Case Studies/The Impact of OpenCourseWare On Paid Enrollment In Distance Learning Courses

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Adoption date unspecified
ocw, sustainability, research, study, BYU, OER


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First research study providing data articulating that a distance learning program can simultaneously (1) provide a significant public good by publishing opencourseware and (2) be revenue positive while doing it.


Justin K. Johansen Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology Doctor of Philosophy

Dissertation abstract:

Since MIT launched the first OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative in 2002, responses from the academic community have ranged from exuberance to angst. Some institutions have been reluctant to adopt a program of open publishing because of concerns about long-term funding and possible adverse effects on paid enrollment. Money is an issue, forcing some organizations that initially created OCW programs to furlough them due to funding challenges.

This study examined the cost of converting online distance learning courses to OCW, the impact of opening these courses on paid enrollments, and the long-term sustainability of OCW through the generation of new paid enrollments. As part of this study, Brigham Young University’s Independent Study Program (BYU IS) converted three university and three high school courses to OCW. BYU IS provided an option for OCW users to pay regular tuition and enroll in the online course for credit. The average ongoing cost to convert BYU IS courses to OCW was $284.12 per university course and $1,172.71 per high school course. The six opened courses generated 13,795 visits and 445 total paid enrollments in four months. The profit margin on the paid enrollments OCW generated was calculated to be 3.81% for open publishing to be financially self-sustaining at BYU Independent Study.

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