Monday, August 17, 2009

Obama's OER vs. EU's OER

Checking the news about Obama's announced initiative where a $500-million-dollar online-education plan is outlined with the idea that the money will buy online course material that is made freely available. The person who is pushing the plan within the administration, Mr. Smith, has previously worked with OER in Hewlett Foundation, which has put some $ 70 million in last years to support Open Educational Resources worldwide.

EU has put huge amounts on different research and development progremmes around digital educational resources since late nineteens, and especially under Lisbon 2010 agenda. I checked some figures just for recent times:

  • FP7 progrmamme for '09-'10 has €151 million euros for digital libraries and TEL
  • LPP puts € 7 billion for the programme from '07 to '13, more than a billion a year
  • eContent Plus has significant budgets also
The big difference is that the EU seldom actually puts money in developing the content, but actually innovation and services around the content. I think the reasoning is that the content comes from publishers and more and more from end-users, and they do not want to rock that boat too much. I actually cannot think of a single EU-project where the content creation is paid by EU. For example the big OUUK initiative was also funded by Hewlett Foundations, which nowadays gets the world-wide claim to OER fame.

This setting could offer an interesting comparison study in a few years time: do we see more uptake with content that is professionally developed and made available to educators and learners (i.e. Obama's model), or do we see that the EU model, where the focus is on services, but the content is not always up to par, (finally) produces some uptake?

I wanted to find the journal article mentioned in the post, but could not
In January he published an article in the journal Sciencelaying out the dream of "a 21st-century library" composed of Web-based open courses for high-school and college students. The courses would be laced with multimedia features and personalized with feedback from computer programs that track student performance. The language coming out of the White House and Education Department today echoes some of the concepts in Mr. Smith's article.