the american graduation initiative

A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration

Jane Park, October 2nd, 2009

The Publius Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society offers a new essay on OER and public policy in the United States: A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration . Written by Carolina Rossini and Erhardt Graeff, it does a great job of pointing out the major recent movements toward OER in state and federal governments, and thoughtfully evaluates the issues that each initiative brings to the table.

“This post draws significantly from an interview on August 10, 2009 with Hal Plotkin, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Dept. of Education, who has closely followed and been involved with OER policies in California. The interview was part of research on the educational materials sector being conducted under the Industrial Cooperation Project at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. The research is part of a broader project being led by Prof. Yochai Benkler and coordinated by Carolina Rossini. In the research, we are seeking to understand the approaches to innovation in some industrial sectors, such as alternative energy, educational materials, and biotechnology. The intention is to map the degree to which open and commons-based practices are being used compared to proprietary approaches and what forces drive the adoption and development of these models.”

Like all content on the Publius site, the essay is available via CC BY-SA.

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The American Graduation Initiative

Jane Park, July 15th, 2009

President Obama announced yesterday the American Graduation Initiative, a twelve billion dollar plan to reform U.S. community colleges. The initiative calls for five million additional community college graduates by 2020, and plans that “increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities” to aid this goal.

A significant component of the initiative is the plan to “create a new online skills laboratory.” From the fact sheet,

“Online educational software has the potential to help students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone. Interactive software can tailor instruction to individual students like human tutors do, while simulations and multimedia software offer experiential learning. Online instruction can also be a powerful tool for extending learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs. New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.”

It is important to note here the difference between “open” and simply accessible “online”. Truly open resources for education are clearly designated as such with a standard license that allows not only access, but the freedoms to share, adapt, remix, or redistribute those resources. The educational materials that make up the new open online courses for this initiative should be open in this manner, especially since they will result from a government plan. We are excited about this initiative and hope the license for its educational materials will allow all of these freedoms. Catherine Casserly, formerly in charge of open educational resources at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (now at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), writes,

“Today at Macomb College, President Barack Obama announced a proposal to commit $50 million for the development of open online courses for community colleges as part of the American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills through Community Colleges. As proposed, the courses will be freely available for use as is and for adaption as appropriate for targeted student populations. The materials will carry a Creative Commons license.”

You can read the official announcement at the White House site on their blog and visit the briefing room for the full fact sheet.

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