Home > Community Colleges, Higher Education, Teaching & Learning > The Quiet Revolution in Open Learning

The Quiet Revolution in Open Learning

By Kevin Carey

In the late days of March 2010, Congressional negotiators dealt President Obama’s community-college reform agenda what seemed like a fatal blow. A year later, it appears that, remarkably, the administration has fashioned the ashes of that defeat into one of the most innovative federal higher-education programs ever conceived. Hardly anyone has noticed.

Obama originally called for $12-billion in new spending on community-college infrastructure and degree completion. The money was to come from eliminating public subsidies to for-profit banks that made student loans. But late in the process, some lawmakers insisted that savings that had already occurred, because of colleges’ switching into the federal direct-loan program in anticipation of the new law, didn’t count as savings. Billions were pulled off the table, and the community-college plan was shelved. Two days later, negotiators found $2-billion. But they could spend it only on a U.S. Department of Labor program restricted to workers who had lost their jobs because of shifts in global trade. The fit with the president’s expansive agenda seemed awkward, and the amount was pennies on the original dollar. Cynical commentators called it a “consolation prize.”

Then, the Education and Labor Departments decided to do something highly uncharacteristic of large federal bureaucracies: They began to talk. To one another. Constructively. What they devised could change higher education for huge numbers of students, many of whom will never attend a community college at all.

The concept is simple: Community colleges that compete for federal money to serve students online will be obliged to make those materials—videos, text, assessments, curricula, diagnostic tools, and more—available to everyone in the world, free, under a Creative Commons license. The materials will become, to use the common term, open educational resources, or OER’s.

Continued at: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Quiet-Revolution-in-Open/127545/

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