Thursday, February 16, 2012

OpenEd Researcher Badge #1 - OCW

This entry is the first part of the three-part entry (plus summary) to earn the OpenEd Researcher Badge for the Introduction to Openness in Education course at BYU.  This entry provides links to three peer-reviewed articles, and several other resources pertaining to OpenCourseWare.  The materials describe elements of the creation and adoption of OpenCourseWare by Universities.  While the creation has many altruistic motives to spread access for learners, there are strategic institutional reasons for entering this domain of open learning.  Institutions may find benefits to current students, their supporting funding bodies (governments & foundations), the potential to increase the pool of interested students from which to recruit, and as a gateway to paid enrollments in credit-offering on-line programs.

The research shows that the institutions bear a cost to prepare and offer OpenCourseWare, the largest of which appears to be copyright and intellectual property clearance.  There are additional societal costs that are required for the full realization of the potential of OpenCourseWare.  These costs involve overcoming the digital divide which limits access to the internet and computers in the developing world.  Another issue that one of the articles mentions is the colonialism that is inherent in globalization of education resources, particularly with the fact that a large percentage of the content is provided in English and developed in the developed world.

Peer Reviewed Article #1
Incentives and Disincentives for the Use of OpenCourseWare - International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning Volume 10, Number 5

This article reports a survey of adults in the State of Utah and the incentives and disincentives that were identified as they consider participating in available OCW.  The study reports that the survey respondents indicate the low cost, convenience (availability), and opportunities to pursue additional learning in subjects of interest are incentives.  The respondents indicated that the lack of possibility of earning a degree or certificate, the lack of support resources (access to tutors, TAs, faculty), and limited course availability (compared to interest of respondent) were disincentives.  This report notes that most participants in OCW are those who are aware of its existence and seek it out.  But that there is a much larger population who is either not aware of its existence, or do not know how to access available OCW.  The report recommends institutions consider marketing the availability of the courses through consortium and aggregating sites and that the consider the possibility that the OCW might be a recruiting tool to attract more students to their campus.

Peer Reviewed Article #2
OpenCourseWare, Global Access and the Right to Education: Real access or marketing ploy? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning Volume 9, Number 1.

This article considers the history of OCW and the possibilities that the such courses have to expand access to the Tertiary Preparation Program at the University of South Queensland in Australia.  The authors identify some of the barriers to successful use of OCW in their target audiences.  The authors also highlight issues that should be considered regarding the cost of creating and supporting OCW, particular to add features of localization when so much of the existing OCW is globalized according to standards in the region or country where it was developed.

The authors report that other studies show that the greatest cost in most institutions concerns copyright and intellectual property management.  The article title indicates that there may be a conflict between the intention to provide access and the intention to make a profit.  However, they note that these two motives can co-exist and function well as long as the right to education is paramount. 

One section from the paper says,

MIT’s initial nervousness about doing this, including within its own ranks, was based on a simple error: “confusing courseware with courses. But a course is a totality that includes courseware among many other factors” (Newmarch, 2001, ¶ 30), such as feedback on assessment, structured time-tabling, interpersonal communication, and, of course, conferring of a qualification. Universities essentially sell the latter, and this is not likely to lose its value. “OCW is not meant to replace degree-granting higher education or for-credit courses. Rather, the goal is to provide the content that supports an education” (Kirkpatrick, 2006, p. 53). For Newmarch (2001) the central point is: once costs are met, why not just give it away?” Why not, indeed!
While it is clear that the main impetus for OCW from an institutional perspective is a profit motive (despite rhetoric to the contrary), we argue here that this is not necessarily a problem if the by-product of that motive is wider access to education.
The authors point out that there are opportunities for the institution to meet the goal of eCommerce sites and keep their OCW participants coming back for more (make their OCW sites "sticky").  Eventually, OCW participants may become candidates for recruitment and admissions.  This meets the "profit-motives" that all institutions actually have but cannot blatantly state.

