The Provision of Free and Open Source Tertiary Education Content


The mode of provision for tertiary education content is a policy issue deserving of attention, especially in context with local and global economic, cultural, and technical transformations, issues of accessibility and participation. With the expansion in scope and scale of information and communications technologies, there is significant opportunities to provide a great deal of tertiary education content in a variety of online media formats and licensing arrangements.

This paper explores these technical possibilities, before documenting the institutional, systematic, and legal restrictions which prevent the implementation of tertiary education content, along with (often contradictory) policy decisions which more deeply instils the inability to the production possibility frontier.

Utilising the economic models of positive externalities it is possible to illustrate, in some detail, forgone societal welfare and losses in democratic rationality by this lack of content, especially in reference to the distinction between lifelong education and lifelong learning. This analysis confirms the general principle that although directly involved individuals may benefit in a transaction may still lead to overall societal losses.

A prescriptive conclusion reviews the activities of several international institutional examples as attempts to overcome these issues. These include the Free Technology Academy and the Open University of the Netherlands, Rice University's Connexions, MIT's OpenCourseWare, the Khan Academy, and the China Open Resources for Education. The evaluation of these examples suggests a local implementation, especially in the context of the proposed National Broadband Network.

1. The Internet and Knowledge Access

It is difficult to imagine, but only twenty years ago [1] the availability of tertiary education material was a somewhat onerous process. Any contemporary material was usually only available in university libraries which would have to be visited in person and often were not available for outsiders to borrow. Material that was popular (e.g., certain textbooks) or in limited supply (e.g., journals) were subject to significant borrowing restrictions, if available to be taken out at all. Even the ability to determine whether material was available at all would usually require an on-site visit to review the catalogue system which, at least in some campuses, was provided via a locally networked command-line system.

But even in this milieu a revolution in information and communications technology was brewing. From the establishment of the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) in 1969, the standardisation and adoption of the TCP/IP suite in 1981, and the U.S. National Science Foundation Network projects (superseding APRANET) in 1990, a gradual process of bringing together various national networks across the world had begun (e.g., JANET in the UK, AARNet in Australia). At the same time that these technologies were developing, computers were gradually developing graphic user interfaces as part of their operating systems providing some level of intuitive use for beginners and end-users, and at CERN, the first hypertext documents networked in their own protocol (HTTP) were initiated in 1990 [2].

The convergence of these technologies, along with the massive influx of private capital following the commericalisation of Internet service provision in 1995, has witnessed an increasing level of basic access and data transfer rates. In the latter case the past twenty years has witnessed in the developed world the movement from dial-up access, over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) with rates reaching up to 64 kbit/s in the late 1990s, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) in the 2000s with ranges from 256 kbit/s to 20 Mbit/s (downstream) or coaxial cable technologies providing up to 100 Mbit/s downstream residential service in some cases. Various FTTx technologies will provide a similar data rate with rates of 1Gbit/s (over 1000Mbits/s) becoming available. According to estimations from the International Telecommunications Union, 77.7% of the population in the developed world have access to the Internet with 27% to fixed broadband services. [3]

These metrics illustrate the changes of which the education system has tapped into in a limited and nascent extent. For both on-campus and the newly enhanced modes of distance education, correspondence is often conducted via email rather than postal mail, course material of oten available via online as well as print sources, lectures are provided as online video recordings, and tutorials are conducted in asynchronous or synchronous virtual locations. All a very far cry from the days of "correspondence school" and, it must be emphasised, only the very beginning of how information and communication technology advancements are going to transform education, and especially adult and higher education with its emphasis on learners deriving resources from their own experiences and social networks rather than the revealed knowledge of the educator, to focus on particular problems rather than a subject and prescribed curriculum, and to establish motivation from intrinsic performance success rather than external criteria [4].

