Throwing Open the Gates at Royal Roads University

Hi all,

My pitch is intrepreneurial and it’s real – I’m meeting with the AVPs Academic and Research as well as a bunch of others next week. The goal of my pitch is get people on board with the idea of Royal Roads beginning to share course content and ultimately joining the OpenCourseWare Consortium.  My rationale is that sharing could help us in a number of ways, some that would benefit us, and some that would benefit education generally and enable us to have a positive impact on learning in a global sense.

Please view my pitch on Youtube here:

Looking forward to your feedback!



1 David De Pieri { 11.25.08 at 4:32 pm }

Great job Mary,

Nice balance of still life images from around the campus and I like the way you blended the video portion with the images of Royal Roads. It’s always nice to see what “the pitcher” looks like when applying for funds or trying to convince people who matter. Nice to hear of Royal Roads historical relevance with regards to Hatley Castle, I didn’t realize Royal Roads was only 13 years in existence, have been there, it’s beautiful.

I would have liked to hear you mention that Royal Roads was xx km west of Victoria. If you are wanting Royal Roads to step out and not be so insular, then a mention of its location on Vancouver Island or in British Columbia would have been appropriate. You do mention lush West Coast rain forest just not precisely where.

Great explanation of Open courseware and the fact that MIT 2001 did something quite innovative when they introduced Open courseware. You explain it well, they broke the ice. While listening to you, I appreciate the words scrolling across the screen, “they’re crazy, nobody will pay, revolutionary, Nobel peace prize,“ adds lots of strength and determination to the cause of Royal Roads. I missed the small font of – 50 in 2002 and 1800 in 2007 – good position on screen just a larger font would catch the eye a little more. Or… have it scroll across like previous words.

Team based approach to learning and cohort model leads to low attrition rates, good point. RRU sounds like the little brother when it needs to venture out and take a risk, getting involved with Open Source courseware. Was RRU waiting to see how MIT made out before they made the plunge?

You explain effectively what your marketing group needs to do in your school and I agree. Makes sense to me that people need to experience a course then make up their minds. The fact that the Open Consortium with 200+ institutions and its members help achieve the same goal that RR hopes to achieve is also effective, “to advance education and empower people worldwide through Open course ware.” Yes, maybe an altruistic goal but it makes MIT and RRU more credible, in my humble opinion.
Increasing open courses is like advertising for your school, a place that welcomes anyone to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

You mention, quality of academic content, innovative pedagogy and technology – I would have liked hear of an example of the innovative technology.
Good point about developing countries, a small university like RR may be less daunting than the power house of MIT.

Unfortunately, a 3rd rate hack school will still rob your courseware and chop it up so that a Creative Commons license wouldn’t do much… I learned that in 522 – Open Source Software 😉

All in all, very effective pitch, Congratulations Mary – I grant you your 1.6 million dollars for full advancement of your proposal… 🙂

ddp – (the guy who has about 53 cents in his pocket)

2 Sarah Wood { 11.26.08 at 3:14 pm }


Your video was great and your passion for the project showed. Your excitement for the project engages the audience. I believed your point that students will continue to pay for classes, unfortunately, I was not “convinced” that joining Open Course Ware Consortium was in the Universities best interest. Perhaps, I just have more conservative views and am one of those people who thinks MIT is crazy!

Good luck with your real-life pitch.

P.S. You have a very cute baby!

3 David Wees { 11.26.08 at 5:28 pm }

Assessing the Need

You describe some reasons for Royal Roads to through open its doors, and present a lot of course material online. One of the reasons you cite is as exposure for Royal Roads and a need to represent itself more publically in the market.

Well-defined Target

You describe the target audience fairly well. I understood that your target audience is either people who want to try out a Royal Roads education before paying for it, or people in developing countries who cannot afford the education themselves.


It is clear that the management team for this will come from members of the Royal Roads community, but I’m not sure who this will end up being exactly.


Depending on what perspective you look at it, your idea is either fairly original (from the perspective of a Canadian university offering its material online) or not (MIT and many other schools have done the same thing before).


