In an attempt to understand the potential of OER for change and sustainability, this paper presents the results of an informal survey of active and inactive collections of online educational resources, emphasizing data related to collection longevity and the project attributes associated with it. Through an analysis of the results of this survey, in combination with other surveys of OER stakeholders and projects, the paper comes to an initial conclusion: Despite differences in priorities and emphasis, OER initiatives are in danger of running aground of the same sustainability challenges that have claimed numerous learning object collection or repository projects in the past. OER projects suffer from the same incompatibilities with existing institutional cultures and priorities that have dogged learning object initiatives, and they face the concomitant challenge of gaining access to the operational funding support that experience shows is necessary for their survival. However, through a review of one of the most successful of OER projects to date, the MIT Open Courseware Initiative, the paper ends by augmenting this significant caveat with a second, more hopeful conclusion: OER projects, unlike learning object initiatives, can accrue tangible benefits to educational institutions, such as student recruitment and marketing. Highlighting these benefits, it is argued, provides an opportunity to link OER initiatives to core institutional priorities. In addition to providing a possible route to financial sustainability, this characteristic of OER may help to foster the significant changes in practice and culture long sought by promoters of both learning objects and OERs.
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