Open Education Practices: A User Guide for Organisations/Marketing

Marketing in educational development edit


In contrast to traditional marketing approaches, educational engagement with social media can directly compliment marketing efforts in organisations. The educational benefits of marketing approaches which allocate resources to branding and brand awareness campaigns such as billboards, newspaper advertisements, 15 second television and radio commercials, sponsorship, calendars and diaries, a website, open days, visitations and international representations may not be realised. The effort and expense of promoting study at an institution by using glossy, promising messages may potentially be undone by a form of marketing which cannot be controlled: word-of-mouth through social media. Word of mouth messages go far and wide once the reality of the educational experience is apparent, therefore, sufficient resourcing to ensure the quality and delivery of the product is paramount. Social media has a vast and impressive potential not only for marketing but also for learning, research, education, and assessment.

This article sets out a proposal for ensuring marketing expenditure is used to improve the quality of teaching resources, while at the same time achieving significant results in the brand and awareness objectives that marketing departments traditionally engage in.

For example, if the money that is typically spent on a billboard, is used to produce and publish a series of video recorded lectures, panels, interviews or mini documentaries, with added branding information normally used on the billboard, they can be uploaded to Youtube. The views and response rates will be significantly higher than for a billboard. If the lecture videos are packaged with links to readings and resources, timetables, assignments and assessment criteria in courses, they can be easily accessed as free resources on popular social media channels, and used for self directed study. If reduced fees are offered to people who are using these open educational resources for self directed study for assessment and certification services, there is an immediate and complimentary relationship between marketing resources and educational development using online social media. The benefits are substantial.

By rethinking marketing expenditure, and educational services in this way, an educational institution's marketing department is not only generating glossy, promising messages and brand awareness, they are also helping lecturers to produce glossy educational resources as well, and helping communities to find better access to information for both formal and informal learning.

The point of difference edit

Producing open educational resources is not new. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Open Courseware was an early mover in this direction - but criticised for the quality and depth of their resources. Many other universities have set up open education initiatives (Wikipedia, 2010). However, few of these universities are taking advantage of the full opportunity before them, using popular channels of social media for education instead of centralising their efforts on their own web spaces.

Use media that is free for reuse edit

It is feasible, given the right librarian support, that a teacher can prepare readings and educational resources free from copyright restrictions. There is a multitude of open resources available. For example, three and a half million, and counting, English Wikipedia articles, seven and a half million, and counting, multimedia resources in Wikimedia Commons, 36 million, and counting, free images on Flickr Creative Commons, as well as countless video and audio on the Internet Archive, and still more resources available on the Internet which can be found via the Creative Commons Search. It is necessary to develop a method for surveying and monitoring free content in specific subject areas as it is added and updated. A simple Internet search will not yield helpful results, whereas subscribing to search results, and networking with others who also monitor the subject area, will help grow libraries of free and reusable content - using a variety of subject-specific Commons. Investments and returns on content production can be much better estimated and targeted when a solid awareness of the strengths and weaknesses in having a number of subject-specific Commons becomes apparent.

Add Creative Commons edit

An All Rights Reserved default for copyright permissions is generally how copyright is typically managed in educational institutions. This makes it difficult for staff to use more permissive licenses, and there may be no procedures in place for staff to deal with commercialisation and intellectual property (IP) challenges surrounding their work. Ideally, when an education institution reviews policies on intellectual property, it needs to add a clause that enables and supports staff who want to use Creative Commons copyright licensing arrangements. Following Otago Polytechnic's lead of using an open IP policy, it is best to set Creative Commons Attribution (CC By) as the default copyright license recommended by the institution. Additionally, this needs to include a process for staff and partners to opt-out, and restrict copyrights if they need to - leading to consultation around commercialisation, protections or perhaps education on the benefits of licensing for reuse. This approach works to the benefit of any Commercialisation Unit or IP Unit that the institution may have, or may be considering, because the opt-out process works to alert the unit thus helping them manage their work more effectively. By defaulting to a Creative Commons Attribution license, with an opt-out process, anyone who decides against using an Attribution only license, would be contacted by staff from the IP Unit or Commercialisation Unit who assist with the application of copyright restrictions, and can help to progress alternative processes for the intellectual property.

