Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute

07 Sep 2016

The Summer 2016 Tuition Experiment

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Brief Report on Tuition for Agent-based Modeling

As was previously discussed in our updates, Complexity Explorer's funding source will be coming to an end at the end of 2017.  This summer of 2016, the new course Introduction to Agent-based Modeling was introduced, along with a new paid tuition system. 

The characteristics of the paid system we put in place are as follows:

(1) Courses with a tuition are marked with a LOCK on courses page

(2) The first unit of a paid course is always open and free - anyone can enroll and audit the first unit

(3) The rest of the units are accessible with a minimum tuition payment ($50 for Introduction to Agent-based Modeling) or a scholarship

(4) Once the course is closed, the course materials will be free as usual in the Archived Courses section of the site


So, was the experiment successful?

Prior to starting the tuition payment system, the following benchmarks of success were considered:

  • [Status quo] At least as much raised in tuition as we raise in donations (proportional to the number of students enrolled)
  • [Promising] At least 13% of students paying a tuition (this would equal our typical completion rate and thus mean all motivated students contributed)
  • [Outstanding] Covering the cost of developing and running the course




We succeeded on all three fronts.

As the Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos course was running this summer as well, we compared donations received for that course to tuition received for Introduction to Agent-based Modeling.  

  • The percentage of students that paid the minimum tuition for the ABM course far exceeded the percentage of Intro to Chaos students that donated to Complexity Explorer, 22.8 to 2.1%.
  • 22.8% of the students that enrolled in the ABM course chose to pay the minimum tuition in order to continue past Unit 1.  This is greater than the average 13% completion rate for Complexity Explorer MOOCs, so this suggests that we captured all of the motivated students (and then some!).
  • It costs roughly $25,000 to create a new course on Complexity Explorer and run it.  $25,918 in tuition payments were received, from 499 students (12.4% chose to give more than $50).  In contrast, to cover the costs of the current Intro to Chaos course, $7,000 in donations was necessary.  $1,788 was received in donations during June, July and August 2016.  


What does this mean going forward?

Good question.  We are waiting on data from course evaluations and we will be thinking about this carefully.  It is likely that new courses will be offered with a tuition cost.  We will update everyone with these decisions as we make them.  Above all, we seek to be transparent with you, our community of complexity students and researchers.   As for the funds raised for the Introductiont to Agent-based Modeling course, we will be using them to cover funding gaps in 2017.  


Thank you to everyone who has ever contributed to Complexity Explorer.  

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