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Ideas submitted to help OUPS profitability

18. (Sep 2018) Engage the help of module tutors to promote OUPS on OU module forums

  • We have had students report that they first heard of OUPS where tutors have done this on their own initiative.
  • There is a risk that some tutors will be wary of doing this without knowing how it would be seen by the faculty, especially as we know that the university has concerns about promoting OUPS events without a full understanding of what we do to make these as "open-to-all" because of factors such as cost, location, time etc. as is reasonable.

Conclusion: This seems like a good idea - include it in the ongoing work with the faculty to define the OU policy for Associate Lecturers that explains what is acceptable for them to do for OUPS. At worst, obtain formal confirmation that this is not approved at this time and establish what needs to be done to make it acceptable.

Note: linked to the earlier idea of creating a mailing list for ALs to subscribe to for material to distribute, maybe put these together.


17. (May 2018) As module FB groups start to form, generally before the start of the academic year, recruit the new ‘admin’ to be OUPS ambassadors offering them discounted places at OUPS events based on the number of attendees they recruit from their group, say £5 per head? Most (number unspecified) of the respondents felt they would be likely to be influenced by admin and thought it quite reasonable admin should have a discounted place. Marketing within the group can then be led by the admin prompted by OUPS at regular intervals for example when the easy payment scheme is about to close (more about this later).

  • Regardless of cost some admin may not wish to/want to/be able to go, and therefore offering incentives would not be beneficial for all. Also this is likely to start up many different groups for each module and could end up being a farce.

Conclusion: we do not believe that this is a worthwhile activity so we will not be doing this


16. (May 2018) Consider creating ‘official’ OUPS FB groups possibly available only to OUPS members with tutors present to moderate the risk of misinformation that is a valid criticism of some FB groups. There is scope here to ‘sell’ this as a pilot scheme to the OU Psychology department as one way to cut OU costs would be to cut the module forum groups replacing them with reliable FB groups.

  • We have two “official” OUPS FB groups already - neither is restricted to OUPS members as we don’t want them to be exclusive, and don’t have the resource to add and delete members of the pages as their OUPS membership status changes;
  • None of our committee members has the time to recruit (assess and select) OU tutors who are willing to commit to moderating FB groups on behalf of OUPS, if any exist;
  • We have no specific interest in designing or testing a model to replace the current service the OU have selected and pay for with another arbitrary one (FB) that they would have to pay for.
  • The OU are currently looking at other formats of social media for their use, and OUPS getting involved at this stage would be detrimental to our relationship.
  • There are already tutors on our pages who already offer advice, because this is on a personal (not contractual) basis.

Conclusion: we have neither the resource nor the desire to market Facebook groups for the OU so we will not be doing this. 


15. (May 2018) After the success of video linking DD307 at Warwick a couple of years ago, albeit only to an adjacent room, and the success of Prof Steve Reicher lecturing to a LOUPS event in London from his home in Scotland; consider video streaming OUPS lectures live to students unable to physically attend such events, these could be charged out at say £10 per lecture. Imagine 2027 based in Cambridge does this but the viewings are free.

  • We have been investigating this possibility and will continue to see what’s possible. Some speakers at our events have said that they would not accept invitations to speak if we insisted on video-recording their sessions.
  • We are currently discussing use of OU facilities for recording and broadcasting.

Conclusion: we will continue to investigate ways to progress in this area. While we may not be able to change current events, these could be augmented with new events designed to be streamed from the outset.

Updates:

  • (Sep 2018) in discussion with the OU regarding access to their new streaming platform based in Milton Keynes.

14. (May 2018) Despite the alleged copyright issues and tutor reluctance it must surely be possible to record some of the streamed lectures (as above) and make these available for download (or via dvd) again at a cost of say £10 per lecture? Many lectures are available on YouTube, copyright obviously isn’t an issue there and the tutors eg Prof Reicher don’t seem to be too reluctant either.