The development of five showcase courses edit

Changing the IP policy to one that gives options for open education and research practices will generate public attention, but if there is little or no follow-through this will only undo the benefits of that attention once people realise the shallowness of the development. In many ways, this is a weakness in the work done at Otago Polytechnic around the IP policy. To date there has been little progress in coordinating library, marketing and IT services effectively to support teachers and researchers to take their work into a more public arena. Yet, despite the necessary support, an analysis of their effort to use social media to produce open educational resources and practices, revealed a 50% return in the first year of the investment.

"It cost Otago Polytechnic $4 000 to properly train one teacher/researcher how to effectively use popular social media in their work, and in the first year that teacher/researcher generated a return of $8 000 worth of marketing, infrastructural savings and quality improvements to their work."

With such a return it is arguable that a greater investment can be made. Perhaps one that involves a commitment to resource production expenses as well as the support and development needed by staff, and improved ICT and administration services which compliment rather than limit the use of popular social media. A strategic investment could leverage even greater returns than what has already been demonstrated as a result of the efforts of a small number of motivated individuals.

Any institution could start by identifying at least five examples of courses for educational development, and produce them using an open education model. This development would involve re-design, resource production, staff training and intensive support. The objective would be to bring staff members to a point where they can work independently with the materials and media in an enhanced and publicly accessible course.


A production schedule and budget for developing one open course is presented by Leigh Blackall. This is a budget for producing high quality learning resources, published to popular social media channels, and for preparing a teacher to run the course openly online for at least three instances of the course. The budget also includes costs for evaluation processes associated with the design, development and implementation of the open course, including the effectiveness of the materials, the achievement of learning outcomes and teacher and student satisfaction.

Production team
  • Teacher - a content expert who is an open education practitioner, and has an interesting angle to exploit.
  • Educational developer - a teacher trainer and mentor who understands effective educational design in an open environment, and can provide liaison with the production team. This person understands the bigger picture, the constraints on the teacher's time, the design and production process, and can use a range of technology to an expert level.
  • Librarian - an individual who understands Web 2.0 social networking approaches, and has a high level of digital information literacy.
  • Treatment and script writer - a highly creative individual who is a lateral thinker, outside the box, and is knowledgeable and up to date with social media and open education, and able to script content imaginatively in a pedagogically sound manner.
  • Director and production manager - an organised person and lateral thinker who is able to run on a tight budget with minimal resources, while being creative.
  • Camera and sound operator, and editor - this person is skilled with camera and sound recording, has an eye for detail and quality, and is fast working with a 'one take' approach.
  • Graphic designer and social media developer - this individual has a strong online communication prescence and experience with skills in HTML, CSS and MediaWiki skills. This person understands open education and the philosophy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Researcher - a person who has strong research evaluation skills to lead the evaluation processes.

Production schedule
  1. An initial meeting is held between the teacher, educational developer, treatment and script writer and director to establish a creative approach to the course that is to be developed.
  2. A treatment and script is drafted, and a 'mock-up' is developed for review with stakeholders (teachers, students, managers, marketing, industry etc.) before settling on the approach.
  3. A course website is developed to document the production and to eventually become the main site for the course.
  4. The graphic designer begins branding the site.
  5. The course outline is loaded to the open platform selected for the venture (e.g., WikiEducator, Wikiversity, WikiBooks etc.). The online presence for the course is simple and integrated into related pages across WikiMedia Foundation projects.
  6. The librarian uses Delicious social bookmarking and Zontero to create an online library of resources for the topics in the course, periodically posting annotations about the resources to the Delicious stream for the course.
  7. The teacher reviews the resources and adds any of use, preferably via an RSS feed, to the course Wiki.
  8. A production schedule is developed according to the teacher's time allocation for developing the course, and preferably before the course is taught.
  9. Videos, audio recordings, photos and slide presentations are produced and published to social media sites. For example:, Internet Archive, Youtube, Slideshare, Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. All descriptions about the resources link to the course website. All media is bookmarked to Delicious, blogged about and tweeted (on Twitter).
  10. The wandiki is updated with links to recorded media, and supporting texts are developed (transcripts, user guides, and activities etc.)
  11. The course is finally packaged with promotion videos, graphic design material, the website, using a stable wiki platform, and distributed media which has been produced.
  12. Training and support is provided to the teacher, and is given for the duration of the first iteration of the open course.

