OERu/OERu 17.10 Council of CEOs/Report

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The 5th meeting of the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers was hosted by Contact North | Contact Nord at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto on 16 October 2017 preceding the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning.

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Key points
  • The OERu Council of CEO's meeting summary should be read in conjunction with the outputs of the 6th International Meeting of OERu Partners, 12 and 13 October 2017, which generated the decision proposals that were tabled at this meeting.


  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Aims of the meeting
  3. Review of the Terms of Reference and office bearers.
    • Terms of Reference
    • Office bearers
    • Vacancy - Deputy Chair (Africa) / Deputy Chair (Middle East)
  4. Progress report
  5. OERu Strategic priorities
    • Partner perspective (Clive Mulholland)
    • OER Foundation perspective (Jim Taylor)
      1. Prioritise the consolidation and evaluation of the free 1st Year of Study initiative and associated exit qualifications prior to allocating resources to 2nd and 3rd year offerings
      2. Explore how OERu might achieve a leadership role in transnational micro-credentialling and the issuing of associated open badges mapped to transcript credit
      3. Prioritise learner support initiatives, including enhancing the learner support site, trialling P2PU Learning Circles, and refining and implementing Academic Volunteers International
      4. Review and update the open business model to include the potential deployment in mainstream institutional operations of not only OERu open courseware, but also the OERu open source technology infrastructure
    • Articulate what "OERu success" might look like for partner institutions represented at the CEO's meeting in order to inform the next planning cycle (2018 - 2020)
    • Agree the approval process for the OERu strategic plan (2018 - 2020)
  6. Decision proposals
    • Publish the project plan for the MVP launch of 23 courses for the OERu 1st year of study by December 2017 (Target: 11 courses during 2017 and 12 courses during 2018). These targets are consistent with the 2015 CEOs' recommendation for a "soft launch", pursuing realistic but conservative targets as the OERu model builds brand awareness and collects data from the process evaluation to inform future decision-making.
      1. Phase 1: Learning in a Digital Age (February 2018)
      2. Phase 2: Principles of Management, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, and Introduction to Project Management (May 2018)
      3. Phase 3: 4 courses (Sept 2018)
      4. Phase 4: 4 courses (Feb 2019)
      5. Phase 5: 4 courses (May 2019)
      6. Phase 6: 4 courses (Sept 2019)
    • Implement marketing plan
      1. Adopt a new learner-focused elevator pitch: "Change your life’s course one course at a time. Begin your degree at higher learning institutions from all around the world. Start for free, start today."
      2. Create personas from existing data that can be used to inform the marketing brief (November 2017)
      3. Prepare press releases to announce the launch of the 1st year of study (December 2017)
      4. Finalise the landing page on the oeru.org website for marketing content to prospective learners, including graphics that show people: how to apply, how to register, how to build a credential, and how to use micro-credentials. (December 2018)
      5. Prepare the "Google Adwords" campaign: $10,000 per month (December 2018 - subject to input from partner institutions)
      6. Implement a lead-nurturing email program to announce the 1st year of study via newsletter communications (Proposed first announcement in January 2018, reminder beginning February 2018)
      7. Develop a marketing brief to inform the marketing strategy for remaining courses (March 2018).
    • Complete the Process Evaluation and initiate the Analytics Project with a view to expediting the planning and implementation of the Product Evaluation (October 2017)
    • Rationalise OERu organisational structures
      1. Consolidate the working groups reporting to the OERu Management Committee: retaining Technology, Marketing and Recruitment, and merging Curriculum, Program of Study, Quality and Credit Transfer respectively, into Curriculum and Quality
      2. Establish a Transnational Advisory Group (TAG)
    • Improve learner support
      1. Work with P2PU Learning Circles to support selected OERu courses
      2. Scope what a pay for support, or pay for tutoring service, may look like and how it could be viable
      3. Investigate what the OERu learner support services may need, and what OERu can offer
  7. Issues for CEO's meeting
    • Should OERu provide support / consulting services to partners?
  8. Risk register
  9. Conclusion

