The OCWC Value Proposition

In response to yesterday’s post, OCWC President Steve Carson left a link in the comment section to the organization’s 2010-2011 strategic plan. Reading through the plan provided a number of insights, but let me focus on two here and you can read the rest of the document for yourself.

First, the OCWC budget for 2010 is $1,000,000.

Second, the document includes a section called “Value Proposition to Members,” which includes the following explanation:

OCW Consortium currently offers educational institutions the following benefits:

OCWC membership…
• Provides an opportunity to fully participate in an international movement to increase access to education and knowledge, and to attract potential students to member institutions.
• Helps OCW proponents at member institutions in making a case for OpenCourseWare investment to university decision makers, funders and faculty
• Brings down the cost of creating and maintaining an OCW site
• Helps people all over the world learn about and find member institutions’ OCW websites courses
• Provides an opportunity to fully participate in the development of, and gain early knowledge of, toolkit innovations
• Provides the ability to participate in, and gain economies of scale in, the collaborative development of OCW Software
• Provides favorable publicity about member institutions’ role in the OCW movement and in the OCWC
• Provides a facilitated opportunity to learn best practices from other member institutions
• Provides first access to strategic alliances and collaborations with other member institutions
• Reduces the cost of participation in OCWC conferences for members

OCWC membership could…
• Support the generation of research funding at member institutions
• Support the rational management of course-related intellectual property at member institutions
• Attract funding for Open Courseware-related projects at member institutions with OCW sites
• Provide OCW-related technical infrastructure and support to member institutions

So now, with an overview of the value proposition, you can decide for yourself how good a value the OCWC is to the open education movement for $1,000,000 / year.

P.S. OCWC – please add this “Why You Should Join” list on your website where interested people can find it!

4 thoughts on “The OCWC Value Proposition”

  1. You are applying the wrong question to the list above. You equate the value proposition for members of the Consortium to value of the Consortium to the movement (however that might be defined). The correct question to apply to the list above is “Is it worth the cost of membership, which currently runs between $50 and $500 dollars?” which is an important question for the Consortium, certainly a debatable question, and ultimately an empirically testable one. As it stands now, it appears the overwhelming majority of current members are answering in the affirmative and paying the dues. Time will tell if the Consortium can continue to build value for current members, attract new ones, and achieve sustainability.

    As for the value of the Consortium to the movement, that is largely a question for the membership, funders and sponsors of the Consortium to judge, and again, it can and will be tested empirically. If the funding doesn’t show up in the future, we’ll know the value–or the perceived value–isn’t there. One measure, I suppose, is to take the current budget for the Consortium (actually $750,000 not $1 M–yes, $1 M was approved in the Strategic Plan, but ultimately we decided we could and should work at a lower budget to preserve funding) and to hypothetically apply it as you say to directly funding courses.

    Say we could get courses produced at $5 K per course, that would fund about 150 courses each year. The question then becomes, does the support and advocacy of the Consortium’s work result in more or less than 150 total courses published each year that otherwise would not have been published? It’s a debatable question as well, and less testable, but even if the Consortium can claim a small fraction of the thousands of new courses each year would not have otherwise been published, then it would seem a pretty good bargain.

    Here is a breakdown of total courses available from OCWC members by year (self reported):

    2005 – 1,504
    2006 – 3,470
    2007 – 5,162
    2008 – 8,226
    2009 – 12,953

    Over the course of those 5 years, the Consortium has received a total of about $1.75 M in support, or enough to publish 350 courses.

    Anyway, as I’ve said above, I think these are important questions for the movement, and questions the Consortium will have to answer to the satisfaction of its members and funders in order to be successful.

  2. Does the consortium publish courses, too (like curriki), independent of university? I have like 8 or so courses I published myself – I’d like them recognized or incorporated into a database of opencourseware. I kept asking to have them included in my university’s OCW to no avail, and now it’s got no budget.

    According to your post, it costs the consortium $5000 to publish each course? Other than reviewing for licensing issues, I don’t really see why a budget is needed.

    Take my course, please 🙂

  3. Doug,

    Sorry, at present we don’t publish independently. The $5,000 above is a hypothetical that assumes staff and technology costs similar to those at universities that do publish. For a while, Utah State University hosted an OpenOCW site where individuals could post their own materials, but I think it became unsupported and was taken offline. I think the Consortium might revive it at some point, which would give you a place to post your own materials, though you’d have to do your own legwork to ensure you had permission to post all third-party materials.


  4. David,

    I think, there is a fallacy in your argument.

    At first you display a list of “Value Proposition to Members” and after the list you ask people to evaluate the list’s “value” to the “open education movement”. That is wrong.

    I think the University OCWs and the OCWC are infrastructure projects. This does not mean that we should not ask questions related to value proposition or even to return of investment. However, with infrastructure we know that the return of investment may come later than what was expected and often it is something that is hard to measure in monetary terms: better health, wellbeing, knowledge.

    I think in the case of OCWC the value proposition to the University members is pretty clear, and if it will anyhow (technical infrastructure, knowhow, examples, moral support) help the members to maintain their OCW projects it will have a huge impact to the open education movement globally.

    At the moment OCWC and the Wikimedia Foundation are the only international organizations promoting open education globally.

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