By Jessica Lyons
Funding Given Can Be Funding Taken Away
Just recently in September 2011, online education journal Inside Higher Ed reported that new government grants awarded to community colleges would help educators there develop OER materials. However, the joy of getting those grants (which total $500 million) might be short-lived. This month the publication reported that the 2012 budget proposed by the House of Representatives would restrict grant recipients to only using the funds for creating materials determined by the U.S. labor secretary to be sufficiently dissimilar from those that aren't already in the works or for sale.
Concerns Over Government Financing
Unfortunately not everyone was in favor of this grant program to begin with - publishers of educational material have long worried that OER will cut into their profits. As Inside Higher Ed explained, these publishers stand against what they see as the government helping to create competition; they feel that OER, being free, has a distinct advantage over their commercial products. Opponents also feel that grants shouldn't be used to develop programs like those that already exist.
'We have the government competing with the private sector and trying to create materials from scratch at a time when we desperately need to be educating students with materials that have been proven to work and systems that have been proven to work,' Association of American Publishers' executive director for higher education Bruce Hildebrand told the publication.
Why OER is Needed
In reality, those who don't want OER to receive government funding could actually be the reason these materials are needed in the first place. After all, aren't high prices for educational materials the reason so many people consider OER a necessity? And aren't the publishers opposed to government funding the ones who've been somewhat responsible for constantly rising costs? Maybe if publishers had kept their prices more reasonable a large push for open educational resources wouldn't be so important now.
But the reality is that each year it gets a little harder for schools, educators and students to afford all of the materials they need. OER has become the solution to that problem. Educators all over the globe are now a part of the movement, sharing their materials so learners everywhere can reap the benefits. In the end, OER simply makes obtaining an education more affordable.
The Importance of Government Funding
Creating OER takes time and money, but it's certainly a worthy investment, especially since it could be developed at one school but used at countless others. That's a lot of bang for your buck. But that development money has to come from somewhere, and government funding can make a big difference in educators being able to create more OER, which will surely be a vital part of the education field's future. Hopefully lawmakers realize this before making their final budget and won't limit the resources educators can develop.
What exactly is the impact that OER is having on learning? Find out what Roy Schroeder, founding director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service, has to say about it.