April 27, 2011

I owe someone a beer, or, OER funding comes through

As consultants watching online and blended learning developments across the country, we are often asked our opinion about trends and future developments. Sometimes we provide our opinions even when not asked. And, every so often, we’re very wrong. New developments in politics and policy, in particular, can be hard to predict when one is watching from afar and guessing based on generalizations that turn out not to apply. That may be a fairly obvious statement, but it’s worth remembering whether you’re asking a consultant’s opinion, or hazarding guesses yourself.

All this came to my mind when I heard this news:

The Department of Labor and the Department of Education today announced a new education fund that will grant $2 billion to create OER materials for career training programs in community colleges. According to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) will invest $2 billion over the next four years into grants that will “provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs.” The full program announcement (PDF) states that all the resources created using these funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

Federal funding for creation of Open Educational Resources at the community college level is a welcome development, and $2 billion is real money even if spread over four years. It is also, to me, a surprise. When there was talk about significant OER development funding coming from the federal government some time earlier this year, in the overall political environment of concern over spending and budget deficits, I predicted the OER funding would never happen. In fact, I’m pretty sure I told someone (or perhaps more than one person) during informal conversation “If that funding comes through I’ll buy you a beer.”

Three takeaways:

  • The political and policy process is hard to predict, for me at least.
  • Be careful about relying on what consultants tell you, especially if they’re sure of themselves.
  • If you were among the people who I promised a beer if the OER funding happened, contact me and claim your beer.

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