You, Too, Can Sponsor an OER Revolution

The internets are buzzing with the news of the $2 billion grant program jointly offered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. There was some initial hype (driven partly by a blog post on that the grant would go toward creating $2 billion of open educational resources. However, while the grant program does require that curricular materials created under its auspices be released under a creative commons license, there is no requirement that the grant money go toward creating curricular materials in the first place. According to a spokesperson from the Department of Education,

“[A]t this point, as the solicitation phase is just beginning, we don’t know how much of the $2B (or even $500-million in the first year) will be spent on open educational resources.”

She added, “All of the intellectual property that is created as a result of the grants has to be shared as OERs, and it would be accurate to say that the money is available to fund open educational resources, but there is no guarantee all those funds—or even any of those funds—will be spent for that purpose. The applicants have to make their case that what they propose will help students finish college more reliably with market-ready skills, degrees and certificates. We think OERs will be an important part of that. But how much? We can’t say yet.”


But dispair not, dear reader. There are still plenty of opportunities to move OER forward—with your help. Case in point: smARThistory needs just $10,000 to generate the 100 more OER art history videos they need to provide a complete textbook replacement.

Take a look:

Make your donation to this project today at KickStarter.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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5 Responses to You, Too, Can Sponsor an OER Revolution

  1. (Putting my flame-resistant Nomex underwear on) – It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which funding agencies foolishly pour an amazing amount of money into old-line publishing channels to entice them to create and give-away old-style content away for free whilst investing zero funds in building tools or capabilities that actually empower individual innovative teachers and students to make, share, and reuse OER materials. My feeling is that the current trend in OER spend will barely cause the tiniest ripple of true long-term change. People who have ideas that are truly clever and transformative, are sadly never funded while the rich get richer from these well-intentioned but poorly directed investments.

    This reminds me of the late 1990’s where the sexy foundation grant of the day was to give $250,000 to some graphic artists to make a really cool CD-ROM about bugs as if that would transform teaching somehow. By the time the CD-ROMs were ready, they were obsolete – both technologically and content-wise – and they were so narrow and limited as to be a completely pointless exercise. But the foundations that paid for them felt like they had made the world a better place. At the same time while the dinosaurs of the marketplace in the late 1990’s were in a feeding frenzy on well-intentioned grant money, smart clever folks were building a whole new industry – that was sadly under-financed and took years to develop and only found its stride when the technologies were commercialized and we had to buy them back from those innovators.

    I understand that when oranizations want to spend a lot of money, the easiest thing to do is to give it to the existing money vacuum cleaners – so the money givers can feel good – and they get well written glossy marketing documents that tell them how wonderful their money was spent. Real innovators are a little rough around the edges so it is far more comfortable to give money to the non-innovators with slick marketing.

    I really don’t think there is a good solution to this because if those with the money really want to invest in the real future – it is hard to find those truly on the cutting edge because they are off in their labs playing with the future and not spending six months angling for funding. They don’t have six months of spare time.

  2. Large scale funding is very hard not to do wastefully. No question about it.

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  4. Rob Abel says:

    Hi Michael-
    On Friday I looked through the solicitation and found a real problem. There is a requirement to create the content in SCORM format. SCORM is notoriously poor at achieving reuse and, as you know, the last several years the educational community, via IMS, has been releasing a new generation of standards that do work – and are being rapidly and voluntarily adopted. So, the requirement for SCORM is a real problem for achieving reuse of these materials. And, SCORM costs a lot to implement. This seems like one of those unproductive “regulations” that Obama said just last Monday the government was going to eliminate. I’ve written up a detailed post on the IMS web site that goes through the history and the seven technical reasons why SCORM is not a good fit for education. I’m trying to get the word out so that people realize that this is in the fine print. The post is here.

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