MIT OpenCourseWare Diversifies Revenue Approaches

MIT support, donations, underwriting play key roles

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., January 28, 2010 - In cooperation with participating academic departments, MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is introducing two new pilot programs designed to diversify the site's revenue sources. Last fall, OCW began a pilot Course Champion program, which recognizes individuals for annual support of a specific OCW courses. In February, OCW will begin a second pilot to test potential of underwriting approaches similar to those used by National Public Radio's interactive media group.

These pilots will provide OCW additional sources of revenue, but will not eliminate the need for support from MIT's core budget and from the donations OCW has been receiving from its user community. MIT currently supports about half of the $3.7 million dollars required to operate the publication, and the remainder of MIT's operating costs are largely covered by grant reserves that will be expended in 2012.

In the past few years, OCW has been accepting site users donations, which form an increasingly significant portion of the program's funding, and OCW also derives modest revenue from referral links to The Course Champions and underwriting programs are intended to join these other two revenue sources in a portfolio that will eventually replace the grant reserves. OCW's financial strategy and outlook was recently detailed in an article appearing in MIT's Faculty Newsletter.

OCW Course Champions

In October, OCW began a pilot of the Champion Champions program in cooperation with MIT's Math, Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments. The program provides donors the opportunity to support a specific OCW course for one year with a contribution of $5,000, and to be recognized by name on the home page of that course for the period of their support. Five existing MIT donors participated in the pilot, sponsoring a total of 15 OCW courses. In addition, the MIT Class of 2009 supported a course as part of their class gift. Since the pilot's launch, two new donors have joined the program, supporting a total of three additional courses.

OCW Underwriting

In cooperation with the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Math, Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments, OCW will launch a pilot program in February testing the effectiveness of underwriting recognition in generating revenue. OCW has already implemented and tested ad serving software on the site, which has been employed to serve OCW notices and messages from other MIT offices and departments to date. In February, OCW will begin running underwriting acknowledgements on global pages and course pages in the participating departments as well. Modeling National Public Radio's approach, OCW will place restrictions on the types of organizations that may be recognized and also limit the content of such recognition to ensure underwriting is consistent with the spirit and mission of OCW, and does not adversely affect user experience.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses–more than 1,970 in all–available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.5 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 65 million visitors have accessed the free MIT educational materials on the site or in translation.