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Sharing some positive news with the Open Community.

Today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the Washington Course Library (all courses are licensed CC BY) in a speech about lowering college costs. See the end of this NYT article:

November 29, 2011
Duncan Calls for Urgency in Lowering College Costs

Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a speech Tuesday pushed higher education officials to “think more creatively — and with much greater urgency — about how to contain the spiraling costs of college and reduce the burden of student debt on our nation’s students.”

At a time when the Occupy movement has helped push college costs into the national spotlight, the Education Department characterized the speech, delivered in Las Vegas, as the start of a “national conversation about the rising cost of college.” The department took the opportunity to call attention to steps the Obama administration has taken to reduce the net price that students and families pay for higher education and make it easier to pay back student loans.

The widespread anger over rising college costs came into sharp focus Monday, with student protests in New York and California.

In New York on Monday, City University of New York students and their supporters held a raucous street protest, with signs saying “CUNY must be free” and “Abolish the board of trustees” as City University trustees approved a series of $300 annual tuition increases extending through 2015. At a protest in California, Cheryl Deutsch, a U.C.L.A. graduate student who heads the union representing student workers, confronted the university’s regents to extended applause. “You, as banker and financiers, real estate developers and members of the corporate elite, are not representative of the people of California, she said. “You are not representative of the students of U.C. You are the 1 percent.”

In his speech, Mr. Duncan left no room for doubt that the Obama administration was taking heed of the rising furor and the growing online debate about how much a college degree is worth at a time when there are so few jobs available for graduates.

“Three in four Americans now say that college is too expensive for most people to afford,” Mr. Duncan said. “That belief is even stronger among young adults — three-fourths of whom believe that graduates today have more debt than they can manage.”

From 1995 to 2007, the net price of college for full-time undergraduates, adjusted for inflation, rose 48 percent at for-profit schools, 26 percent at public two-year institutions and 20 percent at public four-year institutions.

College seniors with loans now graduate with an average debt load of more than $25,000. But even as college has become more expensive, Mr. Duncan said, it has become an increasingly important investment, since those with bachelor’s degrees, on average, earn about a million dollars more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma.

Mr. Duncan acknowledged that cost containment was not a simple matter, given that college presidents are simultaneously working to increase quality and access. And he also recognized that the public institutions that educate three-quarters of the nation’s students have had to raise tuition as state legislatures, faced with budget shortfalls, have cut their support for higher education.

Mr. Duncan promoted the Obama administration’s success in increasing student aid and making student loan debt more manageable, through expanded income-based repayment plans and a new debt-consolidation program.

“A decade ago, the federal government provided a third of undergraduate grant aid,” he said. “Today, we provide half of all undergraduate grant aid. In the last three years alone, the number of Pell Grant recipients enrolled in college has jumped by almost half, from 6.2 million to roughly 9 million. In the same time frame, the value of total grant aid and federal loans per student increased by about 30 percent in inflation-adjust dollars.”

He said the “underappreciated changes to the American Opportunity Tax Credit” in 2009 led to a huge jump in tax credits and tuition deductions, and since 2009, the number of Free Applications for Federal Student Aid — known as Fafsa, the first step in applying for federal aid — have shot up almost 50 percent “thanks in part to our simplification” of the application form.

In his speech to financial-aid administrators, Mr. Duncan also discussed the department’s work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create a financial aid shopping sheet, or model disclosure form, to help students understand and compare the type and amount of aid in different aid packages, and the department’s new watch lists, required by Congress, showing which colleges have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices.

He also lauded those colleges, universities and state programs that have cut tuition — few enough that he was able to mention by name almost every effort — and increased educational attainment, while lowering costs.

He cited, for example, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which is offering a 50 percent discount on tuition and fees for freshmen who enroll in the school of education; the University of Oregon’s PathwayOregon, guaranteeing a tuition-free education to qualified Oregonians from low-income families; and, in West Virginia, the University of Charleston’s plan to cut tuition 22 percent for next year’s incoming freshmen and transfer students.

He praised recent reforms like those involving Western Governors University, an affordable online, nonprofit institution whose students earn degrees not by putting in a set number of hours but through demonstrated mastery of their field; the National Center for Academic Transformation, which pioneered the redesign of high-enrollment courses at more than 100 institutions, substantially reducing their costs; and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, whose Open Course Library provides curricular resources for the courses with the highest enrollment.

While such programs are now the exception, Mr. Duncan said, “I want them to be the norm.”

Cable Green, PhD
Director of Global Learning
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Congratulations to the Open Course Library team in Washington State! A well-deserved accolade. The Open Course Library project is a world leading exemplar for others to emulate.

The OER university network is planning to reuse Open Course Library materials and we will add value to expanding your return on investment dollars.

In particular, given that the OERu has two American based partners, American OERu learners will be able to receive credit towards credible credentials extending these opportunities to States outside of Washington State.

The open community applauds your inspiring work and we will continue to assist in spreading your good work to all students worldwide. Let's hope others will identify the gaps and help achieve the mission of free learning opportunities for all learners.

Working together we can achieve far more than working alone!

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It is a world leading exemplar because now we all have the freedom to improve on the OCL resources -- and I am committed to helping my friends in Washington State achieve this.

Show me another government funded project which has commissioned the development of the top enrolled courses with a requirement to be licensed under a CC-BY license. To the best of my knowledge, I'm not aware of any project of this magnitude and unashamed commitment to open licensing as a requirement for funding support. 

I once suggested that it is far better to have a poor quality resource which is open than to have a high quality resource which is closed. My congratulations to Washington State for the courage to be open. 

The OER university network aims to help improve these materials through our implementations and we will share our improvements back for the benefit of all.  That's gotta be better than poor quality resources locked behind the password of the institutional LMS.


Wayne Mackintosh, Ph.D.
Director OER Foundation
Director, International Centre for Open Education,
Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand.
Founder and elected Community Council Member, WikiEducator
Mobile +64 21 2436 380
Skype: WGMNZ1
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That's a valid  point. We have to start somewhere.  

While I'm sure there are exemplary teachers who produce exceptional elearning courses, I can assure you that the majority of e-learning happening behind closed doors and password barriers are not necessarily any better than the work produced by the Open Course Library project. 

The open licensing of the Washington State enables format shifting. As we progress with the OER university intiative, we will be able to select relevant courses from OCL and elsewhere and convert these into wiki format to facilitate collaborative authoring on WikiEducator.

We will then be able to easily integrate these resources across the different delivery platforms used by the OERu anchor partners and other institutions who may be interested. See for example:

This will contribute to continuous cycles of improvement -- one step at a time.



Well said, Wayne.

Here is another example of "format shifting." and the WA State Open Course Library have partnered to shift the courses into a different format:

Why?  Early on, the Open Course Library team (which I was once privileged to be a member) decided it was not open enough to make the courses available as ANGEL course exports and Common Course Cartridge exports... which BTW you can download here:

More open technical formats = more access for more people and more projects.  The more open the technical format, the easier it is for others to (a) make content improvements and (b) access the content (or parts of the content).

If OERu moves the courses to WikiEducator and improves on the content - that's great!   One more step toward making the courses more open still.

Tom Caswell @ SBCTC (Cc:) is going to go more open still ... by having the Phase 2 course design teams design on Google docs in the open.. during the course design process.  How many faculty do you know that do that?

Let the revisions begin!

Cable Green
Director of Global Learning
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