$2 billion that could change online education

“The big idea here for is for online [courses] to provide more capacity to serve more people and really fit the needs of displaced workers,” said Jim Hermes, director of government relations of the American Association of Community Colleges. “We need programs that will get people credentials faster than normal.”

The government’s grants program specifies “interactive software” that can “tailor instruction” for nontraditional students whose schedules don’t allow for in-person classes.

ED also advocates for multimedia software and simulations that can provide experiential learning and create a range of “open-source courses that can ultimately be shared and distributed nationwide”—a concept first explored at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a decade ago, when officials there made lectures, syllabi, and other class materials free to anyone with a web connection.

Funding online programs that allow for self-paced learning, Hermes said, would make custom-made educational opportunities for adult Americans, not traditional college students who don’t have families to support during their education.

“If they’re not working right now, [students] might have the time to do a much more concentrated schedule … instead of going to class a few times a week,” Hermes said.

Open education advocates lauded the government’s TAACCCT program, even after the community college funding was reduced to one-sixth on the $12 billion discussed in legislative circles last year.

Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, an organization that develops and supports the legal sharing on digital material, said the program “signifies a massive leap forward in the sharing of education and training materials.”

Casserly continued: “Resources licensed under [Creative Commons Attribution] can be freely used, remixed, translated, and built upon, and will enable collaboration between states, organizations, and businesses to create high-quality [open education resources].”

The deadline for TAACCCT applications is April 21.

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