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#area 4 on Sustainability UNESCO OER Recommendation


On October 10, 2023, I was invited by SPARK EURIOE Paola Corti, Italy, to contribute to the Open Education Cafe Episode 5: Promoting the Creation of Sustainability Models for OER. Invited speakers were:

Ebba Ossiannllsson (ICDE Board Member, ICDE OER Ambassador and Chair ICDE OER Advocacy Committee, Vice President Swedish Association for Open, Flexible Distance Education, Sweden) - Independent Expert, Consultant, Researcher and Quality Auditor. Professor of innovation and open online learning. Areas of focus: Policy, quality, leadership, and international collaboration.
Jacques Dang (Secretary of the Board of Directors, L'Université Numérique, Paris, France) - French Digital University - Promotes the use of OER France and Francophone countries
Paul Stacey (Independent consultant on global open education efforts,, Canada)

See the video recording Episode 5: nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OEREpisode 5: nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OE

During the session, I critiqued existing sustainability models, argued that “open” should be central to all sustainability models, and illustrated how open can be integrated with three example models: 1. National OER framework, 2. Open operating system, and 3. Global commons. Finally, as always, I advocated for system change with an ecosystem so that this can happen and be implemented at all levels - macro, meso, micro, and nano. 

Most existing models of the day do not consider the entire ecosystem of OER, i.e., the five dimensions considered earlier, namely, policy (mandate and goals), law (licenses), economics (funding), technology (forms, distribution, delivery), and science (creation and use). These models do not consider the full life cycle of OER FROM CRATINA, TO USE, storage, distribution, maintenance, and improvements. A sustainable model must account for the life cycle of its products and the maintenance required for continuity and longevity. OER is like a living thing that needs constant care and maintenance. Existing models say little about how this should be done. A sustainable model should make clear how OER works with others to create, maintain, and manage something of shared value. Other core values include integrity, inclusion and participation, collaboration and connectivity, transparency, ethics, honesty, commitment, and engagement.

Sustainable models should include institutional support and integration, OER repositories and platforms, open licensing and platforms, community engagement and crowdsourcing, open pedagogy and faculty development, advocacy and awareness, research, evaluation and monitoring, and long-term funding strategies. It is important to regularly engage with the OER community to stay informed about the evolving state of the art in promoting sustainable models for OER.

Padilla Rodriquez et al. (2018:2) reviewed five business models for MOOCs:

  • Integration with regular education
  • Freemium approach
  • Partnership with businesses
  • Involvement of the target audience
  • Philanthropy

In summary, a sustainable OER model should have the core assumptions of the Openness Framework at its center. A sustainable OER model should consider the fulfillment of the vision, goals, and multiple purposes of education with a diverse audience. CREATES BY UNIQUELY ENABLING THE FULfillment of vision, goals, and multiple purposes of education with a diverse target group.


Rolfe et al. (2001), see

OE Champions project:


OE bite (podcast episode on the fourth area of action prepared by ENOEL members):

The UNESCO Recommendation on OER, published in November 2019, lists 5 areas of action (five objectives). You can add your comments and suggestions to this UNESCO OER REC version with  

Paul Stacey’s blog post on sustainability models: 

Versantvoort, M. and Schuwer, R., 2023. Towards Sustainable OER Practices: The Case of Bachelor Nursing in the Netherlands. Open Praxis, 15(2), p.113–123.DOI: 

Read more from the UNESCO OER Recommendation on (iv) Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER

  1. Member States, according to their specific conditions, governing structures and constitutional provisions, are recommended to support and encourage the development of comprehensive, inclusive and integrated OER sustainability models. Member States are encouraged to consider the following:
  1. reviewing current provisions, procurement policies and regulations to expand and simplify the process of procuring quality goods and services to facilitate the creation, ownership, translation, adaptation, curation, sharing, archiving and preservation of OER, where appropriate, as well as to develop the capacity of all OER stakeholders to participate in these activities;
  2. catalyzing sustainability models, not only through traditional funding sources, but also through non-traditional reciprocity-based resource mobilization, through partnerships, networking, and revenue generation such as donations, memberships, pay what you want, and crowdfunding that may provide revenues and sustainability to OER provision while ensuring that costs for accessing essential materials for teaching and learning are not shifted to individual educators or students;
  3. promoting and raising awareness of other value-added models using OER across institutions and countries where the focus is on participation, co-creation, generating value collectively, community partnerships, spurring innovation, and bringing people together for a common cause;
  4. enacting regulatory frameworks that support the development of OER products and related services that align with national and international standards as well as the interest and values of the OER stakeholders;
  5. fostering the faithful linguistic translation of open licenses as defined in this Recommendation to ensure their proper implementation;
  6. providing mechanisms for the implementation and application of OER, as well as encouraging the feedback from stakeholders and constant improvement of OER; and
  7. optimizing existing education and research budgets and funds efficiently to source, develop and continuously improve OER models through inter-institutional, national, regional and international collaborations.

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