  • Teacher - $50 per hour - 60hrs additional to normal teaching and preparation = $3 000 - see notes below.
  • Librarian - $50 per hour - 20hrs = $1 000.
  • Educational developer - $50 per hour - 60hrs = $3 000.
  • Treatment and script writer - $100 per hour - 20hrs = $2 000.
  • Director and production manager - $50 per hour - 40hrs = $2 000.
  • Camera, sound and editor - $50 per hour - 100hrs = $5 000.
  • Graphic designer and social media developer - $100 per hour - 50hrs = $5 000.
  • Researcher - $50 per hour - 40hrs = $2 000.
  • Research evaluation costs - $500.
  • Catering - $500.
  • Materials - $500.
  • Contingency - $1 000.
  • Total = $25 500.

Disclaimer: the hours and the costs in the budget are an approximation and will vary. This is not necessarily a model of production for open education supported by Otago Polytechnic. However, in an endeavor to produce high quality and marketable showcase courses this approach is probably necessary.

Notes: the time for the teacher is reliant on the amount of time spent on reviewing resources found by the librarian, and materials produced by the team. The more time a teacher spends on the development of his or her skills and capability in accessing and managing digital information, and learning to use technologies and strategies for an open education model, the less reliant he or she will be on others in the future.

Reasons to use popular social media edit

There are a number of reasons for using popular social media sites. Exposure to a wider audience is guaranteed, and a well-packaged course can be used, not only to market an individual or an organisation, but also to attract both formal students who enroll, and informal participants who may enroll at a later date. For example, Harvard Law has twice presented open courses well packaged around popular social media. Firstly, in 2008, with their Law in the Court of Public Opinion - where they used, Second Life, a Wiki and a Blog to run the course for formal and informal enrollments simultaneously. Secondly, in 2010, with Justice - a course heavily reliant on Youtube to present a TV-like series around the subject.

In comparison, leading open educational initiatives like MIT Open Courseware, Utah State University and Johns Hopkins University use their own web spaces for educational media although it is available freely online. This approach undoubtedly misses a large majority of people using the Internet for informal learning, as they browse through more popular channels for information such as Youtube and Wikipedia. Closer to home is the University of New South Wales on Youtube, where it features some of its better lectures.

None of these examples, however, are sophisticated in their use of social media, nor do any of them go beyond mere marketing, such as linking the media to actual teaching and assessment, and opportunities for formal and informal learning in an open environment. Many authors speak of cautions around using social media for marketing; for example, Andreas Kaplan states, in Users of the world, unite "Choosing the right medium for any given purpose depends on the target group to be reached and the message to be communicated."

A better approach to social media edit

There are many benefits for open educational practitioners in packaging and publishing quality material and learning experiences across popular social media channels. It is an excellent way for them to show case their work, and the work of the organisation, while raising their individual profile globally. One way to do this packaging and distribution is to record 'lectures' (in the broader understanding of the term - including panel discussions, interviews and mini documentaries) on a range of topics, and link them to supporting study material, and assessment schedules. When 'lectures' are produced for authenticity, and are short and engaging, they are useful to people studying the subject for interest as well as for certification. Videos of 'lectures' can be loaded to Youtube, both on the lecturer's channel and on the institution's channel and playlist, with copies spread across other video sites such as, and backed up on the National Archive or library website. Youtube becomes the focal point for the video material.

