Otago Polytechnic/Measuring our open education/Ako application

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Application for Project Funding

The following 4 stories are loosely based on real experiences at Otago Polytechnic since beginning open educational work. The potential benefits for the teachers and learners in these stories should be compelling arguments for investigating the potential of open educational practices across the sector. This project is the start of that investigation - a closer analysis of the detail behind these stories such as the true costs in developing the capability for effectively offering open education like this, and how those costs compare to existing closed models? What savings and gains are to be found in these models? And is learning improved in open education compared to existing closed methods?


Sarah is a lecturer at a polytechnic working over 40 hours per week teaching and researching her field. Her employer requires her to obtain a high level teaching qualification. Sarah has a small annual fund she can use to pay for the training, however she is unsure if she will be able to manage the course on top of her teaching, research, and family commitments. If Sarah enrolls in the course but does not complete, she will loose the training fund for the year, and possibly receive less funding the next year. Through open education Sarah is able to participate in the course without enrolling, benefiting from the group work and opportunities to communicate with other students, and studying at her own pace without pressures to complete or risk of loosing her training fund. Sarah gradually makes her way through the course and completes the assessments. Confident of a completion and a pass, Sarah enrolls and immediately passes to receive the qualification.


Michael is a teenager about to leave highschool. His advisor is concerned about his awareness of career options. Accessing the Polytechnic's open educational resources, the advisor shows Michael instructional videos from the Polytechnic's Youtube channel and Michael shows an interest in Cooking. With support from his high school advisor Michael attempts several of the assessment tasks associated with the video resources, and his work is shown to Polytechnic assessors. Michael is given recognition in several topic areas, helping to improve his chances of finding an apprenticeship and reducing the time and fees required to study a trade at the Polytechnic.


Bronwyn is a trainer in a polytechnic and due to falling student numbers her course is under review. Bronwyn decides to offer her course as an online and open education course. The open access to the course has increased informal participation rates significantly, which is resulting in a slight increase in formal enrollments - enough to hold off the review board at least. After successfully running the new course for 2 years, word has spread and her course has been noticed by an organisation in another region. Currently negotiations are in progress for Bronwyn to conduct a customised version of the course for that organisation.


Minhaaj is a young professional living in Pakistan. Minhaaj is interested in living and working in New Zealand. Unfortunately his qualifications are not recognised in New Zealand and he is having difficulty with his applications to migrate. Minhaaj starts participating in a polytechnic's open education courses and quickly establishes his expertise to the course lecturers. Minhaaj obtains recognition for his completion of assessment tasks, and is currently in negotiations with New Zealand's Skilled Migrant Program where he hopes to be granted a visa to work for the polytechnic in its open education courses.

Project Team

Host Institution

Otago Polytechnic

Project Leader

Leigh Blackall
Educational Developer
Otago Polytechnic
Forth St Campus
H Block, Room H100
+64 (0) 21 736 539
Email: leighblackall@gmail.com
Leigh Blackall works in Educational Development for the Otago Polytechnic. Since 2003 he has played an influential role in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States writing and speaking about open educational practices and the educational use of social media. He has been a key figure in developing Otago Polytechnic's open educational practices and wide scale use of social media.

Project Team

Bronwyn Hegarty
Educational Developer
Otago Polytechnic
Forth St Campus
H Block, Room H100
Bronwyn Hegarty - Doctoral candidate, MSc (Dist), BSc (Hons), Dip Teach (Tertiary) - currently works in the area of educational development at Otago Polytechnic and has been teaching online and developing, implementing and evaluating resources for the online environment for twelve years. Bronwyn was a lead researcher for a 2004/2005 TeLRF project, was selected as a Flexible Learning leader in 2004, and was chair of the Analysis and Evaluation Group in the eCDF projects 423 and 525.

Dr Wayne Mackintosh
Director of the International Centre for Open Education
+64 (0) 21 243 6380
Founding Director of the International Centre for Open Education based at Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand and member of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation. Was previously Education Specialist for eLearning and ICT Policy at the Commonwealth of Learning.

Benjamin Kehrwald
Senior Lecturer eLearning and Distance Education
College of Education
Massey University
+64 (6) 356 9099 ext 8714
A senior lecturer in distance and online education in the College of Education at Massey University. Has been working with technology in learning situations for the last 15 years in the USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Recent and ongoing work is in the development of blended learning systems which create productive combinations of face-to-face, online and distance education. Research interests include social learning theory, technology mediated social processes, online social presence and online teaching.

The Project

Otago Polytechnic has been trailing open educational practices for 2 years, and has gathered data from open education courses that suggest improved outcomes for less expense. This project analyses that data, reporting on gains, savings, costs and benefits, and proposes a model for the wider sector to consider.