Your idea is obviously feasible given the success of the existence of the MIT open course ware. One question I have is whether or not Royal Roads has the resources to post all of their content online, including video cameras for recording classroom lectures, etc…


A lot of planning is evident, but more will have to happen before your venture will take off. Details like what type of material will be posted online, who will be offering online courses, will you offer a pay-for-content structure like UBC, etc…


I’m not sure how the day to day operations of your venture will occur, but logistics for an example like this can be examined after the decision is made to go with it or not.


The question here is, will the additional advertising this will bring Royal Roads offset the cost of creating and hosting all of these courses. MIT has solved by the maintenance costs by simply NOT maintaining their content (each of their courses is a snap-shot of the course in a single semester).

Social Impact

This is where your presentation is strongest as you clearly outline the enormous social impact open course ware has on society.


Your presentation was very strong and engaging. I watched it from end to end without taking breaks, so it held my attention nicely.


A very good proposal and I wish you luck in your presentation.

4 Carolann Fraenkel { 11.26.08 at 7:13 pm }

Hi Mary,

From a purely asthetic side, you had me hooked in the first few seconds with the photos of the campus. I had to go google to find out where it was. I liked the way you used photos and interspersed with video, it was a very effective and engaging presentation.

You effectively outline the pros and cons of open courseware and the social impact it has.

One item that was missing from the presentation is any kind of information about the costs of development and implementation. I don’t think I would have added it to the video (which was just about perfect) but some information on implementation – and awareness of the costs involved would have made it more credible from a business standpoint. Perhaps you provided that in your executive summary? Or the courses are already developed and just need to be hosted? On the business side is also site management and course management, who does it, is it integrated with current staff?

I would also wonder if there is a way to tie in the altruistic component with the vision and focus of the University? Is this a priority for your students or faculty?

An excellent proposal. Two thumbs up. You get my money.

(the baby was a nice touch. I was waiting for you to say something about the future of our world in the end when I saw her 🙂


5 Mary Burgess { 11.26.08 at 9:11 pm }

Thanks everybody for your feedback! A couple of things for your information – RRU offers most of its courses online, and we currently host two Moodle instances, one that is internal only, where our courses live, and one that is external. In order to share, all we’d have to do is put the internal courses on the external Moodle instance.

I agree with you Carolann about the cost discussion. The cost would be HR only for the most part, but when I make my pitch (tomorrow!), I’ll be speaking to that.

I showed the video to my team at work and they really liked it, and it was fun letting them in on what I’ve been doing. They also commented on my daughter stealing the show. As I told them, it wasn’t on purpose, she was getting into a lot of mud puddles and we’d been filming for about an hour at that point so holding her was the only way to exert some control, but it worked!

6 Jarrod Bell { 11.26.08 at 11:28 pm }

Hi Mary, here are my thoughts through your pitch. I had a pretty good idea where you were going with the leadership and innovation ideas, as I used them myself in my pitch, to say that RRU needs to continue and move forward showing leadership and going to open courses.

Gorgeous campus!

Clear benefit vs altruistic… I would hope people see these as the same thing as I do.

I liked your thinking on open courseware would lead to recruitment of students and faculty.

If your courses are open does that mean people can take them, or I as an educator can take your course you developed and use it in my strictly commercial school? (answered with your CC comments)

Very happy with the altruistic philosophy you have mentioned and the encouragement of informal learning.

Tuition = credentials…
You mentioned learning cohorts… if your course is open, can I not participate with the online cohort or is this a mater of just looking through the window but not being allowed in unless I use my key called tuition? I got the impression from one point that the cohort came with tuition. If this is not the case then having a glance at course material seems like a really thin demonstration. Being able to interact in the online cohort as we do in these courses would be what leads me to join and pay tuition. If I were only able to look but not touch it would feel simply like a google search or textbook learning.

A very good pitch but I would wonder about costs as well even though they may be a bit elusive to nail down in this kind of pitch, but how much traffic would you expect to see increase, more participation, a plan for a specific course and how it could be linked with a local high school for dual credit would be great to add.

I really hope you see success tomorrow Mary as I believe altruism is going to be a key to moving all of us forward.

Thanks I enjoyed it!


