a grassroots OER-hybrid model?

I posted this on one of the Stanford MOOC forums yesterday.

Although I’m a strong proponent of Open Educational Resources (OER), there’s an  important economic argument to be made for licensing which permits the sale of derivative works by anyone who adds value. But managing that on a global scale in an equitable and cost effective manner is the rub.

Shellbook Maker was designed from the ground up to address that issue.

a grassroots OER-hybrid model?

Who could have guessed that How to Play the Guitar would become a best seller? It was only 16 A6 pages and 2/3 were chord charts! The rest had pictures of someone holding a guitar and a sentence or two per page. But out-of-school kids who already knew how to play the guitar bought it! The shell itself was free, but village entrepreneurs added value by translating it, making copies with a hand-made silkscreen printer, and were getting around 30 toea apiece for them at the market. Go figure!

That was 1989. By 2003 researchers reported shell books localized in thousands of communities in 435 Papua New Guinean languages. Eighty of the titles they found were shells provided by the Education Dept. for the EFA inspired Prep-2 Elementary Reform. All of the shells were free and open, like the guitar book, with no restrictions on those who added value and sold them or were otherwise compensated for their work (by the community).

I’m a linguist not an educator, but I see the makings of a grassroots OER-hybrid model here. It’s not a Project Blue Sky like Pearson just launched for professors to publish “$30 hybrid textbooks.” It’s more of a global exchange of teaching & learning shells at the “30 toea” level where those who add value are free to use, sell, or give them away. I’ll be working with colleagues to write the ‘hybrid’ business model for doing that as my contribution to Designing a New Learning Environment.

But what I hadn’t expected in the MOOC is what I’m finding all over the place in the DNLE forums, team blogs, etc: It looks like this new learning environment design will accommodate the personalization of education. And – thanks to the geeks among us and all the new technology – this will mean tailoring to meet the unique learning needs of individual students, not just different types of learners.

I believe this bodes well for the development of  a robust, sustainable market for the creation, localization, and yes, even the personalization of teaching and learning shells of all types. And even a relatively low level of demand for  Shellbooks for personalization by students in developed countries would be enough to support the digital infrastructure necessary for localization of life-crucial information in marginalized learning communities, worldwide.