Outcomes for this project include a data analysis and report of open education courses, presentation of a scalable model, and a user guide for other educational providers. Regular notes will be published to document the project in real time and all outputs carry a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Project Description

After Otago Polytechnic published the video Open Education at Otago Polytechnic, funded by Ako Aoteoroa's Good Practices Publication Grant [1], Queensland University of Technology's Creative Commons Australia team cited Otago Polytech as being "...without question the regional leader in open education"[2]. Over the past 2 years, educational developers at Otago Polytechnic have been referring to the work of international peers such as Leinonen et al (2009) and Wiley (2008) to develop models for open education in a New Zealand context. The Polytechnic now aims to measure the effectiveness of this work, and provide the wider sector with evidence to more accurately consider open educational practices. It is the Polytechnic's goal to stimulate the wider sector towards more open educational practices that are designed to facilitate greater collaboration across the sector and better flexibility for learners.

This application is to fund a comprehensive analysis of the work done by Otago Polytechnic to date, and provide the wider sector with a report and a user guide for considering open educational models. The analysis will focus on at least 3 Otago courses that have adopted various open education practices, and report on a range of aspects such as a comparison between open and closed costs of delivery, study fees, contact time, participation, satisfaction and completion rates, specific and general learning outcomes, access and equity, flexibility, operational efficiency, marketing, and evidence of collaboration across the sector. Many of these aspects remained unmeasured in more established closed models of education, so it will be necessary for this project to measure both and compare.[3]

This project has 2 parts

  1. Gather, analyse and report on data from at least 3 comparisons of open and closed education courses - reporting a comparison of: true cost; initial levels of interest, participation rates; completion rates; learning outcomes; and feedback - highlighting benefits, short falls, opportunities and development needs.
  2. Present open educational models in a user guide that refers to significant findings in the data analysis, for consideration by the wider tertiary education sector.


Following are a range of potential benefits to tertiary teaching and learning as well as the anticipated number of learners who will be influenced:

1. Please refer to the stories of open education at the beginning of this application.
2. Results from one 2008 trial (Blackall 2008) indicated a substantial increase in numbers of initial interest compared to previous years when the course was closed. In previous years, the average number of initial expressions of interest in one course was 10, in the open trial it rose to 84. This increase in interest resulted in a 30% increase in actual enrollments, and a 100% increase in completion rates. If these numbers scale to other subject areas and if the model is made attractive to lecturers and managers, then a significant number of NZ students and lecturers stand to gain from this particular approach to open education.
3. Staying with this particular trial, in the closed course all participants lived in New Zealand. In the open course, the majority of participants were from 19 different countries. This was of considerable benefit to the New Zealand students as authentic international perspectives were critical to understanding much of the subject matter and achieving certain learning objectives, such as:
  • Discuss principles and processes of flexible teaching and learning to facilitate culture sensitive adult learning;
  • Apply facilitation skills within an online learning community
4. A similar benefit from international exposure and understanding has been experienced by other courses using a different approach to open education, such as Cookery and their exposure through publishing instructional videos on Youtube to Canadian cooking methods. Or Tourism and their use of Wikis and Blogs to run their courses openly leading to interest from Brazilian and Scottish teachers suggesting student exchange programs. This internationalisation has had an impact on staff moral and NZ student engagement in the courses, arguably improving both specified and general learning outcomes in both subject areas.
5. There are potential efficiency gains and cost savings indicative from the open trails, particularly in the use of free Internet utilities like video servers, wikis and blogging platforms. Closer analysis is needed to fully determine the extent of these savings compared to local services where they exist.
6. The positive feedback gathered from several of the open education courses indicate very high levels of satisfaction from both the students and the teachers. Further investigation is needed to determine if these were one-offs, or if it can be considered partly a result of the open educational practices.
7. It is anticipated that service area subjects such as teaching, management, design, tourism, and business studies stand to benefit most from open education methods, and the user guide from this project will likely target those subjects, with some indications offered to trades from the Cookery course example.

Educational Outcomes

How the project will contribute to the Ako Aotearoa vision of best possible educational outcomes for all tertiary learners:If it can be concluded that the models of open education in Otago Polytechnic are viable, resulting in increased participation and completion rates, increased enrollments, enhanced learning outcomes, and returning higher levels of satisfaction, then the next question to be determined is what other subject areas are likely to benefit from implementing this model.

While we do anticipate service area subjects specifically benefiting the most, this question will be better answered after we have had an opportunity to present a report of the analysis to leaders in the sector, targeting ITPNZ, DEANZ and TANZ for their review. If the model scales to other subject areas with similar results, then New Zealanders with interest in studying in those areas at a tertiary level will have far greater access to a more flexible and less expensive education with opportunities to improve learning outcomes


Design Summary

This project will measure the effectiveness of open education at Otago Polytechnic and report on where opportunities exist for the wider sector. From this report, models for open education will be explained in a user guide targeting subject areas that are considered good candidates for adopting open educational practices.

Design detail

  1. Contract expert researchers to formulate a data gathering plan that will give a good idea of the comparitive costs, savings, gains and benefits of open and closed education.
  2. Research assistants gather data pertaining to at least 3 open  education courses and similar or same closed courses.  participants.
  3. Researchers analys the data and report on: 
  • true costs; 
  • levels of student interest and engagement; 
  • participation rates; 
  • completion rates; 
  • learning outcomes; 
  • and feedback. 
  • Especially identifying instances where NZ students have benefited from interacting with open access
  1. Seek review from NZ tertiary education flagships ITPNZ, TANZ and DEANZ to identify benefits, short falls, opportunities and development needs for adoption and development of open education in the wider tertiary sector.
  2. Submit paper to the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (abstract already accepted) and obtain further review and feedback.
  3. Present that paper to Open Education 2009 conference in Vancouver (abstract already accepted) and obtain further review and feedback.
  4. Compile a user guide that describes the analysis and report process and outlines steps for developing open education in a New Zealand tertiary education organisation.
  5. More detail on this method is being developed on the following webpage[4], with more specific methods expected once expert researchers are contracted.


