U.S. Department of Labor

OPEN Kick-off Conference for U.S. Department of Labor Grantees

Anna Daniel, May 29th, 2012

The Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN) – led by Creative Commons – is holding a conference tomorrow for grantees of the $500 million U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) program. Grantees will learn how to openly license (under CC BY) all educational materials created under the program so that they may be freely accessed, shared and reused by anyone. CC BY is a requirement of the funding. Grantees will also be shown how to:

  • use tools and techniques for improving access to their materials and universal design;
  • maximise interoperability, and
  • conform to best practice e-learning open standards and specifications.

Grantees will meet other grantees with similar projects for potential collaboration. Collaborating may increase the quality and speed of course development, and free up more time to adapt courses to local needs (for example to major employer needs). Collaboration is also important given many new courses are in emerging industries – such as robotics, mechatronics, health information technology, green construction, green energy and geospatial technologies – where existing materials are not as prevalent and where many projects aim to use innovative teaching tools such as virtual labs.

The conference is fully booked, which indicates strong interest in learning the best ways to enable open education practices.

OPEN includes Creative Commons, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, CAST, and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. It has been funded by the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide free support to grantees to help them meet grant requirements. For more information on OPEN see http://open4us.org.

The TAACCCT program supports President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 by helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials. Openly licensing the materials created under this program may create a multiplier benefit to course content and development nationwide. Benefits may include: accelerated course development and learning, improved pedagogies and retention, and broader access for citizens regardless of their location and wealth. Open licensing optimizes the impact of taxpayer funds spent on the TAACCCT grants.

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$500 million available in Wave 2 of U.S. Department of Labor grant program for community colleges

Jane Park, February 27th, 2012

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced and released a Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) for Wave 2 of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT). Wave 2 makes available $500 million to “eligible institutions of higher education… with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less…”

The full announcement, including the SGA, is available at http://www.doleta.gov/grants/Find_grants.cfm, where you can access it as a pdf. As with the first wave of TAACCCT funding, all educational materials created from grant funds must be released under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. For Wave 2, the CC BY license must also be applied to modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds.

The SGA also contains requirements for accessibility (“All online and technology-enabled content and courses developed under this SGA must incorporate the principles of universal design (see http://www.cast.org/udl/)”) and technical standards for digital assets (“All digital assets within online and technology-enabled courses… should be produced to maximize interoperability, exchange and reuse. In addition, all assessments and/or other content that result in a student score or grade must conform to industry-leading e-learning open standards and specifications…”).

As previously mentioned, Creative Commons, along with Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, CAST, and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, have been funded by the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide free support to grantees to help them meet these grant requirements. Together, we have formed the Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN), to more effectively help grantees. For more information on OPEN and the free services we will be providing, see http://open4us.org. If you are a Wave 1 grantee, you can also sign up directly for our free services there.

The TAACCCT program supports President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 by helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials. Applications to the solicitation are now open for Wave 2, and are due May 24, 2012.

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Response to “Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources”

Cable Green, May 27th, 2011

On Tuesday, the Chronicle of Higher Education posted the article, “Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources.”

We strongly support the U.S. Department of Labor including a CC BY requirement in their recent TAACCCT grant which makes available $2 billion to create open educational resources (OER) for career training programs in community colleges. As we announced earlier, Creative Commons will actively assist the winning grantees by providing expertise in open licensing, adoption and use, and more, to help ensure that the OER created with these federal funds are of the highest quality.

Having just joined Creative Commons this week as its new Director of Global Learning, I look forward to leading these efforts and also to help clarify Creative Commons’ role in the education space. Below is my response, originally posted in the comments section of the Chronicle article:

(1) The US Federal Government has, for decades, provided grants to higher education to produce new research and educational content. To say it is “dangerous for [the Federal Government] to be in the product business” is irrelevant. The Department of Labor (DOL) is exercising rational, responsible public policy that more efficiently uses public tax dollars to improve education opportunities.

The DOL has put forth a simple, effective public policy: Taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources.

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.

Information that is designed, developed and distributed through the generosity of public tax dollars should be accessible to the public that paid for it — without undue restrictions or limits.

If you think about this open policy, it makes sense. We, the American taxpayers, should get what we paid for.

(2) Karen Cator is correct: the commercial publishers (textbook, journals, etc.) should be embracing and supporting this new public policy. When publicly funded digital content (courses, textbooks, data, research, etc.) is openly licensed with a CC BY license, everyone can use and modify the open content to meet their needs — including the commercial publishers.

Moreover, the CC BY license does not restrict commercialization of the open content. To be clear, the commercial publishers can take all $2B of content created in this DOL grant, change it, make it better, add value, and sell it. The consumer (states, colleges, students) will then have a choice: (a) use the free openly licensed version(s) or (b) purchase the commercial for-a-fee version. If the commercial content / services are worth paying for, people will pay. If not, they won’t.

Next step? We should applaud the Departments of Labor and Education for their work and encourage all US Federal agencies to follow suit: require CC BY licenses on all content produced with federal funding.

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