7.2 Organisational benefits
For The Open University as an organisation, OpenLearn has brought a range of further benefits. There has been a steady flow of students recruited whose first exposure to OU content has been through OpenLearn. It is estimated that several thousand students have now registered with the OU through OpenLearn, generating real value in fees. In addition, inquirers who first use OpenLearn turn out to be more likely to become a student than if they came through other routes such a press campaign, or following on from a co-produced television programme.
Other benefits can be harder to measure in financial terms
Identified within OpenLearn study, other benefits of OER have helped experimenting with technology, improved routes for collaboration, allowed testing of new elements of the curriculum, and led to further funded research or development projects.
The benefits of OpenLearn to the OU include:
- developing and extending the reputation of the University
- deepening and broadening the community
- contributing to the University’s information, advice, guidance, outreach and widening participation activities
- lessons and benefits gained from exposing and describing the OU’s content through OpenLearn
- the benefits of testing and experimenting with new technologies
- creating and nurturing strategic partnerships
- exploring, examining and improving organisational structures and processes
- enhancing and building upon research strengths.
(A more complete list of OpenLearn’s benefits to the OU can be found in the.)
The benefits described above are partly attributable to the OU being a distance learning organisation, so allowing it to attract new students directly. However, survey work carried out by MIT on its OpenCourseWare project has also demonstrated the potential for similar benefits, with a growing proportion of its users being motivated learners who use open content as a way to explore their options for further study.
Activity 16: what benefits for organisations?
The OpenLearn study shows the advantages of looking for all aspects of information from an OER programme. Planning an evaluation and looking for expected gains has so far been revealing. If you are considering an OER intervention, then spend some time to think of what aspects you might review in order to learn from the experience of offering OER. Itemise the factors and then compare them to the list in the discussion below.
Benefits that have the potential to be measured include:
- student recruitment and retention
- new partnerships/collaboration
- activities or projects supported through OER.
More often benefits are less tangible but clearly exist:
- opportunities to experiment
- development of staff
- low-level collaborations
- enhanced reputation.
Involvement in open education can also give a good feeling of being part of an international community.