RRU Open Courseware Pitch

To open with full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Open Courseware (OCW), Creative Commons licensing, and the notion of free knowledge.  However, as an Educational Venture Analyst I would have to turn down the Royal Roads University (RRU) proposal based on the pitch.

One of the main thrusts of the pitch is that opening RRU courses will raise the university’s profile.  MIT OCW became widely known because they were MIT – they already had a significant global profile.  Has the profile of the Dixie State College of Utah (also an OCW member) been raised since they started opening their online courses?  Burgess gives little data about the affect opening their courseware has had on other institutions nor does she address the technical requirements or costs of this initiative.

Burgess (2008) also makes the bold claim that “being open can really help us with learner recruitment”.  However, MIT’s freshman enrollment before OCW was approximately 1050 students (Arnaout, 2000).  The freshman enrollment eight years after OCW?  1051 students (MIT, 2009).  Perhaps there are other recruitment metrics Burgess is anticipating for the small university but she doesn’t mention any.

While I appreciate Burgess’s passion for a very noble venture, the pitch simply did not establish sufficient details on the benefit to the institution to warrant pursuing.

Arnaout, R. (2000).  MIT Cuts Size of Class of 2004 To Prepare for Housing Crunch.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from http://tech.mit.edu/V120/N8/8enroll.8n.html

Burgess, M. (2008).  ETEC522 Assignment 3.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1avzWv3_JDw

MIT (2009).  MIT Facts.  Retrieved September 16, 2009 from http://web.mit.edu/facts/enrollment.html


1 davidp { 09.17.09 at 11:49 am }

See my comments about OCW pitches here –>


Good points. OCW ventures are indeed speculative from an enrolment management perspective, underscored by the data you have provided. Due diligence is the hallmark of the successful EVA.

And, your time wll come to be on the pitching end, Jeff.


2 Stuart Edgar { 09.17.09 at 5:17 pm }

Hi, Jeff.
I think that Mary Burgess was claiming that it would enhance the reputation of the university, which I believe is different from raising its profile. You can enhance the reputation of the university among those who already know about you. What do you think?

3 Jeff Laird { 09.17.09 at 7:21 pm }

Fair enough, Stuart; I can see the prospect of reputation building. However, I think that MIT was already well known as being an innovative and cutting edge institution who then scored big points by taking the revolutionary step of opening its courseware.

Burgess even states that RRU is insular and not as well known – being unrepresented at conferences and presentation. I think that there may be better endeavors for enhancing the reputation of a supposedly leading-edge university than by spending a lot of time and effort playing catchup to what 200 other institutions are already doing.

This is not to say that I don’t want RRU to open their courseware – I would love it if everyone did; I’m just not sold on the pitch.

4 OCW as Enrollment Enhancer « { 09.18.09 at 10:42 am }

[…] 18, 2009 · Leave a Comment Jeff Laird has a new post discussing the use of OCW as means of increasing enrollment. Laird argues that MIT OCW has not done […]

5 Brian Powell { 09.18.09 at 11:47 pm }

Open courseware initiatives do have a cost. Utah State University’s OpenCourseWare project shut down; however, it could be because the project’s champion, David Wiley, left and the funding went with him. I came across this because I get Stephen Downes feeds.

Downes, S. (2009). Utah State U.’s OpenCourseWare Closes Because of Budget Woes. Retrieved September 18, 2009 from

6 Jeff Laird { 09.21.09 at 6:51 pm }

Excellent article, thanks Brian. Interesting the mention of how this project closed for sustainability reasons. At $120,000 per year to run a project like this there better be a pretty big tangible benefit to an institution when you look at what you can get for that kind of money (that’s a couple of support staff or an enrolling professor).

Link was down so here is a mirror http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Utah-State-Us-OpenCourseWare/7913/

7 Jeff Laird { 09.21.09 at 6:52 pm }

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