Open Educational Resources/Historical/Cost-shifting

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  • A university teacher releases course materials onto the web under a Creative Commons licence. Consumers have cost-free access. The production of materials was financed by the teacher's employer (a university). Ultimately the university bears the costs, both in terms of staff costs and making a web presence available to host the materials.
  • A programmer creates an educational tool and releases it as freeware. Like the professor, the programmer cannot live without an income. The programmer's costs might be shifted to an unrelated commercial activity (e.g. daytime employer, freelance projects) or to related commercial activity (e.g. optional support and services associated with the educational freeware).
  • A website offers a repository of cost-free educational materials. The website's staff and hosting are financed by cash or donations-in-kind from major corporations and private charitable donations.

Cost-shifting in OER is accompanied by measures which spread the costs of production processes. For example, the costs borne by educators are reduced by involving software programmers, legal experts and repository managers in the whole OER production process

Cost-shifting in OER is also accompanied by measures which maximize the cost-efficiency of production processes. Reusability is a core principle here. For example, the reusability of a software licence reduces legal costs without adding any time-related burden to a legal expert.

There is no one economic model which OERs must follow. On the contrary, there is considerable debate and experimentation in this area. What characterises OER production is the move away from the traditional model where a consumer pays the producer for their goods or services.