July BYU IS OCW Update

Two exciting bits of news from the ongoing BYU Independent Study OCW trial. There’ll be loads more data / graphs / etc. in our presentation at Open Ed 2009 next week.

First, things seem to be remarkably stable on the “conversion to paying customers” side of the study. Out of 9179 visitors to the OCW site, 270 have become paying customers of BYU IS (that’s 2.94%). This number is sticking right around 3%.

Second, the final cost data for converting BYU IS courses to OCW have come in. As you may recall, there are three high school courses and three university courses in the trial. Our strategy was to create automated transforms to do most of the work of reformatting courses for publication in BYU IS OCW, and do as little “by-hand” clean up as possible. (BYU IS owns the IP in its online courses, so there is no IP scrubbing to do.) Consequently, the first HS and the first university course have rather high conversion costs – because we billed the creation of the transformation scripts to the first course in each area. The course conversion costs are remarkably low:

High School Courses
GOVT 45: $5,204
EARTH 41: $1,204
GEOG 41: $1,142

University Courses
TMA 150: $3,485
BUS M 418: $320
SFL 110: $248

As a comparison point, MIT OCW estimates a cost of approximately $15,000 per course to publish syllabi and other materials used in teaching on-campus MIT classes. In contrast, the BYU IS OCW courses are complete courses designed from the beginning for online learning. With the transforms written and used a few times, we now know what it would cost if the decision were made to release more BYU IS courses as OCW in the future: about $1150 per high school course and about $250 per university course.

June BYU IS OCW Update

With two months of data in the door, the numbers keep getting better and better for our pilot at BYU Independent Study OCW. To date 7559 people have visited BYU IS OCW, and 232 of those people have enrolled in at least one course (they may have enrolled in more than one course, but we don’t have that data yet). That’s a conversion rate of just over 3%! Things continue to look very sustainable…


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…