2. The Economics of Education and Knowledge Provision

Education is typically presented as an investment, a "human capital", whereby a financial expenditure on a person in the present can lead to the improvements in productivity in the future and can be measured as a return on investment. with a more sophisticated evaluation also incorporating opportunity costs with regression analysis. Adam Smith described it as an "article" of fixed capital of the "general stock of society" in the following terms:

"… the acquired and useful abilities of all the inhabitants or members of the society. The acquisition of such talents, by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study, or apprenticeship, always costs a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realized, as it were, in his person. Those talents, as they make a part of his fortune, so do they likewise of that of the society to which he belongs. The improved dexterity of a workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade which facilitates and abridges labour, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit". [5]

In addition to these individual costs and benefits however there are also social costs and benefits education and knowledge provision. Externalities are a well-understood concept in economics, that recognises that there are costs and benefits to an economic activity in addition to whatever costs and benefits exist for those involved in the transaction. Described as social or neighbourhood effects they often are applied as public effects to private transactions, and may exist as positive or negative examples. Indeed, there is an argument that all activities and transactions will have at least some external effects. The ecologist Garrett Hardin summarised this view with the pithy equation: "You cannot do only one thing" [6]. The most well-known examples of externalities are in the negative, such as various types of pollution involved in the production of goods which create a cost which is independent of the producer and buyer of the goods. If a society does nothing about the pollution, they will find that the local environment and population becomes damaged, less productive, etc. In an education context environment costs cannot be overlooked; students from poor backgrounds are known to do less well than their colleagues even despite the content of the actual education received [7]. But in addition to negative externalities, there are also positive examples. An individual who receives road literacy does not just benefit themselves by their ability to obey traffic signals and signposting rules; all those that encounter said individual on the road benefit from the fact this driver is aware that they should not drive through red lights or park in a no standing zone.

As an abstract model, where there is positive benefits a free market does not account for the social benefits, and as a result both the total price of the good and the quantity produced are lower that optimal, as supply is less than what should be the case. The proportion of the benefit and cost that is social should be borne by that sector. General solutions to this deficit in supply are suggested as a form of legislative requirement, a public subsidy or provision of some form. The value of an externality requires some detailed analysis of context as it is not available from the market price. A comparison is made between the economic value prior to the provision for the positive externality and after, accounting for changes so that the evaluation is ceteris paribus, just as the private benefit can be determined by comparison of average salary with and without the qualification. An evaluation of the costs of education in developed countries, such as EU, are estimated to be between 3% and 8% of GDP [8] in direct costs, with perhaps twice that value when opportunity costs are considered. However these costs need to considered in light on the individual and social returns. Weil estimates that approximately 65% of salaries are a direct result of educational benefits and a comparison between average years of schooling per country and GDP per capita indicates a very high correlation [9].

Such economical modelling and technological trajectories illustrates the importance of content provision as a vector for equity, efficiency, and effectiveness. As with all goods and services, the provision of online structured educational content has a tendency towards the price equating with the marginal cost of production. This reduces a component of labour-intensive education costs that are subject to increasingly expensive as the ratio of capital to labour increases in the economy as a whole [10]. Such a provision makes a substantial reduction in transactions costs as well, reducing them to the total cost of Internet service provision from the server and client side, which also has very important equity benefits. This does come with the caveats that the server-side provision expresses diligence for platform and device independence with accessibility. In addition to these cost reductions in content-provision, resource allocation benefits arise with the capacity to improve the quality of structured content, scaffolding, guidance and supervision.

3. Social Barriers and Failures

There are however limits to the production possibility frontier of the provision of structured educational content which can be generally differentiated by two sorts. The first are artificial barriers to entry that exist to protect monopolistic privilege which take the form of content copyright and, in an indirect manner software patents. These barriers, perhaps contrary to much conventional wisdom, are usually institutionally embodied as corporate rights rather than the moral rights of authors and individual inventors. The second limit to the knowledge provision potential is the lack of investment in such provision as a social externality by the public sector to its optimal market level, along with a peculiar situation where law enforcement expenditures to prevent copyright breach by so-called "pirates" is actually a peculiar two-fold social cost, firstly from the cost of law enforcement and secondly because the cost of preventing the distribution of the material.

The explicit establishment of copyright and patents was to provide authors and inventors a temporary monopoly for their original work (and the monopolistic rent that brings) in recognition that whilst many goods and services may have a high initial cost of production, the marginal cost of reproduction is somewhat lower. As long as the price elasticity of demand is greater than one, a monopoly will sell a lower quantity of goods at a higher price than firms would in a purely competitive market by appropriating some or all of the consumer surplus. This is attractive to copyright and patent producers who have an incentive to produce good that can come under this type of protected property, and to extend the scope and time that it protect which impedes the development of new ideas and inventions [11]. Thus from the institutional commercial perspective, the barriers to entry are positive, but to the macroeconomic and social perspective, the impact can be negative.