  • We already record and release (free of charge) a number of our events, subject to permission of the speakers.
  • Recordings cannot be guaranteed - if the recording isn’t usable we can’t just re-do the lecture
  • This carries a cost of equipment and time (approx. 3 hours of effort per 1 hour of lecture - 1 hour of post-production time to create the recordings, 1 hour of review and feedback with the speaker and 1 hour to prepare the recordings for access/distribution), which relies on volunteer resource. If we had sufficient volume we might investigate paying for this to be done but might then have to pass on the cost - even if recording failed as described earlier. This is also standard practice in the venues we use where lecture-capture is available.
  • Copyright is not an “alleged” issue, it’s an actual issue. OUPS will continue to respect copyright and intellectual property law to the best of our ability. We will not release material, printed or recorded, without the written permission of the copyright owners. This is not always granted in practice - speakers usually refuse to include unpublished data or sensitive material for example.
  • Copyright law applies everywhere - it is as much of an "issue" on YouTube as anywhere else.

Conclusion: we can’t force speakers to be recorded. However we will continue to investigate ways to make our services more accessible (though not at the expense of being criminally negligent or losing good tutors and speakers by being over-demanding and insisting that they are recorded). See our copyright policy. We will also invest in ways to improve our attendees' awareness of copyright issues so that presenters are more likely to allow us to distribute material more freely.

Updates:

  • (May 2018) Reminder that we last surveyed our current speakers/tutors for their views in April 2017 (results here):
    • Some told us that they will withhold permission, will charge for the extra time required to review their material before recorded presentations and/or will cut material out for these sessions.
    • Others will not allow the material they are presenting to be recorded.
  • (Sep 2018) To encourage authors to have more confidence in our control and hence give us wider distribution permission, we extended our paperless system over the past months by adding a number of security features to all downloadable event materials so that the origin of copies shared without permission can be traced. These include clearly visible personalised copyright notices as well as hidden encoded tracking codes in the documents.

13. (May 2018) The easy payment scheme has started to work with 12 attendees at the May conference taking advantage of the scheme. The scheme is very advantageous to OUPS as it means earlier booking of places and lower charges as direct bank payments are much cheaper than Paypal and credit cards. The scheme is however too rigid, for example booking for the Sept event is already closed and that for January opens on July 1st and also closes that day under current rules! Given many in E219 didn’t know about the event until less than 6 months the scheme was not open to them at all! It needs to be more flexible by offering the opportunity to spread payments over 3,4 or 6 months plus the ability to ‘catch up’ if joining late.

  • The OUPS Payplan scheme has (as expected) had little to no interest. We ran four trials in 2018, with:
    • zero bookings for the January 2018 weekend,
    • 12 for the May 2018 weekend where we had the benefit of a friendly test group who agreed to use it,
    • one booking for the September 2018 weekend and
    • two bookings for the January 2019 weekend. 
  • In comparison, launching online credit card payments has resulted in more bookings using that method than all others combined.
  • The original claim was that people needed to spread payments over longer, at least six months. We used to finalise events much closer to the event date, and moved our process to seven months before, which is a challenge. Even moving to a year ahead has made zero difference to takeup of this option.
  • While bookings accelerate as events approach, and the majority of bookings are in the two months before each, there’s no evidence that anyone would want to go to the trouble of arranging a standing order for three months, so as we don’t have committee resource to run the bank transaction/booking process more than once per event, and doing this for 3/4/6 months would triple the work.

Conclusion: as presented this idea requires too much work to meet the minimal demand so we won’t be doing this. We’ll continue to offer the PayPlan scheme for a further 12 months and then consider retiring if the lack of interest continues.


12. (May 2018) Given that Paypal fees in the 2016 OUPS accounts were some £5000 running at 2.9% of revenue (card fees are the same) i.e. £8.41 per booking at this event and that bank transfers are virtually free, advise students booking that the preferred payment method is direct bank transfer or the easy payment scheme as both cost OUPS much less in fees.

  • We have never been asked to provide payment by direct transfer;
  • We don’t have committee resource to run the process of checking each day whether any ad hoc bank transfers have been made to our bank account and to link these to bookings so we won’t be doing this. We already have inordinate difficulty linking long-term standing orders that are made each year for membership - sometimes it is simply not even possible to identify the payee.

Conclusion: as presented this idea gives too little benefit to too few customers with too much work required for the resource available so we will not be doing this.


11. (May 2018) Regarding assisted places currently these are offered on an ad hoc basis with no guidelines except a commitment last year to increase to ‘up to 10 per weekend’ in addition these generally seem to be totally free places rather than assisted. My suggestion is to enable upping the number by making the maximum subsidy 50%, in doing so a number of students who don’t wish full ‘charity’ might be more encouraged to apply. In addition surely some examples of how a student might qualify is surely not unreasonable?

