New Free Content Business Models 001

Changes to the way content is sourced and paid for has led me to search for new startups and business models, some of which I will list over the next few weeks.


Connexions allows educational materials to be organized in small modules that can that can be be linked and arranged in different ways according to how the user wants to learn.  They currently have over 9000 modules woven into almost 500 collections. All content is free to use under the Creative Commons ‘attribution’ license.

Collaboration is encouraged – creators of new content are listed as authors, who can assign others to help maintain the content, work groups can be created to look over each others content, changes can be suggested.  If a user wants to take the content in a different direction they can change the original work and derive a new module (while still recognizing the work of the orginal author).
Their business model:  Connexions is supported by money from foundations, people, and companies and is a registered trademark of Rice University – it’s a great way to advertise your University and encourage students to attend your courses.


A site for open-access textbooks — free online or printed for a low cost. The content of open textbooks is licensed to allow anyone to use, download, customize, or print.  The site is run by a coalition of students who are campaigning for free online textbooks – they declare their intent to:

•    Seek and consider open textbooks and other open educational resources when choosing course materials.
•    Give preference to a low or no cost educational resource such as an open textbook over an expensive, commercial textbook if it best fits the needs of a class.
•    Encourage institutions to develop support for the use of open textbooks and other open educational resources.

Free.Ed Net

Free.Ed.Net has been providing free courses and education resources since 1997 and have now ventured into the learning world of Second Life.  The courses cover vocational and academic subjects which students can take at their own pace and use it to supplement their other learning. The site is developed and maintained by David L Heiseman, Sweethaven Publishing Services and makes money from ads and donations.


What is impressive here is that learning really is in the context of social learning.  Their books are also free online, users can buy audio books, chapters, self-print options all for under $30. Books are open for instructors to modify for their own courses, and authors are paid royalties from the money earned.  Books become the hub of a social learning network where students learn from the book and each other. Students can earn money if their study aids are good by uploading them into the ‘market place’ and naming their price per download.  FlatWorld books has just received funding of USD 8M


Nixty are relatively new players but their site looks great.  They are creating a global learning environment, providing educators and colleges free tools and students teaching themselves with open free education in a community.