In the field of academic publishing cost copyright and cost barriers, established with long term institutional contracts with the libraries of higher education institutions, through an oligopolistic market structure with three for-profit companies accounting for over forty percent of published academic literature with very high margins, and some two thousand others dividing the rest of the market between them with very low margins. [12]. These publishers have very low input costs with the provision of articles and editing through the peer-review process provided at very low, if any, cost. With widely-reported reductions in library budgets and existing contractual obligations, over a twelve year period in the United States the proportion of budgets spent on books and journals moved in favour of the latter by 16% to 72% of the total [13].

In response to this barrier to entry, a number of academics have began promoting the notion of open access peer-review with distribution on the Internet, typically using a permissive license (e.g., Creative Commons). These initiatives all began in the early 2000s with the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing in June 2003, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in October 2003, all leading towards the establishment of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association in 2008. A notable aspect open access journals is that numerous studies have confirmed that publications in such journals are more likely to be cited [14] and due to the advantages of being rapidly printed with rigorous and widespread review, professional associations (e.g., the International Mathematical Union) have began advocating the use of open access. It is, a sense, an academic version of the free-software slogan "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" [15].

Expressed as a combination of technical, economic, and moral arguments, Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and free software advocate, argues that copyright, where it impedes the progress of knowledge becomes self-contradictory, as its purpose is to encourage such knowledge. Stallman argues in favour of "copyleft" licenses, such as the GNU General Public License, the most widely used software licenses in the industry. The copyleft principle embodies the notion that data is open, can be redistributed, modified, and that the same freedoms that the user has received must be passed on to the next user. Described as "pragmatic idealism", copyleft licenses embody both the idealist principles of freedom and cooperation with the pragmatic implementation of a workable legal framework [16].

4. Contemporary Examples of Free Content Provision

Provision of free content generally takes the form of (i) a repository of information in an semi-structured manner (i.e., by disciplinary area), or (ii) structured course content, or (iii) actual provision of a course with content. A fourth alternative, unstructured or hyperlinked text, common in online reference sources such as Wikipedia, is not typical even if a Wiki technology is in use; the scholarly articles of Wikipedia have already taken that particular role. Examples of information repositories include Rice University's Connexions, China's Open Resources for Education, and various examples for primary and secondary education (e.g., the EU Learning Resource Exchange for Schools, India's National Council Of Educational Research and Training National Repository for Open Educational Resources). Examples of course-structured open content includes the Netherlands Free Knowledge Institute (FKI), MIT's OpenCourseWare, and Khan Academy. Elaborating further to the actual provision of content within a course, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) projects like edX jointly offered by MIT and Harvard University satisfy this criteria.

Connexions, hosted and maintained by Rice University, was founded in 1999. It provides educational material from primary to tertiary level organised in a small modules that can be integrated into larger bodies of knowledge by users [17]. Content comes from diverse sources and the repository requires publication under a Creative Commons License. All content uses XML in documentation to ease searching and combination. Taking an international and tertiary orientation, China's Open Resources for Education, founded in 2003, collaborates and shared educational content between Chinese and international university with a mission objective of providing Chinese opencourseware for global distribution. Led by twelve major universities, and with an overall starting membership base of over seventy universities, some five million students are enrolled using CORE materials [18].

Moving from the provision of educational content to the strutured offering of actual courses, MIT's OpenCourseWare was an initiative announced in 2002 to put all educational material from undergraduate and postgraduate courses online openly available with a Creative Commons license [19]. By the end of 2012 over two thousand course were available online, with the majority including projects and exams as well as lecture notes, and with sixty including complete video lectures. Another example is the Khan Academy, a non-profit initiative founded in 2006, which offers some over four thousand hundred "micro-lectures" and tutorials on Youtube, with the Academy offering progressing tracking, some five hundred automated practise exercises for continuous assessment, with a focus on secondary level mathematics and physics. In an even more advanced manner the Free Knowledge Institute (founded 2006) of the Netherlands promotes free content in a variety of fields (education, culture, technology, and science) with the Free Technology Academy [20] providing structured course material. Material is presented with a permissive license and the institute is committed to the use of free and open-source software. Those who enrol in an FTA course will have professional teaching supervision from a university with the potential of completing a masters programme at a participating university, the most notable being the Open Universiteit Nederland from The Netherlands, Spain's Open University of Catalonia, and Norway's University of Agder.

