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Anka Mulder: Why should governments be interested in open educational resources?

Anka Mulder (Director Education & Student Affairs and OCW Consortium board member) blogs about what Open Educational Resources can do for their country’s educational policies and budget.What’s in it for them?

"From 5-7 May the 5th annual OCW consortium conference took place. This year’s main subject was: Open Course Ware and educational policy.

OpenER
in most countries has grown despite a lack of government interest. OCW
started in the US: MIT decided to put all its courses on line, with the
financial aid of the Hewlett foundation. In Spain, OCW is supported by
universities and one of the country’s banks. In the Netherlands, two
universities are very active, encouraged by international interest and
that of learners in companies. Recently, some governments have started
to explore what Open Educational Resources can do for their country’s
educational policies and budget. So why should governments be
interested? What’s in it for them?

1. make higher education accessible:
Hal Plotkin, higher education advisor to the US government, talked
about US plans to invest $500 million in OpenEr, notably to facilitate
more students to get their education at one of the US community
colleges. Students who would otherwise not go for a higher education
diploma.

2. pay for higher education for a growing number of students:
Interest in the possibilities of OpenER is growing in developing
countries as well, such as Vietnam. This is often for very practical
reasons: students and governments are simply not able to pay for course
materials. Gary Matkin from the University of California / Irvine
stated that an increase of 1% in participation in higher education in
India implies 1 million more students. In order to pay for this,
India’s government will have to be creative.

By the way, the
same is true for many Western governments, which are facing major
budget cuts, including on higher education, at a time where students
numbers are increasing rapidly. Unless new methods are used, budget
cuts will lead to a drop in quality and lower standards of teaching.

3. compete on the higher education talent market:
With the support of the UK government, JISC had been able to carry out
several OpenER projects in the UK. As a result the Open University UK
is now one of the world leaders in OpenEr in higher education. OpenER
also supports the strong international position the UK has in higher
education by making the quality of UK higher education visible to the
whole world"

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