Education Department Sets Timeline for $5 Million OER Pilot

May 9, 2018

The competition among institutions for $5 million in federal grant money for OER initiatives will kick off this summer, an Education Department official told Congress in a letter Monday.

Frank Brogan, acting assistant secretary of postsecondary education, assured Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, that the department will adhere to lawmakers' conditions for carrying out the program. Durbin and other lawmakers urged Secretary Betsy DeVos earlier this year to provide the full $5 million appropriation to institutions, to prioritize projects that will provide large numbers of students with significant savings and to support development and creation of OER content.

The department also agrees that all content created under the program should be outfitted with a nonexclusive license that requires attribution only when requested by the copyright owner.

Brogan’s letter, first reported in The Washington Post, indicates that the department will assign a portion of the funding to faculty training and quality assessment. The agency will soon begin accepting public comment on the project.

In late March, Congress included $5 million for OER in its fiscal year 2019 omnibus budget. The investment represents the federal government’s largest yet for OER, though observers caution that $5 million is modest compared with ongoing efforts at the state level.

Last month, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition released recommendations for the program that included:

  • prioritizing high-enrollment undergraduate courses
  • prioritizing improvement of existing textbooks over the creation of new ones
  • supporting professional development for instructors and librarians
  • awarding grants directly to institutions and leveraging consortia for wider reach
  • ensuring that grant outcomes are available to the public

Nicole Allen, SPARC's director of open education, said the organization is pleased thus far with the department's stated priorities and encouraged the department to "to follow both the spirit and the letter of the conditions set forth by Congress in order to achieve the greatest benefits for students."


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