Finally, with improvements in automated enrolment and the mass provision of free online content, MOOCs have skyrocketed in popularity. Writing in the New York Times [21], Laura Pappano refers to "The Year of the MOOC". As a non-profit venture from Harvard and M.I.T., edX received an initial enrolment of 370,000. Coursera, only founded April 2012 and offering five university-level accredited courses in January 2013, has 17,000,000 enrolments. As a recent incarnation of distance education a continuum has been derived by those that offer courses in a traditional design and those that make use of the new technologies to encourage a connectivist approach, differentiated by Stephen Downes as xMOOC and cMOOC respectively [22]. Evidence to date however suggests that despite the enormous initial enrolments, only 7-9% of enrolees complete their courses [23], although from that percentage certainly future course enrolments result.

5. Educational Theories with Free Content Provision

The context of the provision of free tertiary educational content exists with particular educational theory. Continuous education and lifelong learning has become a feature of both the rapid generation and falsification of knowledge along with globalisation and workplace changes. The idea of leaving school, studying or training for a particular career or job, and then remaining in that job for life, no longer holds true. There is recognition that that a great deal of learning occurs outside accredited educational courses [24], and indeed it is considered perilous to confuse the two [25]. Others are extremely critical of the trajectory, suggesting that the disruptive technologies have empowered capital over labour, although an alternative strategy in redress is absent [26]. As a contrary argument open content provision offers the possibility of providing quality material and minimal cost but with from accessible and user-driven choices.

As has been suggested by the examples however, mere provision will be far from sufficient to provide the potential social benefits. There is significant research that indicates the degree by which constructivist approaches to knowledge are necessary to maximise learning across all levels [27]. Understanding is achieved when knowledge exists in an embedded organised structure with other knowledge, and can be built to acquire further knowledge. Such knowledge can be differentiated from, for example, mere recognition, even if a high level in that limited scope is achieved. A high ability in several disconnected competencies may also suggest a multiplicity of inert knowledge. With automated self-testing but without the investment of resources or commitments, the learner can evaluate their capacity of autonomy and their self-efficiacy [28], although expert feedback is certainly an enormous factor in the latter for accuracy.

This could be considered an important limitation in free content provision. Since Vygotsky [29] it has been long-recognised that learning is a socialised process, where understanding is acquired through a gradual process of scaffolding and modelling, which often has parallels with the apprenticeship system [30], and evidence exists that online students do not fare as well as face-to-face students, although caveats apply with regard to course self-selection [31]. It is important to remember that content provision is simply the information side of ICT. As communications technology from the simplicity of mailing lists to web forums to wiki spaces [32], collaborative learning between learners necessitating but occasional inputs from course co-ordinators.

6. A Local Implementation and Future Trajectory

A review of existing and future information and network technological capabilities, an analysis of the economic effects of education, and the review of historical and international examples of the provision of free educational content, leads to some suggestions for a local implementation. Certainly a review of the literature suggests that some form of online content provision be made available, with strong economic and moral arguments presented. Secondly, it seems most beneficial if that maximum content provision be offered. The most efficient way to do this of course would be through a single national portal, that would combine the otherwise disparate, competitive, and even conflicting piecemeal efforts of different individual institutions. The collaborative higher education project of China's Open Resources for Education, where an independent body coordinates the development of the repository for individual institutional delivery, is an illustrative model for consideration in this regard. Further consideration of the different implementations of content as repositories, courseware, and as online courses, indicates that the historical sequence may also be a logical sequence. That is, the provision of unstructured repositories into disciplinary areas, then the provision of content into structured courses, and finally the free offering of course material.

The proposal for a member-based institution also suggests funding arrangements. Whilst the economic benefits of free content provision has been suggested, there are associated upfront costs in providing such content in the first place, even if subsequent per-unit costs are very low. Whilst the mix between private benefit and social benefit suggests some form of cost-sharing [33], it is difficult to imagine learners interpreting costs in any other way that the marginal per-unit cost, especially when even structured content-provision does not provide accreditation in itself. From the institutional perspective an independent collaborative model also makes sense allowing for both the efficiency gains of a single-provider, whilst at the same time providing autonomy in content and delivery strongly desired by tertiary institutions [34]. The model also may be able to reduce the risk of poor selection choices of low-income students when choosing post-secondary education [35]
by providing “at a glance” cost comparisons, in addition to reducing provision and transaction costs. Such a collaborative single provider would also be better able to engage in quality audits, a significant issue which has seriously affected the piecemeal application of higher education providers in Australia, resulting in widespread closures of off-shore programs and partnerships [37].

