Posted by: crudbasher | September 29, 2010

Can You Charge for Free Things?

Sometimes the blog stories just come to you…

MIT is considering charging for their OpenCourseWare materials.  While this isn’t a done deal yet, it’s on the table as MIT tries to reduce their costs to make up for a reduction in their endowment value.

So MIT was previously giving this stuff away. People from all over the world have used MIT materials to learn from.  The university has always been mentioned right at the start of any list of Open Education materials. So they want to throw that away?  Hmmm…

I have stated several times now that the it seems main product public universities are selling now are degrees and credentialing to the business world.  Don’t believe me?  Try to find a non-ivy league person in the Obama Administration.  That’s credentialing big time.  Part of the reason for this is information is becoming much easier to access.  People like the New York Times have tried to start charging for what they previously have given away.  It’s not working that well for them.  About the only one who it’s working for is the Wall Street Journal.

So what happens now?  MIT would lose a lot of credibility and good PR.  Maybe they will make some money too.

If people consider what MIT is offering to be scarce, then they can make money.

What is interesting to me is the last quote in the piece:

She expressed regret, however, that the task force was prohibited from considering academic staff cuts or reductions in faculty wages: “The crisis has forced us to look at things like e-learning… but the basic structure of the institution was not addressed.”

They also rejected an idea to offer summer school.  Their facilities sit empty over the summer.

Until universities are ready to consider ALL options, they will be operating at a disadvantage to other competitors that will.

  • MIT wants to charge for (formerly) worthless stuff

    tags: education open mit nell

    • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is considering putting lecture notes and other academic content behind a paywall to raise revenue and make up for funding shortfalls stemming from the global recession, according to Lori Breslow, who runs MIT’s teaching and learning laboratory.
    • “Until now, we’ve sort of been operating like the New York Times, making all of our class notes available for free on the web,” Breslow said on Tuesday. She was speaking at the OECD’s Institutional Management in Higher Education conference being held in Paris from 13-15 September.
    • “We’ve come to realise that may not be the best economic model, so we are now looking seriously at new e-learning opportunities,” Breslow said.
    • Among the numerous task force proposals currently under study include the radical – by MIT standards – suggestion that the university offer classes during a summer session. “Our physical educational plant is idle four months of the year,” Breslow said. “We’ve never offered summer school, because faculty generally prefer using this time for research.”
    • Breslow said task force recommendations have saved about US$12 million during the 2010 fiscal year, and predicted that “the work will continue.”
    • She expressed regret, however, that the task force was prohibited from considering academic staff cuts or reductions in faculty wages: “The crisis has forced us to look at things like e-learning… but the basic structure of the institution was not addressed.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Responses

  1. “So MIT was previously giving this stuff away. People from all over the world have used MIT materials to learn from. The university has always been mentioned right at the start of any list of Open Education materials. So they want to throw that away? Hmmm…”

    I agree, this is all about creditability here. Putting their materials behind a pay-wall would burn their creditability, as they are pioneers in the open-source field. This would be a BAD move, and I’m not sure how many people would pay the fee since there are so many other open source sites out there now.

    • Hi Leah! Yeah that is exactly my point too. Will people pay for their course ware if you don’t get a degree from it? I’m not sure if they will. People will self better themselves if it’s free. Once it costs money, they will want something more than self betterment I think.

      We will see! Thanks for stopping by Leah!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by davidwees and Leah MacVie, e-learn.net. e-learn.net said: #edu #education Can You Charge for Free Things? – Sometimes the blog stories just come to you MIT is considering cha… http://ht.ly/19dqsi […]

  3. This is just like so many websites are doing. Draw them in with “free” and then close ranks and make some cash. Shame on them if they do make this bad decision.

    Anyone is allowed to change their business model but they shouldn’t be allowed to break a TOS. Meaning, if you allow a person to use your site free and that was the agreement, any change shouldn’t be at their expense. New members pay but if you were there to start – you get a pass.

    That should be the moral, ethical and standard towards this kind of online business model.

    Will they do it. Don’t bet your son or daughter’s college tuition on it!

    David

    • Hi David, thanks so much for commenting!

      I agree what they are doing will cost them a lot. I’m not sure if it will work or not but I do have to defend their right to do this. You can’t force someone to give something away for free can you?

    • No, I don’t think you can “force” but I also think you can criticize and create a climate so that more institutions/organizations will not follow the “pay for knowledge” model.

      Who owns knowledge and ideas? That’s at the heart of this. My own conclusion is nobody.

      I’m a university professor and it is amazing how protective universities are over a professor’s content. Unbelievable how constrained I am in sharing my work/ideas, especially online. I really am a “captive mind”. I disagree with this. Education is about access to knowledge and we all benefit when information/knowledge is less restricted. But at the end of the day, you can’t “force” but you can speak out. More people have to support the open ed. movement and education imho shouldn’t be a business or business model.

      David

      • I totally agree with where you are coming from. It’s always been a sticky situation when we try to “own” an idea. It’s almost impossible.

  4. The problem that MIT will face? What they are offering isn’t all that scarce. Learning and opportunities for free learning are around every corner. So, unless they can convince those who were previously using their services otherwise, it just isn’t a good business model.

    • Yeah I was thinking that too Kelly but consider the iTunes example. You can get music free on the various file sharing networks so you would think iTunes wouldn’t work. I think people are willing to pay for the convenience of having everything in one place. They aren’t willing to pay much though.

      We will see what happens with MIT if they go through with it.

  5. that is silly..


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