  • There are no guidelines, and with the experience that every case is individual we will not introduce any that might restrict applications;
  • We have clearly stated since May 2016 that places are not only offered on a fully funded basis. However in addition to partial funding we have allocated fully-funded places to individuals who could not have attended even on a 50% subsidy so this idea seems to be a weaker version of the current process.

Conclusion: worse than the current process so we will not be doing this.


10. (May 2018) Extend invitations to events to other university students to increase attendance, surely there must have been many at the LSE who would have paid to attend the excellent LOUPS Social Psych event and a larger lecture room was situated next door.

  • We do this on a regular basis. It rarely yields any more bookings. For example:
    • We contacted 30 universities (head of department and chairs of student psychology society in each case) for the LOUPS Conference 2017, along with a discount of 10% to UoW students. This resulted in 1 booking out of 87.
    • We also had mailings sent to the Home Counties BPS mailing list but this resulted in zero extra bookings.
    • We contacted over 20 this year, resulting in 1 extra booking of 2 places out of 85 (from Oxford).
    • We offered 10% discount to LSE students, yielding zero extra places.

Conclusion: this is a high-effort/low yield exercise, but we may continue doing this depending on time available.


9. (May 2018) Consider streaming events such as this to a regional hub in say Manchester, Leeds or Edinburgh again assisted by inviting the ‘native’ students?

  • This is potentially achievable, and might be worth looking at.

Conclusion: include in the work to investigate remote streaming.


8. (May 2018) Revisit the various costings at Warwick weekends a discount of £50 for not having a room seems ridiculously low for example. Likewise the cost of an en-suite student room at £279 (for members) is just £11 less than one of the hotel style rooms at the other events and doesn’t seem good value. Consider too a discount for 2 student friends opting to share a twin room at the conferences. A common complaint about the events is that they are too expensive and many can’t afford to attend.

  • The cost of a weekend includes accommodation, food, tutor/speaker fees and administration costs. To address this would require us to increase the residential cost substantially (to approx £400) to cover our non-accommodation overheads.
  • Warwick have confirmed (again, as we had asked before with regard to partners attending events) that rooms are sold on a single room rate. They will not administer split bookings (e.g. two parties booking one room). We do not have the resource to do this either.
  • The almost universal reaction to this idea when suggested to attendees at the May 2018 weekend was negative.

Conclusion: as presented this idea gives too little benefit to too few customers with too much work required so we will not be doing this.


7. (May 2018) Make the events more friendly and less foreboding for new attendees, there is a real sense of ‘in group’ with the management and the continuing use of what effectively are high tables for the committee etc. should be discontinued forthwith. These new attendees are customers, they need to be nurtured, encouraged to attend again, spreading the word and bringing their friends.There is not a single successful company that doesn’t ensure the directors and management sit with the ‘normal’ staff at company functions, it’s almost shocking that such behaviour takes place within a gathering of psychologists!

  • One of the prime benefits of OUPS weekends is that students get to meet other students, particularly those on their course.  
  • We're not aware that students are actually that keen to sit with the committee for that one event (the dinner), though nothing prevents this.
  • Committee members at our weekends do spend a large amount of time chatting to students across the weekend (not just one meal).
  • We have never cornered an area off from students, and students can join us at any time.

Conclusion: the evidence suggests that this is a personal experience and not the typical case :) The overwhelming anecdotal evidence is that attendees have plenty of committee contact and leave our events feeling more encouraged than they had expected. However it is a concern with committee attendance being reduced to skeleton-staff for two out of our three weekends in order to manage costs, so we should make sure that attendees continue to have as much committee contact as they want. 


6. (Mar 2018) Create a mailing list for ALs who can subscribe to receive details of our events that they are willing to distribute to their tutor groups.

  • There is a risk that some tutors will be wary of doing this without knowing how it would be seen by the faculty, especially as we know that the university has concerns about promoting OUPS events that might not be "open-to-all" because of factors such as cost, location, time etc.

Conclusion: this sounds like a good idea, progress it.

Updates:

  • (Mar 2018) Mailing list created and agreement reached with faculty that we can promote this to ALs on the next OU/AL training day.

