Community Colleges: OCW's Final Frontier

OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a movement pioneered and endorsed by large, prestigious universities. It's catching on among 4-year colleges and universities, with totally free and open educational information available online in increasing amounts. But the movement has been slow to gain traction in community colleges.

By Sarah Wright


What is OCW?

The movement's origins aren't exactly clear, though the University of Tübingen in Germany was an early pioneer, posting open-access lecture videos online. OCW in its current form was arguably born at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002. At the very least, the term 'OpenCourseWare' was coined at MIT.

The goal of OCW is to provide free, easily-accessible educational materials to anyone with an Internet connection. Typically, course materials like syllabi, lecture notes and assignment prompts are offered, and are arranged by course. However, the understanding is that learners will have to go it alone, and engage in learning for its own sake. OCW materials seldom offer access to the professor or instructor who developed it, and rarely, if ever, results in any kind of credit or credential. In spite of these constraints, more and more 4-year institutions are offering OCW materials online.

OCW For Community Colleges

The open educational access offered by OCW is a great way to bring some element of democratization to the world of higher education. Though millions of U.S. citizens are currently involved in the higher education system, either as students or faculty and staff, 4-year colleges and universities are still inaccessible to many. For those individuals, who either cannot afford a 4-year degree, or do not want or need one, community colleges offer a great postsecondary education alternative.

Though community colleges can be seen as solving an education gap problem, they haven't been a large part of the open education movement. Unlike 4-year colleges and universities, community colleges are not offering open educational resources (OER) with much frequency. But one group, Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), wants to change that.

About Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources has conducted interviews with CCCOER officials like James Glapa-Grossklag and Dr. Judy Baker, giving us unique insight into the progress of open education at community colleges. Like the OCW movement, CCCOER is focused on providing free educational materials. But whereas OCW is focused on hosting certain course elements online, CCCOER has focused on providing access to textbooks in order to reduce the cost burden on students.

In her interview with, Dr. Baker describes the origins of CCCOER. It began as an unfunded project in California's Foothill-De Anza Community College District. It has grown to include more than 200 community colleges, and has recently partnered with the OCW Consortium to bring OCW to community college campuses. If you're interested in promoting OER at your community college campus, check out this campus promo kit from the OER Consortium.

To read more about CCCOER and the open education movement on community college campuses, check out our interviews with Dr. Baker and Mr. Glapa-Grossklag.

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