7 cwickes { 11.27.08 at 10:03 pm }

By this time you will have made your real pitch – I hope it was successful!
Your video was extremely effective & beautiful to watch. I felt that you covered most of the criteria in making a successful EVA pitch. It seemed to my inexperienced ears that the university management would find your pitch relevant as they seek ways to innovate and increase tuition paying customers. The investment requirements seemed a little vague to me but maybe I missed that part? I also wondered if you addressed having a supportive management team behind this venture already?
I will be interested to hear how it all turned out….

8 Jagpal Uppal { 11.28.08 at 12:16 am }

Hi Mary,

Like the rest of our colleagues, I thought you did an admirable job in outlining your pitch. I liked the presentation and how you incorporated pictures, text, and video clips. You definately kept my attention throughout the presentation, and some of the concerns that I had were addressed by you by the end of the presentation.

I think the idea of opencourseware is very intriguing and has the potential to revolutionize education. For life long learners, I think it is extremely beneficial, and for students looking to figure out which school to attend….this would also be a huge resource.

A question I have is: Opencourse software puts the course syllabus online and provides readings and notes online, but are the assignments also offered online? I am assuming as the course is not for credit that no one would mark those assignments?

Great pitch and presentation. I wish you luck with your venture.


PS – cute baby. I wonder what education will be like by the time that child is old enough to attend university.

9 Mary Burgess { 11.28.08 at 11:23 am }

Hi everyone and thanks so much for taking the time to review my pitch and provide your very valuable feedback! I had my meeting yesterday and it was successful! So my next step is to attend an Acadmic Management meeting next Wednesday with all the Deans to get them on board and then we’ll start identifying specific courses to put on our public site. I’m VERY EXCITED!!

And I really have to thank David and David because the materials in this course and learning with all of you made my pitch at work much stronger than it otherwise would have been.

10 Ellen Wu { 11.28.08 at 9:30 pm }

Hi Mary,

I’m glad that your pitch presentation was successful and that you’re on the way to implement your venture! This feedback might be a bit late, however, I really enjoyed your video. The slides highlighted the main points that you wanted to get across. You provided a great background intro to Royal Roads University and outlines many good reasons and benefits of creating OpenCourseWare. You posed many good questions like content licensing and tuition and provided great answers. Overall, great job and good luck!


11 Susan Wilson { 11.29.08 at 8:31 am }

Mary Burgess –

I enjoyed your proposal and gained trust in you as a representative of your venture based on your passion and enthusiasm. I thought that the practice of showing yourself through video helped EVAs “get to know you” better and held lend credibility to your pitch. You approach was also honest, you identified many questions and concerns then addressed them competently. Your images were beautiful and made me want to know more about your university. Be careful when placing text over images like that though, often it was difficult to read.

If I was a true investor, I would need more statistical information and projections though. How much traffic can your current infrastructure support? What will it cost to go open? How will you promote your venture? Are you prepared for additional enrollments? How many will you prepare for in the first year? What is my expected rate of return?

As I post, I read of your successful pitch – congratulations!! I expect to hear more of RRU in the future!

12 Melissa Anders { 11.29.08 at 6:05 pm }

Hi Mary,

Wow, Royal Roads has such a beautiful campus! Those pictures alone would be enough to make me want to register there, with or without testing out the courses through open course ware!
I think you did a good job of pointing out what is already out there and how it could be beneficial to the university. I was wondering though how much it would cost the university to go through the process of setting this up and if there are any projections as to how much this would increase registration. Is it financially worth it?

Hope your real pitch went well,


13 fetya { 11.30.08 at 5:03 am }

Hi Mary!

You provided a very clear explanation of opencourseware and it allowed me to follow the rest of the presentation easily. The presentation itself was visually appealing and I do appreciate being able to read and listen at the same time. Although sometimes the writing was hard to read on a photo background (wrong contrast colour). Being able to see you (and adorable baby) definitely contributed to a positive human touch.

I found the pitch in general to be very persuasive and the comparison to MIT is very useful in showing the potential of opencourseware. You’ve addressed all the concerns that came to my mind during the presentation.

Overall, very concise and well presented. Risks seem to have been considered and minimal at this point.

I would definitely support this idea. I hope you’ve had good luck in the real world 🙂

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