Coming Dangerously Close

In my science fiction tale of the future of the open education movement, the OpenCourseWars, I predict a time when the federal government creates a funding pool to support the creation of open courses to which the public would have free access:

In the most unbelievable part of the history of openness in education (for me as a native West Virginian, anyway), West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd announced that his current term in office would be his last. (I think he was like 108 at this point.) His final piece of legislation would be a third Morrill Act that would support the land grant institutions in creating OCW-like projects to provide increased access to educational opportunity to the general public. The so-called “Byrd Bill” passed, creating a small pot of dedicated monies for public schools to draw on in order to support their OCW initiatives.

I suppose thinking that Byrd would introduce the bill was a bit too self-indulgent on my part, but today Inside Higher Ed is reporting on a U.S. Push for Free Online Courses. Byrd didn’t write the language himself, but it does appear to come during Byrd’s last term in office (unfortunately for WV):

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… the draft language suggests that the administration is throwing its weight behind the movement to put more courses online — and offer them free.

If my predictions continue to be (largely) correct, we next wait to hear a deafening silence from the online curriculum and textbook publishing industries…

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