At the 2014 Knewton Symposium David Wiley made the bold claim that "in the near future, 80 percent of textbooks would be replaced by OER content." This statement led to some interesting discussion about the Open Education Resources ecosystem.
It started with the article of Jose Ferreira. He argues that publishers have nothing to worry about, because OER has low production values, no instructional design and is not enterprise grade. Offcourse David Wiley had to respond and did a very good job at it. According to David OER can beat publishers on both price and learning outcomes.
The next one in line was Michael Feldstein. In his respond he focused on the business model. According to Michael neither the OER advocates nor the textbook publishers have a working economic model right now:
"The textbook publishers were very successful for many years but have grown unsustainable cost structures which they can no longer prop up through appeals to high production values and enterprise support. But the OER advocates have not yet cracked the sales and marketing nut or proven out revenue models that enable them to do what is necessary to drive adoption at scale."
His conclusion to the question whether OER can "break the textbook industry", his answer is "it depends".
The last article of this discussion is of Brain Jacobs. He compares the development of the Open Source Software (OSS) Movement with OER. Nowadays, most of the OSS development is by commercial companies (like Red Hat, Google, Samsung), but it started with a foundation of voluntarism in the hacker community. He argues that the OER 'hackers' community does not have the depth and breadth of its OSS counterpart.
I agree with that. For most instructors, the textbook is a convenient package, without which the task of managing a class would be that much more laborious. They don't care about the costs of the book. Students are the victims of this. More and more students (or their parents) have problems with paying for all their textbooks.
Brain suggests a solution to get faculty to contribute to the OER ecosystem:
"A better way forward is to compensate the stakeholders -- faculty, copyright holders, and technologists, principally -- for their contributions to the OER ecosystem. This can be done by charging students nominally for the OER courses they take or as a modest institutional materials fee. When there are no longer meaningful costs associated with the underlying content, it becomes possible to compensate faculty for the extra work while radically reducing costs to students."
I agree with Brain's assessment of the different nature of voluntarism of OSS and OER. With TU Delft OpenCourseWare we have done compensated teachers from the start in 2007. The faculty that contribute their course content get a financial compensation for their extra work.
Altogether this is an interesting discussion and will help move the OER movement towards a bright future. I'm looking forward to discuss this at the OpenEd Conference in November.