A sign of the decline of established education is this response to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s call for cost-savings recommendations: students should go off-campus to complete at least ten percent of their degree requirements. An article in Wired Campus describes how online courses could be used to compensate for the inability of universities to deliver in the old analog way.
This quotation from the article contains a revealing nugget about what is happening spontaneously in the growth of online learning:
Richard Garrett, managing director at the consulting firm Eduventures, said requiring online education “would seem unnecessary” because it’s already “increasingly difficult to graduate from a mainstream higher-education institution and not have taken something that is more or less an online course.”
“It might create more negative feeling and go against what’s a pretty organic trend already,” he said. “In many ways, online is most successful where it’s been significantly bottom up rather than top down.”
Here is the nugget — a clue that individual students, not pedagogical planners, are choosing online opportunities to meet their own goals: it’s been significantly bottom up rather than top down. This fact demonstrates, among other things, the reality of students taking their schooling into their own hands.
The White House proposals called the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) were dropped from the package of education spending that was folded into the health reconciliation bill that has now been passed by Congress and signed by the President. The education legislation, which moved the student loan program into federal control, was not debated in Congress. The AGI was dropped from the legislation during cost-cutting closed-door sessions where Democrats and Obama picked and chose where federal taxpayer education dollars would go.
I am convinced that the stoppage here of federal management of online courses is a lucky break for long term open learning. Not having the feds doling out dollars to set up infrastructures they approve will let network laws and unrestricted innovation emerge the global knowledge commons. — instead of messing it up big time as bureaucrats tend to do.
I realize there is disappointment in the open educational resources (OER) community over losing $500M for OER. Yet the excerpt below from the proposed AGI scares me about the future openness of online learning with the federal government doing what it describes. Won’t content be overseen in Washington? Who decides which community colleges distribute or use the courses? These are taxpayer dollars; would the courses be openly online? Why the departments of Labor and Defense?
Did the liberty of learning dodge a big “O”- shaped bullet here? What do you think?
Create New Online Skills Laboratory
. . . New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.