Thursday, July 24, 2014 News

SPARC responds to RFI issued by the Dept. of Education

Open Education

July 23, 2014

Ms. Margo Anderson
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Room 4W311
Washington, DC 20202

Re: Docket ID: ED-2013-OII-0146

Dear Ms. Anderson,

I’m writing on behalf of SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition — a membership organization consisting of over 200 academic and research libraries in the U.S. and Canada — to comment on the ‘Secretary’s Proposed Supplemental Priorities and Definitions for Discretionary Grant Programs’ noticed by the Department of Education on June 24, 2014, and to provide insight specific to Proposed Priority #11.

The Internet enables us to teach, learn and develop knowledge faster and on a wider scale than ever before. Learners can find information instantly on virtually any topic, and connect with peers across the globe. Teachers can share their knowledge with students on another continent almost as easily as in their own classroom. And educational resources can now be disseminated to a worldwide audience at virtually no marginal cost.

SPARC believes that Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a new model for disseminating knowledge that takes full advantage of the digital environment. OER are distributed freely online under an open license that grants blanket permission for full reuse rights to the public. Users are free to share, copy, paste, edit, adapt and interact with the content — in short, everything the Internet enables.

OER provides an important opportunity to maximize the power of the Internet to improve teaching and learning, and to increase access to education. SPARC supports the creation and sharing of open materials used in teaching, as well as new approaches to learning where people create and shape knowledge openly together, and promotes practices and policies that advance this vision.

As such, SPARC applauds the Department of Education for including OER in its Proposed Priority 11— Leveraging Technology to Support Instructional Practice and Professional Development, and agree with your assessment that OER can be used to improve and enhance department-wide priorities. We also believe that OER can be used to help effectively address many other priorities mentioned in this notice, such as:

  • Enabling the creation of personalized learning environments (Proposed Priority #3);
  • Targeting and differentiating material specifically for high-need students (Proposed Priority #4);
  • Increasing Postsecondary Access, Affordability, and Completion (Proposed Priority #5); and
  • Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (Proposed Priority #7).

SPARC commends the Department of Education for including a revised definition of an ‘open educational resource’, that notes that OER are “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.” This definition makes it clear that it is crucially important for OER to be properly licensed to allow for both free use as well as robust repurposing. This definition is also identical to the definition of OER provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is widely cited and accepted in the U.S. education community and therefore will support consistent understanding of the term for prospective grantees and members of the public. For these reasons, we applaud this change in the definition.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important topic. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Regards, Nicole Allen

Director of Open Education

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