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Open Educational Resources

ED Accepting Proposals for Consortium OER Pilots

The U.S. Department of Education has finally made a move on its efforts to fund development of open educational resources. The agency issued a notice this week inviting proposals for an "open textbooks pilot program" with an Aug. 29, 2018 deadline. The program was mandated in an omnibus spending law, H.R. 1625, approved by Congress earlier this year. ED expected to issue between one and three awards.

The purpose of the program is to support projects at colleges and universities to create new open textbooks or expand their use. Applicants are being encouraged to focus on projects where the total savings will be the greatest (such as in high-enrollment courses), for use in studies that are preparing people for "in-demand fields" or that address career and technical education programs, an apparent favorite of the current White House administration.

The winning proposals will be eligible for between $1.5 million and $4.95 million. The latter amount is nearly the entire fund of $5 million stipulated for the pilot in an explanatory document that accompanied the spending bill.

The application has three "absolute priorities" and one "competitive preference" priority. The absolutes are these:

  • The project must involve consortium with at least three institutions participating, along with representation from industry or workforce groups and nonprofit or community organizations;
  • The proposal needs to fill current gaps in the OER "marketplace" and be able to scale beyond the consortium members; and
  • The plan needs to address how the OER will promote degree completion.

The nice-to-have is the use of technology such as adaptive learning or artificial intelligence to personalize the learning experience for students and perform "ongoing electronic assessments" that will allow the learner to monitor his or her own performance while using the open textbook.

The grant funds can be used for professional development work, must create materials that are accessible, and need to include a protocol for quality review. Also, it's assumed that the content will be licensed in a way to permit its "free use, reuse, modification and sharing."

For more information, visit the application on the Federal Register.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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