M.I.T. decided couple of years ago to put their entire curriculum on-line. Anyone can use it for free. They feel that the value they provide as an institution is not threatened, but enhanced by making their materials publicly available.
Our preschool, Little City Kids, is now doing the same thing. There’s a lot of stuff we do charge for – individual child-care, franchising to help you run your own Little City Kids, and educational toys that for schools or for home. We have a lot of folks using our curriculum, and quite often, it brings them to our other services as well. That’s plenty. For example, we have quite a few home-schoolers use our curriculum, and they buy toys to go with it.
One of my themes in software development is that platforms tend to not directly make money for their creators. I think a curriculum is the equivalent of a platform for schools. It’s expensive to produce, but necessary if you’re doing something different that doesn’t let you use someone else’s. However, I no longer think it’s wise to expect open-sourcing to reduce costs. It can happen in some fashion, but it shouldn’t be the driver. Instead, you produce the platform because you need to, and you share it because it’s a good idea for helping you with your real product. I think wider use can help improve the quality of the platform, and that this applies to our curriculum. But we are not, at this time, trying to provide a means for people to directly contribute to the curriculum content itself. (More about this later…)