Mini challenge summary

Summary: Reflect on the hidden costs of using free website services
45 minutes

Start here

web resources

Stimulus resources

Watch this Matrix parody, a comedy skit published by CollegeHumour, depicting that if you are not paying for the service, you are not the consumer but the product. (Do you think this is a valid and reliable source for the topic?)

Select one or more stimulus resources below:

Corporate sponsored scientific research



The purpose of this mini challenge is to explore and reflect on the relationship between corporate commercial interests and digital citizenship for learning in a digital age.


  1. Read the stimulus resources listed above.
  2. Do you use ad-blocking software? Think about the reasons for your choice.
  3. How do you feel about the the real cost of “free” online services?
  4. Participate in the online discussion below.



Forum: Philanthropy and corporate advertising

Case study


The OERu is a charitable organisation which provides open online courses for free, using open educational resources which any educational institution can adopt, modify and reuse. There are costs that need to be covered to sustain the OERu: for example, the assembly of open online courses, hosting of the server and software infrastructure, staff to coordinate and support the initiative. etc. The OERu does not generate any revenue from corporate services, by, for example, allowing advertising on the OERu course sites for a share of the advertising revenue. Moreover, the OERu does not sell or generate revenue from personal data learners provide by using these free learning services, therefore users are not the product of this service.

Join the discussion on philanthropy and corporate advertising. The key question is how can non-profit organisations sustain free educational services for those who can’t afford traditional education provision?

Consider the following issues:

  • As a learner, how would you feel if the course materials included corporate advertising? If advertising were to be supported, how would you feel if the OERu course sites required you to switch off any ad-blockers before gaining access to the course materials?
  • Is it appropriate for publicly funded institutions and charities working in education to generate revenue from corporate advertising to support and sustain free online services? What are the risks and opportunities?
  • Should education institutions and educational charities accept significant corporate sponsorship in return for profiling proprietary products?
  • The OERu has recommended that learners use free blogging services to share their learning outputs. Many of these services carry advertising. How do you feel about using these services – being the product rather than consumer? Would it be better for OERu to recommend that learners use a paid service without advertising? How would this impact on learners who do not have sufficient funds to afford maintaining a domain of their own?
  • Other?

Remember to tag your posts using the course code: LiDA102