Financing models for open textbooks
In 2017, Maximilian Heimstädt and Leonhard Dobusch presented their study “Perspectives of Open Educational Resources (OER) for (socio-) economic education at schools in NRW and in Germany“, formulating various models for funding OER textbooks. The study, which addresses educational policy in North Rhine-Westphalia, presents the current state of school education in NRW in 2017 as well as the challenges of digitization processes and develops solution proposals from the perspective of Open Educational Resources (OER). The central proposal of the study, in order to avoid untested, tendentious online materials in teaching, is the systematic promotion of the creation of official OER textbooks, which can be distributed, modified and recombined in a legally secure manner and have passed the quality test of the state of NRW. For this purpose, the authors design different scenarios for the (financial) promotion of textbooks under free license:
- Call for proposals for pilot textbooks
Significantly more OER textbooks are pre-funded through public calls for tender. The concept has low implementation hurdles and ties in directly with successful OER projects. In Norway, for example, approximately 20 percent of the textbook budget – or 8.2 million Euros – has been invested in the development of OER materials since 2006. Following this example, the OER stock and corresponding competencies at publishing houses could be successively increased.
- Usage-based refinancing of OER textbooks.
In this scenario, the public funding of OER textbooks is usage-based through the remuneration of OER textbooks that have successfully passed textbook approval and are actually used in school settings. The amount of compensation is determined on the basis of surveys and sample surveys of OER textbooks in the classroom.
- Development of OER textbook ‘blanks’.
Instead of investing in ready-made OER textbooks, funding could also be provided for the creation of ‘blanks’ that can easily be adapted to the requirements in different federal states. What the blanks have in common are only minimum content requirements from the Ministry of Education, which are controlled for quality assurance. From then on, they can be individually supplemented by educational media providers with additional multimedia offerings, without them having to worry about open licensing of the basic content.
- Introduction of an OER clause in the approval process.
In this scenario, providers would have to contractually commit through an OER clause in the textbook approval process by the state of NRW to make the textbooks available as OER after a defined phase of commercial distribution. The phase could be defined either temporally (e.g., after five years) or factually (e.g., when a certain number have been sold). Thus, after a short period of time, there could be OER textbooks for a wide variety of subjects in NRW.
The various financing models can be read in more detail here with recommendations from the authors.
What has happened since then and what’s next?
In 2020, the Ministry of Culture and Science, together with the Digital University NRW (DH.NRW), funded 18 concepts for digital teaching and learning formats with a total of 10.5 million euros in the “OERContent.nrw” (Open Education Resources) funding line as a result of the Corona pandemic, in order to expand the e-learning offerings of universities. The teaching and learning content was posted on the new online state portal ORCA.nrw (Open Resources Campus NRW) and is available to all students and teachers in NRW.
OERContent.nrw is the largest nationwide funding line for open educational resources. The funding line is intended to make the benefits of freely accessible teaching and learning offerings recognizable and tangible for teachers and students. But more offerings and funding initiatives are needed. The task of education policy is to adapt existing funding models to enable the professional creation of OER textbooks and learning materials.