President Obama Commits to Promote Open Educational Resources

White House photo of President Obama addressing UN OGP.

This week, President Obama spoke at the United Nations Open Government Partnership, where he described his Administration’s efforts to “open up government data to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth, modernize our Freedom of Information Act with input from experts, and harness American ingenuity to solve important problems.”  During his speech he made a new commitment to “promote open educational resources to help teachers and students everywhere.”

In response, Creative Commons USA Public Lead Michael Carroll has issued the following statement:

“Creative Commons USA is pleased that the Obama Administration has included commitments to increase its investments in open educational resources in its most recent National Action Plan in support of the Open Government Partnership. Open Government is about more than transparency.  It is also about making sure that members of a society have the ability and rights to access and use the informational resources created with public funds. CC USA looks forward to working with the Administration, Executive Branch agencies, members of Congress, and state and local governments to understand and use the power of the openness that CC licenses provide to make most effective use of open educational resources. Investments in OER can improve educational outcomes while providing significant savings to students, parents, and taxpayers by avoiding unnecessary costs imposed by the inefficient and misdirected textbook publishing system that we have in the United States. We will shortly be announcing some specific initiatives that will highlight the value of the U.S. Government’s $2 billion investment in OER through the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT), which requires that grantees make the educational resources they produce with federal dollars available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This program serves as a model for other federal, state, and local investments in the production of educational resources, training materials and other informational resources.”

The President’s announcement of new initiatives in the National Action Plan begins with the following specific commitments related to OER:

Promote Open Education to Increase Awareness and Engagement

Open education is the open sharing of digital learning materials, tools, and practices that ensures free access to and legal adoption of learning resources. There is a growing body of evidence that the use of open education resources improves the quality of teaching and learning, including by accelerating student comprehension and by fostering more opportunities for affordable cross-border and cross-cultural educational experiences. The United States is committed to open education and will:

Raise open education awareness and identify new partnerships. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will jointly host a workshop on challenges and opportunities in open education internationally with stakeholders from academia, industry, and government. The session will foster collaboration among OGP members and other interested governments and will produce best practices to inform good policies in open education.

Pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning. The State Department will conduct three pilots overseas by December 2015 that use open educational resources to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts. The pilots’ results, including best practices, will be made publicly available for interested educators.

Launch an online skills academy. The Department of Labor (DOL), with cooperation from the Department of Education, will award $25 million through competitive grants to launch an online skills academy in 2015 that will offer open online courses of study, using technology to create high-quality, free, or low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials. This academy will help students prepare for in-demand careers. Courses will be free for all to access on an open learning platform, although limited costs may be incurred for students seeking college credit that can be counted toward a degree. Leveraging emerging public and private models, the investments will help students earn credentials online through participating accredited institutions, and expand the open access to curriculum designed to speed the time to credit and completion. The online skills academy will also leverage the burgeoning marketplace of free and open-licensed learning resources, including content developed through DOL’s community college grant program, to ensure that workers can get the education and training they need to advance their careers, particularly in key areas of the economy.

This afternoon, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced “additional momentum and progress by federal agencies on open education, including anticipated NIH funding for open educational resources on Big Data in Biomedicine, and the” creation of platforms to facilitate use and sharing of open educational resources.”

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