Day 5: The OER Ecosystem

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Day 5: The OER Ecosystem


Moderators Morgan and MadiBy Morgan Staudinger and Madi Smith

Welcome to the last day of the course! We all made it to Friday. Today we will bring everything we learned though out the week.

The OER Ecosystem

Open educational resources have gained popularity and demonstrated their early potential to improve student outcomes through rigorously developed and customizable materials at a low cost. As a result, it has become increasingly important to consider the long-term viability of the ecosystem of content and organizations, institutions, and people who create, share, and use OER. Today we are going to summarize the ideas of the report “Seeking a sustainable OER ecosystem” by Nathan Huttner, Lee Green, and Rachel Cowher.

The OER Commons has been created as a repository to store openly licensed content. As the OER Commons has grown, a collection of institutions that contribute to and draw on the Commons has evolved around it. Those entities play an essential role in realizing the potential value of OER because content alone cannot change student outcomes. Rather, it is the institutions that spur adoption, quality implementation, and educator engagement that bring the content to life. Looking ahead, sustaining the combination of underlying content and the stakeholders that develop and use that content – referred to jointly as the “OER ecosystem” – is essential to ensuring that new and revised content continues to flow into the Commons and institutions can effectively use it to improve teaching and learning.

The Stakeholders

Users & Advocates

Develop and revise locally created content and use professionally developed materials.


Develop and distribute content and steward legal and technical tools to support open content and practices. Support use and revision with professional learning services and customization tools.


Support distribution and use through content and professional learning procurement. Support development and revision by setting standards, enacting open license policies on publicly funded content, fuding/adopting new curricula, and engaging teachers to create new content.


Fund development and distribution of full-course, standards-aligned content. Support advocacy to bolster use and professional learning.

Two Possible Visions

Unfortunately, there is no one true path to creating a sustainable OER ecosystem. A sustainable ecosystem is likely to be produced by a combination of two visions for why and how ecosystem actors will replenish the OER Commons. One relies on values-driven users and advocates motivated to serve as OER stewards, and the other relies on the economic incentives of users, organizations, and government. These two visions are not at all incompatible, but sometimes create tension because OER is free to users, and, like other rigorous content, time-consuming and often expensive to produce. Specialists who make high-quality educational content therefore need to be incentivized, either through payment or other means to contribute their content to the OER Commons. See the figure below on the difference between these two ecosystems ideas:

Values Driven

Values Driven

Incentives Driven

Incentives driven


We are having an Open Textbook Library Workshop on April 4th at 11 A.M. in Miller Nichols Library, Room 121.



The text of this work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  All images and videos retain their respective licenses. 

References Seeking a Sustainable OER Ecosystem, The CARE Framework: Toward a Sustainable OER Ecosystem: The Case for OER Stewardship

Comment below

Activity 5

How would a sustainable OER ecosystem, based on both values and incentive, look to you?

2 thoughts on “Day 5: The OER Ecosystem

  1. We made it to Friday! Thinking about the OER Ecosystem can be challenging, as what may work well for one institution will flop at another. I think what could be beneficial for institutions to recognize is that while passion can take us far, it is unlikely to sustain long-term without some form of compensation. What I think has worked well in creating a sustainable OER Ecosystem at other institutions is recognizing contributions of OER as a means of tenure promotion (see: This method seems to utilize faculty’s desires to create and incorporate OER while providing incentives and reward for it.

  2. Happy Friday! To help with sustaining UMKC’s OER ecosystem we will be hosting an Open Textbook Library Workshop on April 4th at 11 A.M. in Miller Nichols Library room 121. Come join us and continue the conversation. You will learn about how to write an open textbook review and how to get money for your effort! We can also answer any questions you have about the A&OER Initiative at UMKC.

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