Peer Reviewed Article #3
A sustainable model for OpenCourseWare development - Education Tech Research Dev (2011) 59:369–382 (Requires Subscription - Check through your University Library)

This article reports a study at BYU by a doctoral student that assesses the impact of OCW on an existing Independent Study program which markets courses for credit for which it charges tuition.  The analysis captured the costs of converting courses from their exiting online, full-credit, delivered version to an OCW version.  The research also measured the impact of offering these courses in an OCW format on the paid enrollments in the for-credit courses.  The study was setup to:
  1. Determine the cost to convert to OCW 
  2. Negative impacts on enrollments (if any) when a course was available in both the OCW and the for-credit versions
  3. Potential for positive impact on enrollments by giving students a "free trial" of the course as a marketing entry gateway.
The underlying purpose of the research was an attempt to consider if this model might provide a sustainability path for OCW that was outside of the traditional institutional and philanthropic funding models that dominated OCW programs at other institutions in the early years of OCW development, particularly as these funding sources were drying up.

The results of the research showed that there is a minimal cost of conversion at BYU Independent Study to convert the courses from their full online content version to the OCW version.  Accounting for the learning curve that was experienced in the first-course conversion, the study showed that additional conversions could cost as little as $280 to $1,200.  This is compared to calculations in other studies of several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars (see study for literature).  The cost of conversion benefited from much of the cost already being sunk in the development of the full-credit version of the course.  A strategy of developing an OCW version from scratch would have been higher.

The study reported a conversion rate of just over 2.5% of OCW participants actually moving through the OCW gateway into the for-credit course.  Considering the revenues these conversions generated, the authors found that, at least in the case if BYU Independent Study, such a model is sustainable funding source.  Profit margins required on the for-credit enrollments would need to be less than 5% for the ROI to go negative.

Additional Resource #1
Lerman, S. R., & Miyagawa, S. (2002). OpenCourseWare: A Case Study in Institutional Decision Making. Academe, 88(5), 23-27.

This article recounts the internal processes and conversations at MIT that led to the decision to offer OCW.  The article is from an issue of Academe that was published in 2002.  I think it is interesting to read how some of the thinking has evolved regarding student enrollments in OCW at MIT from the initial conversations at MIT where students would not be offered access to MIT resources (faculty, etc.) nor would they receive credit (see Additional Resource #2) below.  Some of this may be driven by revenue pressures but the MITx site does not make mention of any fees for the certificate that students earn.

Additional Resource #2
MITx Online Education OpenCourseWare - First Interactive Course

This is an article from Tuesday, February 14, 2012 announcing that the first MITx course (Circuits & Electronics 6.002x) was open for enrollment.  This is the first of the next generation of MIT OpenCourseWare that allows student interaction and the receipt of a certificate at the completion of the course.  The course has a registration process, requires participation and completion within a certain  time frame (March 5 - June 8).  This article notes that this will be a test of the MITx offerings. This is the link to register in Circuits & Electronics 6002x.

I reviewed the terms of service on the site and did not see a mention of any fees that will be charged for the certificate.  The primary differences between MIT OCW and MITx appear to be a requirement to register, opportunities to interact with faculty, submit lessons and receive grades, and the certificate that will be given via email at the completion of the course.  This first version appears to include some copyrighted materials so the course may not truly be open in the sense of the creative commons license familiar to all other OCW efforts.

Additional Resource #3
Inside Higher Ed Stanford OCW for Credit (MOOC)

This is a link to the December 2011 post at Inside Higher Ed explaining a course offered OCW by Stanford that allowed students to participate in the assessments, submit homework assignments, and participate in virtual office hours.  23,000 participants took the mid-term as well as the 175 students enrolled in the course on campus.  The OCW participants could receive Stanford credit (based on the proctoring of the exams) or receive a letter from the instructor noting their participation and the ranking in the class.

These last two links (#2 & #3) provide information on an emerging trend in the next generation of open education.

Additional Resource #4
Stanford iTunes U Site
This link takes you to the Stanford University iTunes U site with all of the courses available for download and participation through iTunes U.  You will note that there is a donation option at the bottom of this page.  That appears to be a part of their sustainability model.

Additional Resource #5
Cal Berkely Biology Open Course

This link takes you to an example of the open Biology course taught at Berkeley.  I have included this link and the Standford link for examples of OCW that could be compared to what you found following the link on the topic page to the MIT OCW site.

1 comment:

  1. Darin, excellent write up. Very nicely done.

    FWIW, the article "A sustainable model for OpenCourseWare development" is openly available from BYU's IR (green OA) -