While free to users, most quality open content still incurs costs for development and distribution. How can costs for academic content be recouped while still ensuring students have free access?
In his Thought Leader presentation March 7 at CAMEX 2014 in Dallas, TX, Charles Key noted that a number of business models for open educational resources are emerging. "There's a lot of money coming in from government and college systems," said the director of adoptions, grants, and the College Open Textbooks project for the Open Doors Group, a nonprofit dedicated to education affordability.
These funds are paying for development of course content intended to be shared among institutions. For-profit publishers are also providing some digital content at no charge while offering other formats and enhanced services for a fee.
The concept of assessing a special student fee "hasn't caught on but is increasingly being looked at," Key said. Typically, the fee runs around $100 per term.
In some cases, individual schools and academic departments are choosing to produce course materials out of their own budgets. The mathematics faculty at one community college, for example, decided to collaborate on writing textbooks for all classes; the books have been used by some 600,000 students so far.
Some professors are also willing to take time to create their own course materials, a trend Key said is on the rise since textbook affordability has become a hot issue.