Making the Case

An OpenCourseWare initiative aligns closely with the educational and public service missions of a non-profit institution of higher learning. More importantly, such an effort also resonates deeply with faculty who have a passion for teaching and who have dedicated their lives to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. Making the case for OpenCourseWare is thus a matter of articulating the value of OpenCourseWare to these and a variety of other interested groups at your institution.

There are a number of different approaches one can take to making the case for OCW, and the best approaches are those that best fit the individual character of your institution. We will start with some general concepts and practices before presenting a menu of options from which you can make your own selections. It may be helpful to think of yourself as making not one, but several cases for OCW, according to the concerns of your audience.

Benefits for users and for global society

Your audiences all will value OpenCourseWare’s advancement of knowledge by providing resources for educators, students and self-learners. Such users may draw upon OCW for teaching purposes, for advising or for their own personal knowledge development. OCW resources may be particularly helpful for people in regions where poverty, geography or warfare complicate access to formal learning. Furthermore, opening educational resources to the world creates a learning environment with greater freedom for user innovation, customization and intellectual risk-taking than is afforded in traditional settings where grading and accountability is the order of the day.

OpenCourseWare has no exclusive claim to global educational benefit. Thus we should recognize that:

  • reasonable and well-intentioned people will raise legitimate concerns about launching an OpenCourseWare effort and
  • pragmatic arguments may be needed in order to distinguish OpenCourseWare from other, equally-altruistic options.

Proponents of OCW thus must be prepared to address reservations about such issues as cost, erosion of distance education revenues, drain on faculty time, intellectual property, and other issues. Fortunately, we are including in this toolkit a list of strategies for addressing Frequently Cited Challenges. One benefit of involvement in the OCW Consortium is the opportunity to share such strategies.

Getting Started

Before you even begin to assemble the specific cases you will make for an OCW project at your institution, take some time to think about your institution’s individual character. Some interrelated questions you might ask yourself (and your colleagues) include:

  • What are the most significant aspects of your institution’s mission and culture?
  • What are your institution’s explicit short and long-term goals?
  • What are your institution’s explicit concerns?
  • What OCW-relevant processes does your institution already have in place?
  • What is likely to be the most effective scope of an OCW project at your institution?
  • What are likely to be the “pain points” for your institution?

An OCW project can attract many different benefits to your institution, advancing your institutional mission, stimulating innovation, and generating alumni and community pride. The answers you make to the questions above will influence your choice of which benefits to emphasize. Those answers will also help you address those concerns which are most central to your institution.

Meanwhile, there are a number of practical steps you can begin to take:

  • Assemble an Information Packet about your proposed initiative
  • Get to know other people at your institution who are involved with developments in education and educational technology
  • Promote increased use of Open Educational Resources at your institution
  • Review available evaluation tools for compiling statistics about your site; its number of hits, where users are coming from
  • Talk with us about formal partnerships.

In taking such steps, you are both preparing yourself to make the case for OCW and preparing your audience to hear what you have to say.

Presentations

There are many practical benefits for the provider/publisher of an OpenCourseWare initiative, and how you present the idea of OCW to your institution depends greatly on who you are and what part of your institution has given you its attention at any given moment. We have assembled below a collection of presentations you might make to different constituencies with different concerns. Each should be customized to fit the situation at your institution, and we encourage you to mix and match the slides to suit your audience:

  • Making the Case to Higher Administration (1.29 MB) – having the higher administration behind your OCW project not only provides access to institutional resources but also assures other participants that the institution values their OCW efforts. This presentation focuses on ways in which OCW advances the institutional mission, stimulates innovation, and generates alumni and community pride.
  • Making the Case to the Mid-Level Administration (4.23 MB) – having the mid-level administration behind your OCW project helps secure cooperation among different departmental and other units responsible for getting work done on your OCW project. This presentation focuses on ways in which OCW showcases departments’ offerings, enhances faculty and student recruitment, accelerates adoption of digital materials in teaching, and fosters collaboration among faculty.
  • Making the Case to the Faculty (2.86 MB) – a key factor for success of an OpenCourseWare initiative is to ensure that a core group of faculty stand squarely behind the effort and can serve as champions of the idea. This presentation focuses on ways in which OCW provides a new vehicle for contributing to faculty members’ discipline, affords greater visibility for themselves and their work, provides a valuable service to faculty for enhancing the presentation of course materials, provides an information resource and embraces faculty values.
  • Making the Case to the Information Technology Team (8.14 MB) – whether you host your own OCW site or opt for an external hosting service, IT will often be charged with the technical implementation of your OCW site (or sites). This presentation focuses on addressing cost, maintenance, security and support issues an IT team might encounter with an OCW project. Providing hard data and giving IT a solid sense of the scope of the implementation from the outset will reduce anxiety. Additionally, this presentation describes some of the IT benefits of doing OCW, such as standardizing a process by which course materials can be published externally, and reducing support calls due to password issues. The goal is to make IT a true partner in your effort.