As well as producing a video series, each course uses a Wiki page (e.g., WikiEducator or Wikiversity) and lists the schedule of topics. It is necessary to ensure that all readings and resources have copyright release for use on Wikiversity, or are at least openly available online. The Wiki page also includes instructions for the assignments and the assessment criteria. If a textbook is used in the course, the textbook, if possible, could be added to Wikibooks, with a print version available under normal royalty arrangements. This work is ideally done in the spirit of collaboration, with the institution positioning itself as one of potentially many providers of teaching and assessment services that compliment the Wiki study materials. Once complete, a link to these pages can be placed on all related Wikipedia articles, and Youtube videos, and other prominent websites.

Each course needs a website where all the resources are gathered and compiled in one central place. Links to this website are included in the description text for all the videos and wiki pages. This website is primarily used for announcements and updates on the course and its development, as well as notes, examples and feedback on work submitted by people undertaking study in the course. A Blog is ideal for use as a course website, and simple to set up and maintain.

Position assessment and certification services for new 'markets' edit


The courses that are packaged and published this way need to be designed in such a way to be useful both to people interested in learning, as well as people seeking assessment and certification services. In other words, the stated learning objectives, assignments and assessment criteria need to be aligned and robust enough for both self-directed (informal) learners using the open educational resources independently, as well as for learners who have enrolled (formal), and are seeking teaching and learning support services while they study.

Informal learners can simply engage with the materials, and where appropriate participate in the discussions and forums, and perhaps gain access to laboratories and equipment as a fee-for-service arrangement, and complete and submit assignments for assessment. Assessment and certification services can take place when a person enrolls in the course, which essentially takes place when the informal participant is confident of a completion. By making it possible to enroll on completion, there may be a positive impact on performance indicators such as retention and completion rates which have an impact on funding for the course. Therefore, only those participants who are likely to complete are enrolling for assessment services, and 100% completion rates are possible. It is also likely there will be very high satisfaction and continuation rates, not to mention more successful and motivated students engaging in fee paying services.

This open educational design aims to attract people already in full time work, and aiming to make career changes. For example, there may be parents seeking distant and self paced study options, or people in regional and remote areas reluctant or unable to relocate to a city for study. Potential participants may be experienced and/or self-directed learners seeking recognition for their knowledge and skills, or local and international people looking for less expensive study and certification options. As yet, most universities do very little in identifying and servicing this sort of demand.

As long as the developments compliment the needs of the enrolled students, development for open educational options will simply expose an organisation to possible new 'markets'. By engaging marketing resources and librarian support in improving media and resources used for teaching and learning, and ensuring the materials are publicly available using social media, not only is there an improvement to services for existing students, but new 'markets' are serviced as well.

Train and support teaching staff edit

As mentioned previously in the guidebook in Measuring Open Education, the return on investment if training and supporting teaching staff to use open educational practices is cost effective and well worth the effort. The calculations associated with the return on investment are described in the section about Gains, savings and costs.

Building capability and skills in using digital information effectively is essential if staff are to become open educational practitioners, and develop the dispositions required to participate actively and collaboratively in rapidly changing digital environments (Hegarty et al, 2010). For example, open content and mobile computing are expected to become mainstream by 2011, and electronic books are increasingly being used for education (Johnson, Levine, Smith & Stone, 2010). "Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession", but there is still much work to be done in providing relevant professional development which will help to change belief patterns and practices to accommodate the trends in technologies for teaching and learning (Johnson et al, 2010, p. 5).

Summary edit

Therefore, organisational strategies for supporting open educational practices are key, not only for harnessing the marketing opportunities which open content presents, but also to help educational institutions to actively participate in the provision of learning which meets the demands of 21st Century workers. More and more people are needing to access education flexibly when they need it, and in ways which enable them to retain their jobs and lifestyles (Johnson et al, 2010). There is also a lot of pressure on educational organisations to cut costs, therefore, they are seeking cost-effective approaches to teaching and learning. The proposal offered here is one approach which can do this. It is based on research involving staff practices, and includes the calculation of the return on investment for Otago Polytechnic when using open educational practices.

References edit

Hegarty, B., Penman, M., Kelly, O., Jeffrey, L., Coburn, D. & McDonald, J. (2010). Digital Information Literacy: Supported Development of Capability in Tertiary Environments. New Zealand: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved November 2010 from

Wikipedia. (2010). OpenCourseWare. Retrieved from