OERu open business model consultation

The OERu partners are designing and developing open business models from the perspective of individual partner institutions through regional meetings and open online consultations. This topic is intended for the OERu community and staff at the OERu partners who are not able to attend the regional open business model meetings to provide input and feedback.

Please join the conversation by sharing your thoughts on one or more of the following questions:

  1. Do you have any suggestions for improving the OERu Open Business Model V0.1 designed from the perspective of the OER Foundation.
  2. What is the value proposition of the OERu for individual partner institutions?
  3. What bundles of products and services should OERu partners offer?
  4. What social good is generated by the OERu for our partners?
  5. Who are the most important customers of individual OERu partners?
  6. What are the most important cost categories for individual OERu partners?
  7. What revenue streams could OERu partners generate from engagement in the OERu?
  8. For what value are OERu customers really willing to pay?
  9. Any other relevant ideas?

A primary focus of the 2015 OERu Oceania Regional meeting is to develop open business models from the perspective of individual OERu partners.

Do we need to develop a series of business models? For example:

  1. Would an OERu business model for a single-mode distance education institution differ from a campus-based or dual-mode institution?
  2. Would an OERu business model of a partner aiming to generate new business opportunities through OERu engagement differ from a partner participating in OERu as a community service activity?

In what ways would these business models differ?

What about volunteers from non-partner institutions? Can they join a partner institution in their region or country and contribute to open courses design and development?

Absolutely @indkon

Since the inception of the OERu the concept of Academic Volunteers International has been an important facet of our thinking. So yes, volunteers can join partner institutions or contribute to open course design and development.

However, due to capacity constraints of a small charity there is significant room for improvement in supporting volunteers and communicating our needs to the volunteer community. Any advice and suggestions on how to improve this facet of our work is well received.

Proposing my ideas on involving Academic Volunteers in OERu open courses initiative.

  • Invite volunteers through social media, professional networks, conferences etc.
  • Design an invitation (submission) form with fields for choosing - country, region, partner institution(s), area of specialization, text boxes for brief bio and open course proposal, in addition to personal and professional data.
  • After submitting the form, the volunteer should be connected with the preferred OERu partner institution. They can have further discussions on open course development through the partner institution group created on the OERu community.

Is my proposal worth-considering?

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@indkon Those are solid ideas and definitely worth exploring and developing further!

I will raise your suggestion for a web form at our next OERu Technology working group meeting this coming Friday and forward your suggestion to the Partner engagement working group for linking volunteers with organisations and courses.

Would you be able to help or contribute in any way?

Really appreciate your suggestions and lets try to move these forward.

Yes, I would love to contribute to the OERu project.

@Indkon Thanks for your generous offer to volunteer a little time to the OERu project.

For now, I suggest that you join the Partner Engagement working group. Log in to WikiEducator on this page and click on the “Register” button and select the Partner Engagement group. (Under the organisation column you can indicate “Community Volunteer”.

In this way we can ensure that we get the action item for improving processes for community volunteers onto the OERu agenda.

Done Wayne. Registered as Community Volunteer.

Looking forward to involving in and contributing to the OERu project.

@indkon Welcome to the OERu family. I’ll send you an invite to join the Partner Engagement list on groups.oeru.org . This is the dedicated email list for the group.

Thanks again for your generous offer to help us shape OERu futures!

Do we need multiple business models?

I would suggest that each partner is responsible for its own business model and all will be somewhat different depending on their priorities and circumstances. The benefit of having an OERu business model for partners is that it is a useful starting point for institutions developing their own. I’m not sure if this should be a single model including all issues (eg. costs, income streams etc.) identified so far that can be edited by institutions or a small set of alternatives that are likely to be closer to the final business model that typical institutions are likely to pick. My guess is that the former will be easier to develop. (Having said that, i have no experience in the development of business models).


Not sure if this is a question or a comment. I feel it will be very difficult to measure benefits from OERu membership in terms of income stream. I have identified the following explicit benefits in justifying our membership of OERu:

  1. Recruitment of distance learners to fee-paying courses
  2. Improvement of institutional skills in the creation of courses based on reuse of
    existing resources and the rapid development of new resources.
  3. Improvement in the learning experience of campus students through the use of online resources and the move to blended learning.
  4. Building relationships with like-minded institutions internationally for various reasons.

All of the benefits above are very difficult to quantify. Should we be trying to put a figure/value on these in a business model?

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One of the critical things with an open business model is balance between revenue and social good. Increasingly organizations are wanting to contribute to making the world a better place. Pure profit making and maximizing shareholder value or revenues is increasingly being seen as a model that benefits a few at the expense of the many. The challenge then is how to strike this balance between generating sufficient funds to operate while at the same time creating social good. When I first started in on this open business models work I used to think there was a direct correlation between revenue and social good. The more you increase the social good the less revenue you generate. But I’m seeing more and more examples where this isn’t the case. I find it intriguing to imagine models where an increase in social good results in a corresponding increase in revenue. This strikes me as an exciting area to explore and unpack. The question becomes how might OERu partner institutions individually and collectively seek to accelerate the social good being created through OER courses and degrees and if they did in what way might revenues increase?


