Open courseware as a viable business model?

Studying a college major without the increasingly pricey tuition and rising student fees has become appealing for traditional students fresh out of high school and nontraditional students hoping to bolster their resume during a slumping economy—a trend that has ballooned enrollment numbers at community colleges and research universities alike in the past two years.

“If a student takes a statistics course and [realizes] that he loves it, he might then chose to explore that as a degree,” Young said, adding that he switched majors in the middle of his college education, costing him time and money. “I think that is a great idea so that students get acquainted with the school and would consider going there or taking some of their for-credit courses.”

The costs of converting university courses to an open online format vary from campus to campus.

MIT spends up to $15,000 to make a course available for free after securing license agreements, collecting materials from faculty members, and formatting those materials for easy use online, according to the university’s web site. MIT courses that incorporate online video cost about twice as much to include in the university’s open courseware menu. MIT OpenCourseWare has an annual budget of about $3.5 million.

The process is also time consuming. MIT estimates that it takes 100 hours to produce an open courseware class.

Jason Baker, a professor of education in Regent University’s online program, said attracting new students isn’t open courseware’s only financial advantage. Open content models can also coax donations from alumni.

“I would think that giving alumni a chance to learn more from a favorite professor for free would enhance a university’s relationship with its graduates and potentially promote increased giving,” Baker said.

MIT’s OpenCourseWare web site says that more than half of alumni polled said they use the site for “one or more educational purposes.”


BYU open courseware study

MIT OpenCourseWare

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