A Fee Increase for the OpenLearning Course Platform
What is OpenLearning?
OpenLearning (Open Learning Global Pty Ltd) is an online learning platform that utilises the principles of social media to increase engagement. OpenLearning sells its learning support technology to business, government, the education sector and the general public. It is "headquartered" in Sydney and primarily based in Kuala Lumpur. It has won awards for services to education in Southeast Asia.
It claims to be affiliated with Taylor's University, UNSW Playconomics, and Malaysia MOOCS. Clicking on "Institutions" will bring up another list of institutions that may have used the platform at one time or another.
However, OpenLearning should NOT BE CONFUSED with Open Universities Australia. Open Universities Australia offers fully accredited subjects and degrees from the University Of New South Wales, Curtin University, The University of New England, Flinders University, Swinbourne Institute of Technology, Australian National University and several other registered tertiary institutions. The enrollment procedures, costs and accreditation of the two sites are very different, although the names are similar.
What is Changing at OpenLearning?
OpenLearning had been a free platform on which to host an online course. For a writer with shareable skills, this represented another avenue of making money, with little investment other than time and effort.
In February 2019, I received an email stating that OpenLearning (which used to take a 15% commission on paid courses sold) will now charge educators to host courses.
The commission collected from sale of enrollments had been reduced, but this in no way made up for the cost of maintaining a course on their platform for the small time tutor or hobbyist wishing to share their skills.
What Did This Mean for Users?
At the time, I asked myself what the result of the site going to a provider pays system might be. It would certainly reduce the number of "free" courses on offer, and discourage less dedicated providers.
- One would hope that it would cut down the number of inactive courses. Speaking as a keen student, it was frustrating to enroll in a course and find that it was no longer supported. Some professor may have set it up for a class at some stage, and once the semester was finished, lost interest completely.
- Hopefully reduce student disappointment when certificates are not delivered. Under the old system, promised certificates were not delivered when the provider lost interest in marking manually, but failed to set up an automated marking system. (Most certificates are only evidence of "participation", because the site had no academic registration of its own. Students could not use the certificates to prove their qualification, merely their effort and interest. However, many students still enjoyed collecting their certificates.)
- Unarguably Increase the costs for course providers. (This is obvious!) Many skilled low budget providers would be forced out of the system.
- Reduce the variety and choice of online courses. Originally you could find a course on almost any area of interest. Once providers are required to pay a subscription, less commercially viable and special interest courses would of necessity disappear.
What Did the Change Mean for Me as a Provider?
I had to complete the boring task of copying my material off the medium of OpenLearning. I had a "Poetry Appreciation and Analysis Skills" course on OpenLearning, and was well qualified to run it.
- But I found that the online medium in the OpenLearning format had its drawbacks. It would most likely not be worth my paying the monthly amount in the hopes that - with the inactive and free courses out of the way - my course which offered supported tuition would be discovered by more students.
- With no advertising or support from OpenLearning, the course had fallen down the list until it would have been difficult for students to even find. It was easily overshadowed by other free courses, ten minute courses and courses that could be clicked through, requiring no real evidence of learning.
Video Introduction to My Course From OpenLearning
Could an Independent Provider make a Sucess Under the Old System?
In my experience, it was difficult to attract students and make a profit.
- I had one or two unsolicited international student enrollments. One diligent student took a lot of time and attention during their enrollment, and commented that the course offered incredible value.
- I was cautious about the educational claims I made. I could support the skills required for senior school and early university literature study. However, I could not award a school grade outside of the educational education system. (It was frustrating when other providers popped up, making unsupportable claims, and potentially attracting more students.)
- I had envisioned enrolling my real life students in the course and interacting with them online. However, I discovered most eligible students preferred their regular face-to-face sessions with me as their tutor.
- On the positive side, the course had 90% automated marking so students wouldn't be waiting too long for me to notice their enrollment and respond. The final assignment was an essay that had to be marked manually, so the certificate would not issue to someone who had not participated honestly.
Would I Set the Course Up Again Elsewhere?
As I take my material down, I consider my options. It would be a lot of work setting the lot up again. I had back-up on my computer, but just in case that was in isolated files, I have removed it from the OpenLearning site page by page and put it into one document.
- I could make an ebook, but that would require marketing.
- I could set up again on Udemy, a platform that claims to be free for educators. (That would mean creating numerous pages, and setting all the multi-choice and other exercises up again in the new platform.)
- I could make the course elements available as a series of individual hubs, or entries in my blog.
- I could print the exercises out as paper sheets and test them on my real life students. (At least that way I would get paid per lesson!)
- I could sadly wave goodbye to an era and keep the material for an unknown project.
In conclusion, I think that I have been lucky that of the many online communities I have joined, only two have closed or out-priced themselves for me... A few games are no longer supported—it is sad to lose online material at times.
It has been brought to my attention that prices have been increased again in 2020. A quick scroll through of offerings shows that the platform now supports primarily institutional based courses. Some may offer now some accreditation, such as professional development points for specific industries. Several appear to be excellent emergency response courses.
This is good for the students, but the independent provider has pretty much been forced off the platform. I am thinking that the platform gained popularity by initially being available for free. Subsequently more commercial decisions have been made.
Prices begin at $50 AU per month, if paid annually, (or $80 per month, paid in installments). This supports 1 educator account and up to 250 learners. A team account costs $400 per month for 5 educators and up to 500 learners. An institution account costs $825 / month. (These figures were advertised 5/29/2020 and may be subject to change.)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cecelia