How to Fund Open Educational Resources: Department of Education or Kickstarter?

A headline from the Creative Commons blog caught our eye this past week: “New federal education fund grants $2 billion to create OER resources in community colleges.” OER, or open educational resources, are those educational materials that are available with open licenses. Rather than “all rights reserved,” these resources are available for users to take, adapt, and reuse – a way to make educational content more accessible and more usable by teachers and students.

$2 billion for open educational resources, quite frankly, makes me giddy. And so I was more than a little disappointed to read a story in The Chronicle for Higher Education on the announcement, one that “throws a little cold water” on the announcement and points out that, in fact, the $2 biillion might not go to OER. The Chronicle’s Marc Parry spoke with Department of Education spokesperson Sara Gast, who said that the Creative Commons headline was, sadly, misleading, and that the DOE will not necessarily spend that $2 billion on open educational projects.

But folks, have no fear. There are ways that you can fund open education with a new Kickstarter project.

Smarthistory.org is raising $10,000 via Kickstarter to fund its openly-licensed art history site.

Art history textbooks are just one of the myriad of college textbooks that can set a student back several hundred dollars. But Smarthistory offers its website – with access to over 300 works of art – as an alternative to those expensive books.

Smarthistory is seeking funding to support its development of additional resources, so that it can truly be a viable alternative to the printed textbook. The website provides a multimedia alternative, with an audio and visual guide through the basic “introduction to art history” curriculum.

Smarthistory’s Kickstarter campaign will run for another 40-some-odd days. So hey, if the Department of Education isn’t confident that it will fund OER, then maybe the rest of us should, eh?

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