By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education
[Note: This is the second in a series of articles in which Stefanie explores open and informal learning. See the other articles in this series: Open Learning at P2PU: An Interview with Jessica Ledbetter -Editor]
Crowdfunding and social payments are alternative revenue models for (online) content, projects and initiatives that rely on voluntary support instead of consumerism. Web 2.0 platforms such as kickstarter, slicethepie, kiva, or flattr combine fundraising with transparency, networking support and active participation. Julia Kaltenbeck studies software-engineering and economics at Graz University of Technology (Austria). She recently completed her master’s project* on crowdfunding and social payments in the context of open educational resources (OER).
“When Martin Ebner, one of the editors of L3T, an open content textbook on learning and teaching with technologies, offered me the possibility to write my master’s project about this very prestigious project, I immediately agreed,” explains Julia. In total, more than 100 authors and 80 reviewers contributed to the L3T project. Within one year, the first German language textbook on educational technology made it to the shelf – and its online pendant is available for free. Recently, the L3T project has successfully carried out a crowdfunding initiative on the German crowdfunding plattform Startnext. For ETC, Julia summarizes the results of her project.
Stefanie: What is the difference between crowdfunding and social payments?
Julia: The concepts differ in the time and purpose of support. Crowdfunding is an alternative revenue model for projects in the planning stage, to finance an activity within a certain time frame and with predefined goals. Social payments are a way to acknowledge existing online content, for instance an interesting blog post, a well-researched article or a thought-provoking comment. The purpose of support also varies: In crowdfunding, supporters want to help implement a new project. In social payments, supporters want to socially acknowledge the content someone else has created. Combining their recommendation with monetary value is more meaningful than a simple “like” on Facebook.
What can other OER-projects learn from the German open content textbook “L3T”?
Seek ways to build and maintain your community! The community is the single most important success factor in crowdfunding and social payments. To put it simply: No community, no funding. The German open content textbook L3T has a large community of more than 500 people. The initiators, namely Martin Ebner from Graz University of Technology and Sandra Schön from Salzburg Research, intensively leveraged social networks and social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Youtube) to foster support and awareness. A great example is “L3T on Tour.” The objective of this project was to collect the signatures of all L3T authors within one year by sending a special edition across Europe. Each station of the book’s journey is documented on Facebook.
You also discuss other initiatives in the OER context. From your point of view, what makes or breaks a campaign?
The OER project SmartHistory offers multimedia content for art history. SmartHistory has published a Crowdfunding initiative on the Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter with the goal to gain $10.000 in order to be able to create another hundred videos. Their OER website Open-of-course offers multilingual educational resources for language learning, computation and web development. This project used Flattr as the largest European social-payments-platform. The goal of the campaign was to generate revenues in addition to the existing advertisement. Open-of-course did not gain considerable income through its social payments campaign. A major reason from my point of view is the lack of community building around this project. Another important success factor is marketing. It is important to spread the word and aim at high media coverage! First, the community needs to be aware that its help is needed; second, the initiators have to signal enthusiasm and passion for their project; and third, initial contributors should lead others to follow their example. If you need help or support, you should shout it out and not keep quiet about it. That’s the point.
Are there other Crowdfunding initiatives in the context of OER you would like people to be aware about?
While the idea of crowdfunding has gained undeniable popularity, there are only very few initiatives in the context of OER. I personally hope that this will change sooner or later. Crowdfunding cannot replace the traditional funding of OER, but it can be a valuable supplement.
* Julia Kaltenbeck’s master’s project. “Crowdfunding and Social Payments in the Application Context of Open Educational Resources,” is open-access on http://l3t.eu/oer/ (German language).
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