The federal government is about to give a big push to online education. Inside Higher Ed reports that the Department of Education is considering funding the development of online courses. They report (here):
Community colleges and high schools would receive federal funds to create free, online courses in a program that is in the final stages of being drafted by the Obama administration….
The funds envisioned for open courses -- $50 million a year -- may be small in comparison to the other ideas being discussed. But in proposing that the federal government pay for (and own) courses that would be free for all, as well as setting up a system to assess learning in those courses, and creating a "National Skills College" to coordinate these efforts, the plan could be significant far beyond its dollars.
The draft language suggests that the administration is throwing its weight behind the movement to put more courses online -- and offer them free -- and is also pushing that movement in the direction of community colleges….
According to the draft materials from the administration, the program would support the development of 20-25 "high quality" courses a year, with a mix of high school and community college courses. Initial preference would go to "career oriented" courses. The courses would be owned by the government and would be free for anyone to take. Courses would be selected competitively, through peer review, for support. And the courses would be "modular" or "object based" such that they would be "interoperable" and could be offered with a variety of technology platforms.
Under the plan, the government would also support a "National Skills College" at a community college that would, among other things, work to develop examinations that could be given at the end of the courses so that colleges, employers and students could judge how much learning had taken place. Course developers would be asked to consult with colleges on standards, so that the offerings could be created with the goal of having credit transferred to many institutions. And the National Skills College would work to promote programs that might mix the free courses with tuition courses so students could earn degrees at lower cost.