a2k open content


Just a quick update on the BYU Independent Study OCW. A few weeks ago I gave the following initial status report:

So far the results are very positive – 85 of the 3500 people who visited the OCW site last month registered for for-credit courses. In other words, 2.4% of people who visited the OCW site during its first month became paying customers of BYU IS.

The latest data say that we have now had 5529 visitors to BYU IS OCW and that 136 of those visitors have enrolled in credit-bearing courses. In other words, 2.5% of the people who have visited the OCW site have become paying customers. Remarkably stable, eh?

I’ve said before the BYU IS is in a remarkable position because of its prior commitments to improve student affordability. For many years now the BYU IS course development model has been to build content-complete online courses from scratch (without licensing external resources or requiring students to purchase any textbooks or additional resources) in order to keep the cost down for students. The traditional online course financial model successfully supports this strategy. So, since BYU IS owns all the IP in its courses, conversion to OCW format and open licensing is ~very~ inexpensive.

The cost data are not final, but it looks like the last batch of semester-long, content-complete online courses converted to OCW cost about $1000 a piece to convert. That’s $1000 to put a semester-long, content-complete online course into OCW under an open license – all the development, maintenance, and update costs are paid for by the traditional online course business model. As the course conversion process is refined, there is still room for that cost to go down.

When you put the visitor conversion rate together with the course conversion cost, you have a recipe for an opencourseware initiative that can pay for itself forever and bless the lives of millions of people. These two kinds of conversion (visitor conversion rate and course conversion cost) aren’t the kind of “conversion” we traditionally associate with BYU, but they do seem to be ‘working together for good’ (D&C 90:24).

Those of you who know me know that my passion and commitment to the open education movement come from my faith. As this is a Sunday post, I’ll take the liberty of sharing some of the scriptures that influence my thinking about open education.

14. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

25. Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
28. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
33. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Ne 26:25-33)

The BYU IS OCW experiment continues, and I’ll keep updating you all on it…

a2k open content


BYU Independent Study (BYU IS) has launched its opencourseware pilot –!

University Courses

High School Courses

The pilot includes three university-level courses and three high school-level courses (BYU IS offers 250 university-level courses online for credit and another 250 high school-level courses online for credit). The courses in BYU IS OCW are content-complete – that is, they are the full courses as delivered online without the need of additional textbooks or other materials (only graded assessments have been removed).

This pilot is part of a dissertation study to measure the impact of OCW courses on paying enrollments. In other words, the study will answer questions like “Does providing access to OCW versions of courses undercut the market for the for-credit versions of the courses?” and “Can OCW versions of courses that can be taken for credit at a distance generate enough revenue (as a lead generation mechanism) to financially sustain an ongoing OCW effort?”

The study has been running about a month now, and so far the results are very positive – 85 of the 3500 people who visited the OCW site last month registered for for-credit courses. In other words, 2.4% of people who visited the OCW site during its first month became paying customers of BYU IS. Much more detailed analysis to come later this fall, but a quick back of the envelope calculation says that if this pattern remains stable, then BYU IS OCW will be financially self-sustainable with the ability to add and update a number of new courses to the collection each year, indefinitely, should they so choose. Exciting!!!