  1. Improving Learning and Reducing Costs: New Models for Online Learning. EDUCAUSE. r e v i e w. 28. September/October 2003 ... Carol A. Twigg is Executive Director of the Center for Academic Transformation. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0352.pdf
  2. The “Wiley Wiki Design”. Iterating Towards Openess blog. July 2008. David Wiley. http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/514
  3. About to develop another model for open access education. Learn Online Blog October 2008. Leigh Blackall. http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/about-to-develop-another-model-for-open-access-education
  4. Time to Shrink the University. CBCNews February 2009. Heather Mallick. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/02/27/f-vp-mallick.html
  5. The power of design on flexible learning and digital network literacy. Wikieducator December 2008. Bronwyn Hegarty et al. http://wikieducator.org/The_power_of_design_on_flexible_learning_and_digital_network_literacy
  6. Learning In and With an Open Wiki Project: Wikiversity's potential in global capacity building. First Monday, Volume 14, Number 2. February 2009. Teemu Leinonen , Terae Vaden, Juha  Suoranta. http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2252/2093
  7. Looking back on FOC08. Learn Online Blog December 2008. Leigh Blackall. http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/looking-back-on-foc08/
  8. The Costs and Economics of Open and Distance Learning. Rumble, Greville. 1997.  London: Kogan Page in association with the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University.


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Gri8y9iYA
  2. May 2009 http://creativecommons.org.au/node/234&nbsp
  3. At this stage we are referring to Rumble's (1997) costing analysis of ODL as a starting point.
  4. http://wikieducator.org/User:Leighblackall/Measuring_our_open_education

Risks and mitigation processes

1. Data may be difficult to gather from some service and support areas of the Polytechnic - moderate

  • Ensure executive level support in gathering data

2. Data may be difficult to analyse or interpret - moderate

  • Engage professional researchers assist with analysis and interpretation

3. Models and user guide may be perceived as biased - low

  • Ensure an open channel for peer review by people in the sector, and target review from ITPNZ, DEANZ and TANZ


  1. Report on anaylsis
  2. Paper and presentation of the report and review
  3. User guide available online and in print
  4. Creative Commons Attribution licensed source media and produced media.
  5. Open and real time documentation as the project progresses
  6. Recording of the presentations made to Open Education conference in Vancouver 2009
  7. Recording of presentation made to eFest 2009

Dissemination Plans

  • Ako Aotearoa Website (identify how learnings from the project will be shared on the Ako Aotearoa website) 
  • Online and print on demand user guide
  • Video that introduces the user guide and summarises the project
  • Presentation at the International Conference for Open Education in Vancouver August 2009
  • Presentation to eFest 2009

Projected Timeline

  • 1 - 20 July: Researchers conduct relevant literature review, develop analysis plan, gather data.
  • 20 July - 10 August: Researchers present report, review obtained from TANZ, DEANZ, and ITPNZ
  • 1 August - 14 August: Write paper for the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning and present to the Open Education Vancouver 2009 conference, documenting feedback and review
  • 14 August - October - Produce user guide

Ethical / Compliance Requirements

On advice from the Chair of Otago Polytechnic's Research Ethics Committee, Linda H Wilson Phd, MSc, DHA, NZROT, NDAET, this project will consider the ethical considerations of the researchers tendering to this project. We would expect those tendering to the project to make mention of their own ethical review process, or if they do not have their own process, we will ask that they seek advise from Otago Polytechnic's Research Ethics Committee. Either way, this research committee will review the method before implimentation.

Mitigation of any conflicts of interest

Otago Polytechnic has invested in open educational development and it could be considered by some that Otago is merely promoting its work. It is our intention to analyse and present findings in a balanced and informative way that is helpful to the Polytechnic and the sector at large. To this end we will engage independent researchers to assist with data gathering and analysis - as per mitigation for risk

Funding required

Project manager 30 hours @ $85 per hour $2550
Administrator @ 20% of project management $510
Analiser 30 hours @ $85 per hour $2550
Writer and designer 45 hours @ $60 per hour $2700
Total staffing $8,310
Tolls, teleconferences, internet etc 100 $100
Total communications $100
Printing $300
Total printing $300
Sub total budget $8710
GST $1088.75
TOTAL $9798.75

Sign off

I support this application and confirm that all funding applications for this project have been disclosed above

Title / Name:

Position in Organisation:



  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Gri8y9iYA
  2. May 2009 http://creativecommons.org.au/node/234 
  3. At this stage we are referring  to Rumble's (1997) costing analysis of ODL as a starting point.
  4. http://wikieducator.org/User:Leighblackall/Measuring_our_open_education