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Cloud created by:

Robert Farrow
26 October 2011

Josh Jarrett
Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Jarrett began with a brief overview of his background and work history, pointing out that opportunity in the USA is something that is built up over generations.

Education challenges facing the USA

  1. Completion - access is not enough because even though the rate of participation has doubled, only approximately 40% of students complete their courses.  At the same time, there are 3 million unfilled jobs in the USA.
  2. Quality - half of college students don't make any improvement in critical thinkiing skills over the first years of study.  What is the value of such an education?
  3. Funding - there is a long standing competition in state/federal budgets between healthcare and education... one which healthcare tends to win.
  4. Demographics - low academic readiness / lack of diversity & participation. Jarrett went on to outline the story of a promising student (Brianna) who went from being sure that she would complete college to dropping out at the end of the first semester.
There is an ongoing tension between cost, quality and access, and provocative reforms are needed.  What can openness do for Brianna?


Gates Foundation

Education remains the primary arbiter of fortune in this country (the USA), driving social mobility and determining the economic standing of oneself and ones offspring. But education (and opportunity for education) is not equally distributed.  

80% of the Gates Foundation work is international.  Their domestic work is primarily to do with education (at various stages).  

  • Rewarding success
  • Accelerating early momentum and helping with transitions
  • Unlocking the power of technology to personalise and improve learning

Three Key Challenges for OER Community

1.  Evidence - translating cost savings to:

  • Course completion
  • Rentention
  • Enrollment
  • Achieving credentials

NB 3 'R''s of education change: Resources, Reputation, Regulation

2. Reusability - NB Reusability Paradox: the pedagogical value of an OER is inversely proportionate to its potential for Re-Use

  • Modularized content is easier to appropriate
  • How do we target specifc use cases with high passion and high pay?
  • Improving discoverability (National Learning Registry)
  • FInancing distribution channels beyond viral dissemination
  • Profit/Non-profit business cycles

3. Immigration, Instrumentation and Distribution

Institutions and faculty want easy access to high-quality, vetted content, and the ability to compare efficact and usability.  Content should be capable of being localized, have a good fit with existing technology and provide metrics/analytics.

There is a suggestion that we live in a Yahoo (taxonomic) world rather than a Google world.  We are trying to optimise for too many pieces before working out what all the pieces on the board are.

Learning objectives should be paramount, not assessment, content or student data.

We need to focus on a small number of content areas that suffer from poor retention/completion rates, creating and curating content for these markets and providing detailed tools and learning maps.  Once pilots are in place, common, sustainable channels of distribution must be developed.

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