Why is it Free?
- It is free to schools because its development has been federally funded by research dollars. For all federally funded research, the Bayh Dole Act says that a university owns all the intellectual property developed from federal grants and can license it commercially or give it away for free. Neil Heffernan (and his advisor Ken Koedinger at CMU) have raised $9.5 million from funders like the US Dept of Education and the National Science Foundation. These funders have paid to create ASSISTments. The universities own the intellectual property, that is the code written for this site, meaning they could decide to license the code to one of the commercial entities that have expressed interest in ASSISTments. Now that the code has been written, it a small matter to decide to host the program.
- It is free because we want one million students using ASSISTments by 2018. WPI and CMU will benefit in two ways:
- If we have one million students seeing the WPI & CMU logos while they do their homework, more students will be interested in looking at WPI and CMU as a choice for higher education.
- WPI and CMU's goal is to have famous researchers and this tool helps us get funding for more research projects.
- We think of it like Wikipedia that started running a "pledge drive". Hopefully our research funding and philanthropy will be enough to sustain ASSISTments. WPI and CMU reserve the right to change the free policy at any time.
Will it always be free?
We are committed to keep it free indefinitely for K-12 use. As long as we are able to acquire funding for research using ASSISTments, we will keep it free. We are trying to create something analogous to wiki-pedia but for questions with answers. Wikipedia never would have gotten people to write articles for them if people thought someone was making money off their contributions. We have thousands of questions (and tutoring) written by teachers, that are then shared with the world. We would not succeed if we sold ASSISTments to commercialize it.
There is a virtuous cycle between researchers writing grants that support getting schools involved, where these schools get something useful, and the researchers get studies done, which then allows the researchers to become famous and get more grant money.
What is the story about why is it free?
The story of Neil written in the Boston Globe explains some of this.
We are grateful to our large number of funders. Thank you!
Think about Contributing to ASSISTments.