two words, he explains that we are in an overall unsustainable paradigm and sustainability cannot just be an “add on”. What is needed is deep reflection at the level of paradigm because paradigm guides practice and policy (the levels of UNESCO recommendations for example). Nevertheless, we never question the paradigm we are in nor do we ask ourselves questions with regard to the purpose of education. In case of interest: Sterling, S. (2021). Concern, Conception, and Consequence: Re-thinking the Paradigm of Higher Education in Dangerous Times. Frontiers in Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.3389/frsus.2021.743806
With regard to my own on-going reflection, it is reported in this article, Epistemic Considerations of Open Education to Re-Source Educators’ Praxis Sustainably, https://openpraxis.org/articles/10.55982/openpraxis.15.3.560 and this talk, Higher Education: open and digital? | ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences .
Looking forward to your thoughts and insights and to advance the reflection :slight_smile:

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For those who may not know of it, here’s a link to my OG OER sustainability paper, from back in the day. https://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/36781698.pdf

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Thank you for this, @paulstacey! I was just working on a blog post related to OER sustainability and now have more to think about :slight_smile:

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You just have to ask AI… er ALan :wink: There is a zoom registration link to be part of this


Thanks for sharing this and kicking off a discussion here Paul.

I have to say from my first visits to Vancouver, I was impressed with all of the urban gardens you can find just by walking around. One of my early web site clients was the Edible Garden Project and they are still online and active.

I’m keen to learn more about sustainability models, which look to operate at large scales but also what these might mean for practitioners-- what does it mean to go about our OER work with a perspective in sustainability? What are the roles individuals play in this?

And if not part of the program, I’d like to know what are some exemplary models of sustainable OER? Is it definable (besides “still around”)?

And just because I cannot let it go, I’d love to see some activity around using the annotatable version of the OER Recommendation we did in 2021 where we can zero in on the OER Sustainability Action area.

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We just published a piece on the issue of OER Repository Sustainability which might be useful. We worked with 5 repository managers to get a sense of what they considered essential for sustainability to develop a self-rating instrument for repository improvement. We agree with @paulstacey and others that sustainability includes but goes beyond the financial component.

It’s in Portuguese, but nothing Deepl or your favorite LLM can’t handle :wink:

Analysis of Factors Affecting the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Repositories

Thanks everyone for the response and interest in sustainability models.

This has been an ongoing discussion for many years as we can see from Stephen Downes shared paper from way back in 2006.

That said it is a bit disturbing that sustainable models are still largely absent.

Part of this is due to the largely fixed and closed nature of higher education and its inability to transform and undergo systemic change as highlighted in Barbara’s papers.

Tel Amiel’s paper on OER Repository Sustainability helpfully identifies factors an OER repository sustainability model must consider including quality, user feedback, support networks and yes, a financial model.

But when it comes to “OER” sustainability models the practice of openness itself is largely absent in these papers and that in my view is a serious omission.