It just so happens that social media has a vast and impressive potential for learning, research, education .. and even assessment. A marketing driven engagement with social media brings them into a direct compliment to teaching and research efforts at the University. This post sets out a proposal on how marketing expenditure can be used to improve the quality of media and teaching resources, while at the same time achieving significant brand awareness objectives that marketing departments traditionally engag in.
Take the $5000-10000 that is typically spent on a billboard, use it to produce and publish a series of lectures, panels, interviews, mini documentaries, add the branding information that you would have on the billboard, and upload to Youtube. The views and response rates will be significantly higher than a billboard. Go further, package the lecture videos with links to openly accessible readings and resources, as well as the assignments and assessment criteria, and make it available for free on the popular social media channels, and offer reduced fee-based assessment and certification services to people who are using these open educational resources for self directed study. By rethinking marketing expenditure, and educational services in this way, we are not only generating glossy promising messages, but delivering glossy promising products as well, linked to user pay services that are more clearly in our mid to long term 'business' (and education) interests.
The point of difference for the University of Canberra
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, none are taking advantage of the full opportunity before them. UC has an opportunity to be 'first to market' and with real points of difference...
Add Creative Commons to the Intellectual Property Policies
As UC reviews it policies on IP, it needs to add a clause that enables and supports staff who want to use Creative Commons licensing arrangements. I hope UC will go further, following Otago Polytechnic's lead and set Creative Commons Attribution as the default recommended copyright license over outputs from the University, with a process in place for restricting copyrights down from that. This actually works in the interest of a Commercialisation Unit or IP Unit in the university as they try to monitor and manage IP being generated. By defaulting to CC By with an opt-out process, anyone who wishes to apply copyright restrictions down from the default CC By, would need to see the Unit to apply whichever restriction they think is necessary. This assists in the 'better' management of IP at the university and captures anything that does have real commercial possibilities. As copyright is managed at present, All Rights are Reserved by default, and no real procedure with an incentive exists that involves a unit like a Commercialisation Unit or IP Unit.
If UC were to adopt CC By as a default, this will generate a vast amount of media and industry attention. UC would become the first Australian tertiary learning organisation in to move towards open education and research. It would be the 2nd in the Southern Hemisphere, following only Otago Polytechnic. UC can also take the advantage in the moral delima by taking practical steps towards returning access to publicly funded research outputs, where they are presently caught up in a publishing cycle that closes that access and sees large profits going out to offshore publishers.
Assign resources to the development of 5 show piece units
In many ways, this was the weakness in the work at Otago Polytechnic. It has so-far been unable to coordinate library, marketing and IT services effectively to adequately support teachers and researchers taking their work to an international arena. Yet, despite this absence of support, an analysis of their effort reveals a 125% return in the first year of their investment.
It cost $4000 to properly train 1 teacher/researcher how to effectively use popular social media for their work, and in the first year each person would generate over $9000 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. One that involves production promotion expenses from marketing, support and development from the library, improved ICT and admin services. An investment like this could well leverage even greater returns than Otago Polytecnnic's largely uncoordinated and unsupported efforts by a few motivated individuals.
UC should identify at least 5 units for development and packaging as open education units. This development involves resource production, teaching staff training and intensive support with the objective to bring the staff member up to a point where they are able to independently work with the materials and media in an enhanced and publicly accessible unit.
Use popular social media
As well as the video series, each unit takes a Wikiversity page and lists the topic schedule ensuring all readings and resources have copyright release for use on Wikiversity, or are at least openly available online. This page includes the assignments and assessment criteria. If a text is used in the unit, the text should be loaded into Wikibooks, with a print version available under normal royalty arrangements. This work should be done in the spirit of collaboration, with UC 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 the related Wikipeia pages.
Each unit has a course website where all these 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.
Position assessment and certification services for new 'markets'
Self directed learners can simply engage with the materials, where appropriate - discussions and forums, even gain access to labs and equipment as a fee-for-service arrangement, and complete and submit assignments for assessment. Assessment and certification services can take place when that person enrolls in the course. That enrollment essentially takes place when they are confident of a completion. Front loading a course, making it possible to enroll on completion, obviously has a positive impact on performance indicators that impact funding to the course - such as completion rates. Only those who are have effectively completed, are enrolling for assessment services.. in other words 100% completion rates, and quite likely very high satisfaction and continuation rates, not to mention better student profiles engaging in fee paying services.
This design aims to attract people already in full time work and struggling to make necessary career changes. To parents seeking distant and self paced study options. To people in regional and remote areas reluctant or unable to relocate to Canberra for study. To experienced and/or self directed learners seeking recognition for their knowledge and skills. To 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 existing up-front enrolled students, then this development will simply open UC units to possible new 'markets'. Obviously by engaging marketing resources and librarian support in improving media and resources used for teaching and learning, with those resources being publicly available in the style I've outlined above, there is not only an improvement on services to existing students, but it goes a long way towards marketing departments developing and servicing new 'markets' as well.