Big $2 Billion Vision for OER, Yet Short-Sighted

A fantastic announcement this week from the Departments of Labor and Education. $2 billion to create new curricular programs for community colleges, all materials to be released under Creative Commons licences.

I like the objectives of this grant program, and it has a lot of potential to do much good. However, the implementation of the vision is a little short-sighted and may be disappointing to many in open education. Assuming I'm interpreting the grant program requirements correctly, only community colleges are able to be grantees. Section III. A. reads,

Eligible institutions are institutions of higher education as defined in Section 102 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1002) which offer programs that can be completed in not more than 2 years. (p. 12)

I can understand that the lead grantee should be a community college, and that the assessed outcomes should provide evidence of success in community colleges. It's important to keep the focus on community colleges. However, it seems to me that there is much to be gained by allowing four-year institutions and those that offer graduate degree work to participate as well. We have some overlap in needs for our 100- to 200- level courses that coincide with community colleges. By drawing on the resources and expertise available in these other institutions in higher education, stronger consortiums could be formed. Finally, there are many people in OER already who would love to be involved in developing these new curricular programs.

I decided to write the Departments of Labor and Education today and ask them to reconsider the eligibility requirements. lists the following contact information in their announcement of the program:

If you agree with this assement, you might call or send an email, too.


Charlie, et al:

I agree with the disappointment that the grant is so specific for community colleges to the extent that it would seem to discourage 4 year colleges and universities. I saw it as probably a political compromise, since if any federal dollars are going to be spent today, they have to link up to creating jobs in a direct way.

I think that if you read the rules broadly, an instiution is eligible if they offer a 2 year degree, and many institutions which are overall a 4 year institution probably do offer a 2 year degree somewhere. Plus, there's always the option of forming a consortium between 2 and 4 year colleges.

And what a big win for Creative Commons licensing!