By Leontine van Melle, project coordinator at the centre for innovation online learning lab
During the time that the MOOC was running, we received numerous messages from highly motivated participants that did not want the course to end. They loved the MOOC for the quality of the course (due to an engaged Professor dr. Marc van Oostendorp), the topic of the course, and the active online community. This resulted in a number of students that asked for more study material. Despite the many fans of this MOOC, we did not see this excitement reflected in the number of paid certificates. Without enough paid certificates, we would not have budget to create additional materials for the MOOC, which (as every University that is involved in producing MOOCs would know) is a costly business.
This did not stop us from thinking creatively. If we did not have enough money ourselves, then would learners want to contribute to fund additional material for themselves and their fellow learners?
Here are our most important findings:
1. The idea worked, we reached the target in time. We were glad to see that the idea worked by reaching the target of 10k within two months, and that we can actually realize the goal of an extra module by means of crowdfunding. We were overwhelmed by the amount of people that contributed and also by the heartwarming motivations of the contributors.
2. The campaign was largely successful due to the popularity of the MOOC Professor, dr. Marc van Oostendorp, who was the face of the campaign. During the campaign, he posted several (video) messages on social media and in the Facebook Group of Human Language. As he was liked by the participants during the MOOC, some donations were undoubtedly inspired by him and his teaching assistants Marten and Inge. Professor ‘Marc’ and his team had a large ‘goodwill’ factor.
3. People support free education enough to pay for it. It sounds strange, asking money for free education. But to keep it free, money is needed and people are willing to contribute. It is a donation to a good cause: contributing as one person, is giving free education to the many.
4. Crowdfunding is an interesting alternative to fund MOOCs, at least in part. In particular, crowdfunding is an interesting way for popular MOOCs that have many participants but do not raise enough money via paid certificates. Courses that belong to the humanities seem to encounter this issue frequently. In part, we think this is because these courses are less 'marketable' for students unless they work in a related field.
5. People who are inspired by the course, tend to donate. We saw that people donate for other reasons than only the obvious one (to get an extra module for themselves). They also contributed because they felt involved and part of a global community. They wanted to show gratitude for the free and high-quality education they received. Other reasons to donate included the support of free open education for others, the knowledge they have received, to show sympathy to the MOOC team and this crowfunding project, even because the professor was cute.
We can conclude that starting a crowfunding campaign worked surprisingly well. Of course, results of the past do not predict future wins, but crowdfunding has shown to be a viable source of income to produce additional course material for MOOCs. Furthermore, it could be a good way to test if course materials are interesting enough to produce. However, the biggest win for now is that by the fall of 2015, everyone can enjoy a whole new module about the interesting field of Linguistics. By realizing the module we want to say again: Thank you so much for contributing to this campaign. We hope you will enjoy the MOOC (again).