Well said @brianmmulligan! A key feature of the OERu is that partners retain decision-making over all aspect of their engagement in the OERu. The business models we develop should not be prescriptive in any way . Published as OER - partners will be free to adapt modify and improve for the local context.

Open is not the “default position” at our partner institutions - so sharing ideas an models which contribute to the sustainability of OERu related activities is beneficial for all involved. But your point is well made - we need to think carefully about the best way to structure and communicate the outputs of our efforts so that they are useful for our individual partners.

@brianmmulligan - Good point. There are many benefits of the OERu which are extremely hard to quantify. I think you’re right - it wouldn’t be possible to put a figure-value to these benefits in the business model.

However, I do think its valuable to quantify some aspects of the model to illustrate how low the threshold of the OERu return on investment is. The cost to a partner for a gold level membership is $4000 per annum. (Assuming that the time spent on assembling a course based on OER is integrated into the workflow of courses development for full-fee students, making this available for OERu learners does not increase the marginal cost of development.) So then we can ask questions like:

  • How many OERu learners converting to fee-paying courses are needed to recoup the $4000 p/a membership fee? We can quantify the revenue generated from a full-fee registered student.
  • What is the equivalent advertising spend to gain the international exposure and brand presence that the OERu network provides on a global scale?
  • Other examples?

I think that knowing the answers to these questions will assist with recruitment and organisational decisions when renewing OERu membership.

Excellent point @paulstacey! I think the social good element is the point of difference between an “open business model” versus a “for-profit business model”.

You are absolutely right, there are good examples of where social good does generate more revenue / profits. Open Source Software being a case in point where we don’t compete on the brand of closed software used, but rather the quality and efficiencies of the services.

That said, there are two distinct groupings of OERu partners when analysing the data from our context evaluation and current input evaluation surveys:

  1. Partners who have joined primarily in response to their community service missions.
  2. Partners who are pro-actively planning to generate new business from OERu courses.

The power of open is that OER does not discriminate. It serves both social good and for-profit motives equally well. However, I’m curious to explore whether OERu needs separate business models for these distinctive motivations.

I’m very excited about the upcoming regional meetings to design open business models for the OERu. We are very fortunate to benefit from the depth of your experience in this space. Thank you for sharing your gift of knowledge openly!

To my mind, while we are building capacity in partner’s ability to develop courses and help us get more product out there, the benefits of joining the OERu network relate to:

  • providing models and cases of quality online distance learning with full social media integration using low-cost technology solutions which we can leverage without recourse to additional budgets
  • re-using OERu MOOCs to engage, inspire and train our own staff in designing and developing for fully online delivery

I really hope that when sufficient online courses are published, that we will begin to see opportunities is renewing local curricula. But right now, that’s not realistic as there is nowhere near enough material out there to build on.

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Hi Sarah

Good thinking!

That’s a significant benefit for OERu partners who are grappling with budget cuts which we need to emphasise more. If you’re looking for low cost solutions for providing quality elearning - you’ve come to the right place :smile: So in the context of an open business model - we also need to think about how OERu can reduce cost while improving quality.

A value proposition not frequently thought of in the OERu context is developing 21st learning and digital literacies for prospective OERu learners.

Many OERu courses utilise “connectivist-like” technologies where learner interactions are distributed across the web using blogs, micro-blog posts and other social media. This is a distinctive feature that OERu learners will improve their “21st century” learning skills. Not too mention the advantage of having access to the learning artefacts and course materials after the course is completed.

Report of the OERu Oceania regional meeting has been published in the wiki.

Paul Stacey did an amazing job of guiding OERu family members from “Down under” in developing their first draft business models on paper.

Next step is to produce online versions to feed into an aggregated version for discussion at the OERu 2015 Partners meeting in South Africa. The final version will be tabled at the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers meeting on 9 October 2015.

Oceania OERu partners share aggregated open business model from recent meeting,

Following the recent OERu Oceania Regional meeting at the University of Southern Queensland, we have prepared the 1st draft of an aggregated open business model canvas from the perspective of OERu partner institutions. This initial draft was based on discussions and inputs from participants attending the Oceania meeting.

We invite feedback and comments from the wider OERu community, especially interested people who were unable to attend these regional meetings in person. Please post your thoughts by reply to this consultation thread or directly on the corresponding talk page in the wiki.

The North American OERu partners will be meeting later this week to help refine and improve the OERu open business model which will be tabled for discussion at the 4th Meeting of OERu partners in South Africa early in October 2015. We will discuss the implications of the business model and prepare recommendations to be tabled at the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers.