Educational Technology

Several months ago I wrote a post looking at the Top Hat’s push into digital curricular materials through their Textbook product and Marketplace for digital course content. Leading up to that post, I had been planning to cover the Open Educational Resources (OER) angle, as the Marketplace included a number of openly-licensed material, much of it from OpenStax, and Top Hat had already begun marketing itself as an OER provider. At the time, the OER strategy seemed a work in progress. In fact, I found that some of my questions for company staff about OER basics – the role of Creative Commons licenses, community dynamics exhibited at the OpenEd conference, etc – led to a lack of answers, and at the time there was no export capability to get OER out of the platform.

To Fee or Not to Fee

The situation has changed since January, and with last month’s announcement of Top Hat’s Open Content Initiative the company is taking a stand on whether it is appropriate to charge for platform access. The idea of hosting and modifying OER on a fee-based platform became a big topic last year. Lumen Learning pioneered the Red Hat type model in 2014, and last year there was a big movement with Cengage, Knewton, OpenStax, Macmillan, and Top Hat all offering OER within their platforms. In many cases, the OER content itself has been redesigned from traditional textbook-in-PDF format to learning objective-driven content with aligned assessments. ((Disclosure: Lumen is a client of MindWires, and I recently gave a paid keynote at a Top Hat user’s conference.))

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