Certainly there is still some areas of higher education that are far from being able to be conducted with online facilities. Laboratory teaching for chemistry would be difficult. Nevertheless with advanced video conferencing software (e.g., Access Grid) and sufficient bandwidth real-time tutorials for geographically dispersed individuals can be conducted effectively, even when this involves collaborative documentation [37]. Likewise whilst some journals subscriptions with proprietary content continue to be are required, whether due to the status of the journal or contractual obligations, certainly open access peer-review journals should be of increasing preference, not only as reading material for coursework, but also for scholarly contributions. It is difficult to justify why the research outcomes of public funded institutions should not be easily available to the public.

As more free, online, structured, and assessed content is provided online the greater the number of people who will achieve basic level tertiary qualifications. This provides the opportunity for university academic staff to provide the sort of content that is less subject to mechanised manner, such as the generation and understanding of new research, scaffolding, guidance and supervision, and advanced accreditation. As the amount of time, cost, and energy required by academic staff is reduced for the basic degrees this must be shifted to advanced post-graduate education, especially those with a heavy research component. This qualitative improvement in education provision arises both the advances in information and communications technology, the quantity of people achieving bachelor's level qualifications, but also requires a societal commitment to the concept that university-level content should be provided at the lowest possible cost and widest possible availability, not just because of the substantial benefits it brings but also because it is the right action to take: Information wants to be free.