Summary of meeting

  1. Welcome and introductions
    • Alan Davis, Chair of the Council of CEOs welcomed participants.
    • Maxim Jean-Louis, Executive Director of Contact North | Contact Nord welcomed attendees as local host wished participants a productive CEOs meeting.
    • Participants introduced themselves.
  2. Confirmed the agenda and aims of the meeting as follows:
    • To evaluate progress with the implementation of the OERu 1st year of study
    • To discuss strategic directions for the OERu network.
    • To review recommendations and decision proposals from the 6th meeting of OERu partners
    • To review operational targets for 2018.
  3. Reviewed the Terms of Reference and office bearers of the Council:
    • Agreed to substitute "student" with "learner" to clarify that OERu learners do not establish a contractual relationship with partner institutions.
    • Appointed Robert Balfour, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, North-West University as the African representative on the Executive Committee of the Council, filling the current vacancy.
    • Agreed to invite Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University to join the Executive Committee of Council to represent the Middle East.
    • Confirmed that Alan Davis (President and Vice-Chancellor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Chair and representative for North America; Clive Mulholland (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of the Highlands and Islands), representative for Europe; and Phil Ker (Chief Executive, Otago Polytechic) representative for Oceania will continue as members of the Executive Committee.
  4. Considered the OERu 2017 progress report noting that:
    • OERu has assembled sufficient open online courses to implement the first year of study leading to exit qualifications in Business and Arts respectively
    • The majority of OERu courses have been assembled as micro-courses, enabling the network to offer micro-credentials with pathways to achieve formal academic credit; OERu will be piloting micro-credentials in partnership with Edubits for a number of the business courses
    • The OERu has implemented a component-based delivery platform using "best of breed" free and open source software applications; demonstrating an open option for implementing a next generation digital learning environment; technical guidelines for implementing OERu open technologies are published on the tech.oeru.org blog.
  5. Discussed OERu strategic priorities
    • Recognising that individual partners operate in different markets unique to their own organisational contexts, Clive Mulholland provided a conceptual framework for considering institutional strategy for implementing the OERu. Using a building block analogy, he suggested that the micro-courses available for the launch of the 1st year of study are component bricks for institutions to assemble their own exit qualifications; for example, the Certificate of Higher Education Business(OERu) at the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Certificate of General Studies at Thompson Rivers University; and the Foundations Certificate at Thomas Edison State University. Individual partners can assemble products and services appropriate for local market contexts; for example, assessment only services for transfer credit, micro-credentials, advanced placement for degree completion, assembling unique programmes, pay-as-you-go tutorial services etc.. Clive stressed the importance of the MVP philosophy: to go to market with a viable product that will be refined as the OERu gains authentic experience. For the next planning cycle, the OERu should focus on the 1st year of study, which can feed into program development for the 2nd and 3rd year in the longer term.
    • The OER Foundation recommended that the OERu should prioritise: (i) the consolidation and evaluation of the 1st Year of Study initiative and associated exit qualifications prior to allocating resources to 2nd and 3rd year offerings, and (ii) to explore how OERu might achieve a leadership role in transnational micro-credentialling.
    • Discussion points raised
      1. OERu has not taken enough risk; noting that "competitors" providing free courses are now beginning to offer formal credit, previously a key point of difference of the OERu model
      2. There is a need to communicate to senior leadership of partner institutions that the OERu is not building an online university, but is developing a networked consortium model
      3. Partners should focus on their existing operational strengths to provide services that add value
      4. The value of the OERu model being used by some partners (as a "Trojan horse") to support local innovation in OER
      5. There is an opportunity to promote and foster strategic alliances between partners in the network; for example, bilateral and trilateral relationships, including the provision of assessment services, micro-credentialing etc..
    • Proposed priorities, outputs and metrics for what OERu success looks like for the next planning cycle:
