Tom's Two Cents

Consortia as far as the eye can see! But why pay the fee?

Consortia as far as the eye can see! But why pay the fee?

It seems every time I turn around a new consortium has popped up somewhere on the Open Education landscape. While I see the value of like-minded folks coming together to compare notes, discuss interoperability, etc, I have to wonder if many of them couldn’t operate just as well as chapters or SIGs of an existing consortium. This would offer many of the same advantages, including 501c3 US non-profit status, without all overhead of being a completely separate entity. If one of the reasons for forming a consortium is advocacy won’t fewer, larger consortia tend to wield a greater influence on legislators and policy makers? It might also allow for lower membership fees, if fees are necessary.

The question of membership fees is a tricky one. The Connexions Consortium and the OCW Consortium are still working on how to add value for members. Some newer members have suggested that discounts on consulting services would make membership fees worthwhile, and some even indicated being willing to pay 10x the current fee in this case.

Since non-members can attend the same conferences as members, what motivates newcomers to pay for joining a consortium? Voting rights? Bragging rights? It was different when it was free, but now there has to be something more. If we can’t think of a better way to attract paid consortium memberships, perhaps the membership fees should be required to attend conferences. This is standard practice for many academic conferences, but no one wants to alienate anyone in the Open Education space — a space defined by its openness, after all.

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