1] An arbitrary date chosen by the author to reflect the end of his undergraduate degree
2] Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving The Web, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999
3] "Key ICT indicators for developed and developing countries and the world (totals and penetration rates)", International Telecommunications Unions (ITU), Geneva, 27 February 2013
4] Robert Burns, "Theories of adult education" in The adult learner at work: A comprehensive guide to the context, psychology and methods of learning for the workplace (p 225-253). Chatswood, NSW, Australia: Business & Professional Publishing, 1995.
5] Adam Smith, Book II, chapter 1, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations, Random House, 1937 [FP 1776]
6] Garrett Hardin, Exploring new ethics for survival: the voyage of the spaceship Beagle, Viking Press, 1972, p40
7] Cosima Marriner, Private schooling myth debunked, The Age, October 13, 2013
8] Fernando Reis, 5% of EU GDP is spent by governments on education, Statistics in Focus 117/2008, European Communities, 2008
9] David N. Weil, Economic Growth (third edition), Pearson Addison-Wesley, 2009. See also the historical study by Burton Allen Weisbrod, External Benefits of Public Education : An Economic Analysis, Princeton University, 1962
10] William J. Baumol, Social Wants and Dismal Science: The Curious Case of the Climbing Costs of Health and Teaching, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol. 137, No. 4, 250th Anniversary Issue, Dec 1993, p. 612-637
11] This can be discerned from the historical extension of copyright. The Statute of Anne (1710) provided 14 years, replicated in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1790, but with an additional optional 14 year extension. The 1831 Act extended this to 28 years (with an optional additional 14 year renewal). The 1909 allowed for 28 years with an additional 28 year extension and the 1976 Act to life of the author plus 50 years. In 1998 in the United States copyright was extended to the life of the author plus 70 years or 120 for corporate authors.
12] GS McGuigan, RD Russell, "The Business of Academic Publishing: A Strategic Analysis of the Academic Journal Publishing Industry and its Impact on the Future of Scholarly Publishing", E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship. ICAAP, 2008
13] Modern Language Association Report from the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Scholarly Publishing, Profession 2002 Modern Language Association, 2002, p 172-86.
14] Angela Repanovici, "Measuring the visibility of the universities - scientific production using scientometric methods", 6th WSEAS/IASME International Conference on Educational Technologies, 03 May 2010
15] Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, O'Reilly Media, 1999 p. 30
16] Richard M. Stallman, "Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman", GNU Press, 2002
17] Richard G. Baraniuk, "Challenges and opportunities for the open education movement: A Connexions case study." Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge, 2007, p116-132.
18] Tina Wilson, "New Ways of Mediating Learning: Investigating the implications of adopting open educational resources for tertiary education at an institution in the United Kingdom as compared to one in South Africa." The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9.1, 2008
19] Hal Abelson, "The creation of OpenCourseWare at MIT" Journal of Science Education and Technology 17.2, 2008, p164-174
20] David Megías, et al. "Free technology academy: a European initiative for distance education about free software and open standards." ACM SIGCSE Bulletin. Vol. 41. No. 3. ACM, 2009.
21] Laura Pappano, The Year of the MOOC, New York Times, November 2, 2012
22] Stephen Downes, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge", Huffpost Education, 5 January 2011, see also Kop, Rita "The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course", International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 12, Number 3, 2011
23] Dayna Catropa, "Big (MOOC) Data", Inside Higher Education, 24 February 2013
24] Phillip Candy, Gay Crebert, Jane O'Leary, Developing Lifelong Learners Through Undergraduate Education, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994. See also P. Jarvis, (2004). Towards a rationale for the provision of learning opportunities for adults. In Adult education and lifelong learning: Theory and practice, RoutledgeFalmer, 2004, p. 1-38
25] Stephen Richard Billett, "The perils of confusing lifelong learning with lifelong education", International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol 29, No, 4, p401-413, 2010. See also A. Pare,C. Le Maistre, "Active learning in the workplace: transforming individuals and institutions". Journal of Education and Work, 19(4), 2006, p363-381
26] Mark Olssen Understanding the mechanisms of neoliberal control: lifelong learning, flexibility and knowledge capitalism, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 2006
27] Marilla Svinicki, "Helping students understand" in Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom, Anker, 2004, pp. 39-60
28] Dale H. Schunk, Frank Parajes, "Self-Efficacy in education revisited: Empirical and applied evidence" In D.M. McInerneyt, S.V. Etten (Eds.) "Big Theories Revisited", Information Age Publishing, 2004, p115-118)
29] Lev Vygotsky, Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986 [FP 1934]
30] A. Collins, J.S. Brown, J. S., S.E. Newman, "Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics" in L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, Learning and Instruction: Essays in honour of Robert Glaser, Hillside, 1989 p. 453-494
31] Dennis Coates, Brad Humphreys, John Kane, Michelle Vachris, "No significant distance between face-to-face and online instruction: evidence from principles of economics", Economics of Education Review, 2004
32] An older review of collaborative learning tools but with emphasis on the learning aspect see: C.J., Bonk, D. J., Cunningham,. Searching for learner-centred, constructivist, and sociocultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. J. Bonk & K. S. King (Eds.), Electronic collaborators: Learner-centred technologies for literacy, apprenticeship and discourse, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998, p. 25-50
33] D. B., Johnstone, "The economics and politics of cost sharing in higher education: comparative perspectives". Economics of Education Review 23. 403-410, 2004
34] Consider the examples in Eckel and King where universities were prepare to forgo public funding in preference of institutional autonomy. Peter D. Eckel, Jacqueline E. King, An Overview of Higher Education in the United States: Diversity, Access, and the Role of the Marketplace, American Council on Education, 2004
35] Mark E. Engberg, "Pervasive Inequality in the Stratification of Four-Year College Destinations", Equity & Excellence in Education, 45:4, 2012, p575-595
36] Mahsood Shah, Chenicheri Sid Nair, "International Higher Education in Australia: Unplanned Future", Perspectives, 15:4, October 2011, p129-131
37] Thomas D. Uram, Access Grid Node Services, Proc. 5th Annual Retreat, Argonne National Laboratory, 2005

Word count: 3873, excluding Abstract and References.


(Thanks to Rodney B)

Mention of the STEM open access stuff? arXiv started in 1991 and the US NLM made Medline freely available in 1997.

.. mentions a few journals I didn't recognize in the 1980s. The US NTIS operations includes the acquisition and archiving in perpetuity of (US government funded) scientific and technical information. This information is disseminated to the public on a fee-based cost-recovery model.

The Wikipedia page mentions 1988 legislation, but I think I may have got NTIS stuff from our National Library before then. I remember the costs being essentially by the size of the object, so if you could cope with
ordering microfiche, you could fairly cheaply buy large reports. I think that US Citizens had a right to reproduce, which is why early information CD-ROMs would have things like the CIA World Factbook as
something of a drawcard. (Bit of a digression)

The longevity of educational material and the easier updating, without constraint from publishing timeframes may help. Licensing that permits updating can allow for a more polished product. Long timescales also commend standardized formats, to avoid the need for digital archeology. (tying in to my desultory search for automatic Raster to SVG conversion for example)

The issues of US education costs have been in the news the last year, with some claiming that the personal payback for educational investment may be lessening.
Automation intruding into more knowledge based industries and or outsourcing add to the pressure on most people.

Some of these pressures were mentioned in the MOOCs talk.


worth reading

mentioned in the comments