5. (Nov 2017) Reduce committee members attendance to skeleton level to reduce cost to a minimum.

  • We use the fact that most of the committee are at weekends to hold our committee meetings, so we either have to do these separately or reduce the number to maybe two per year.
  • All committee members will still be asked to attend the May weekend for the OUPS AGM if they are available.

Conclusion: this sounds like a good idea, progress it.

Updates:

  • (Jan 2018) Committee attendance reduced for the January weekend, further reduction in Sept 2018, figures suggest we can get to maybe four committee minimum.

4. (Nov 2017) Tutors who are committee members to teach without charging a fee.

  • This was a generous offer made by our elected committee tutors.
  • All tutors have the ability to waive their fees and this has happened many times in the past.

Conclusion: this sounds like a good idea, progress it.

Updates:

  • (Jan 2018) Elected committee tutors have agreed not to take payment for a trial period of a year from September 2018.

3. (Nov 2017) Our weekend prices have been the same for over seven years - increase them to a more realistic level to account for the annual increases by Warwick.

  • We try to keep our weekends as affordable as possible but we have had to use reserve funds to effectively pay students to attend our weekends in recent years.
  • Increases should be moderate - our average prices are approx. £300 but while the actual cost is over £400 per student (because the fixed costs of tutors/expenses/overheads are shared across fewer attendees), this would be an unaffordable amount for many students.

Conclusion: this is inevitable. Prices to be increased from September 2018 and then reviewed annually to ensure they are in line with costs.

Updates:

  • (Dec 2017) new prices published from September 2018.


2. (Nov 2017) As a charitable society we offer subsidised places on our weekend events to students with financial difficulty. Our goal has been to offer 10 per weekend, but as numbers have fallen this is dis-proportionate. Reduce the number of places and/or the percentage of the price that is subsidised.

  • The fixed number of 10 seems to make little sense, it was a good "rule of thumb" when we had hundreds of students attending each event but now it has to be reviewed. An annual fund (maybe a percentage of the previous year's profit), or a formula based on numbers of attendees might be more appropriate.
  • Although it would be ideal to offer subsidised places as close to the event date as possible, when we know what the financial outlook for that event looks like, students need as much notice as possible to make arrangements to attend. Hence a retro-active process based on the previous weekend or the previous year's event may be more suitable.

Conclusion: we need to do this, to be discussed.


1. (May 2017) With the support of the OU, make all new psychology students automatic members of OUPS so that we can make them aware of our events. The rationale for forcing free membership on them, instead of offering free membership that they have to choose to take up, is that they are less likely to "opt out" of being members than they are to decide to "opt in" by going through the free-membership process.

With the introduction of the GDPR data protection regulations in May 2018 this is not legal to do, and so we would not expect the OU to do this for these reasons:

  • The data given by students to the OU is for the specific purpose of enabling the university to provide them with the facilities to study - the OU may not use it for any other purpose without changing their terms and conditions;
  • The minimum details we would require are students' names and email addresses (required as OUPS is constituted as a membership charity, obliged to notify all members of votes/AGM/SGM/etc.);
  • The OU is prohibited by law from passing those details to any third parties without the prior permission of each student.
  • If the OU were willing to acquire this permission and then pass this data to OUPS for the purpose of marketing OUPS events we might then be able to ask the individuals for permission to market to them/tell them about our events; however the OU are not willing to do this for a number of reasons (legal, effort required, questions regarding the equality and accessibility to all of OUPS module-specific events etc.).
  • "Opt-out" marketing schemes are not legal under GDPR. As the sole purpose of OUPS having this data would be to market to the students concerned we would not legally be able to operate such a scheme where people are made members and then emailed marketing material until they decide to opt out. We are only allowed to operate "opt-in" schemes like our mailing list where people request to be sent such information.

Conclusion: This idea as proposed is illegal and largely practically unworkable in any case due to the administration overhead between the OU and OUPS.

Updates:

  • (Jul 2018) After almost two years of exploring the issue of OUPS promotion together with the School of Psychology, we recently have had this support from the faculty for some (though not all) of our activities, with direct emails to the full psychology cohort. This is enormous progress, and we hope the beginning of a proper relationship between OUPS and the OU in this area at last.

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