      1. Operational priorities:
        • Implement the 1st year of study
        • Prioritise adaptions of the OERu.org site to facilitate the launch of the 1st year of study
        • Prepare press releases for the launch of the 1st year of study and share with partner institutions to distribute
        • Implement a social media campaign with consistent messaging; eCampusOntario offered to provide consultation advice from their Marketing and Communications team
        • Prepare a report for the 2018 Council of CEO's, documenting the number of learners by number of courses implemented for the 1st year of study.
      2. Strategic expectations and metrics:
        • Anticipate a pyramid model with a wide base of learners participating for free, targeting a conversion rate of 12% for assessment services
        • Target 1000 assessments with 100 learners achieving an OERu exit qualification in the next two years.
    • Decision:
      • Drawing on the consultations during the 17-10 OERu partner's meeting and the discussion recommendations from the 17-10 Council of CEO's meeting, prepare the OERu strategic plan (2018 - 2020) for approval by the Executive Committee of the Council.
  6. Reviewed decision proposals arising from the 17-10 OERu partner's meeting
    1. Project plan for the phased launch of 23 courses for OERu 1st year of study
      • Agreed to launch Learning in a Digital Age (LiDA) as a pilot in February 2018
      • Expressed the aspiration to have most of the OERu MVP courses available for study shortly after the LiDA pilot early in 2018:
        1. Noted that the OER Foundation does not have the human resource capacity to simultaneously implement all the pre-launch tasks for the 23 MVP courses, preferring a phased launch schedule. These pre-launch tasks include, for example: setting up automated email campaigns for the course instructions on Mautic, conducting final course audits, validating and publishing assessment processes and prices for services from partner institutes, ensuring credit transfer agreements have been signed, and implementing course specific marketing etc.
        2. Proposed that the OERu approach partner institutions to establish if any partners could contribute additional fiscal resource to expedite the launch process.
    2. Marketing plan
      • Confirmed that the Marketing and Recruitment Group should continue to work on the implementation of the marketing plan, taking the following guidelines and priorities into account:
        1. In the absence of a marketing budget, to focus on what can be done with the scarce resources available
        2. Prioritise the development of press releases for the 1st year of study and refine the landing pages for the 1st year of study
        3. Leverage the brand of existing OERu partners to build momentum
        4. Identify strategic partners who could assist with getting the message out;for example, COL, British Council, ICDE etc.
    3. Process evaluation
      • Agreed to implement the process evaluation as part of the next planning cycle.
    4. Rationalising OERu organisational structures
      • Agreed to reduce the number of working groups; specifically three working groups reporting to the OER Management Committee: Curriculum and Quality, Technology, and Marketing and Recruitment respectively
      • Recommended ongoing discussions to establish a Transnational Advisory Group (TAG), noting that this is not a high operational priority.
    5. Improving learner support
      • Agreed that OERu should work with P2PU Learning Circles to support selected OERu courses
      • Recommended that OERu should hold back on investigating what learner support services are needed and subsequently scoping the viability of a pay for support service, as these are not high priorities for the next planning cycle.
  7. Reviewed the OERu risk register
    • Thomas Edison State University advised that its open course initiatives have contributed to increased student numbers
    • Recommended that the risk associated with the OERu model contributing to revenue reduction for partner institutions should be lowered.
  8. Confirmed dates for the OERu 2018 meetings as follows:
    • 7th International Meeting of OERu Partners, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 November 2018, Port Macquarie
    • 6th meeting of the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers, Friday 9 November 2018, Port Macquarie.
  9. Other matters
    1. Considered a proposal from Marc Singer for the OERu to offer services to partner institutions in supporting the adoption of OER:
      • Acknowledged the inherent value of the network to assist partner institutions
      • Proposed that inter-partner support services should proceed on an ad hoc basis for the immediate future.
  10. Noted the need to encourage CEO's (or senior leader nominees) to attend and engage in the Council of CEO's meeting.
    • Agreed that the Chair of Council will prepare a letter encouraging more active participation.
  11. Adjourned with thanks to the OERF team for their work in organising the 2017 OERu meetings.