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Thursday, December 9, 2021

University launches Open Education Week, advocates for affordable education

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open ed week
Courtesy of UDaily
This week, the university spotlights what could be the future of cheaper education–online resources.

Due to rapidly rising costs, higher education is becoming a luxury item many cannot afford, university advocates said. Proponents of Open Education Week, a worldwide movement that was is being recognized this week, aims to change that.

Open Education Week is focused on providing affordable education through online resources and access to educational materials such as podcasts, articles and textbooks. The idea of open education is that these materials can be reused and shared globally without a fee, facilitating intellectual growth without massive debt.

The launch event of Open Education at the university was held yesterday in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) Laboratory. English and black American studies professor Gabrielle Foreman spoke about the movement in connection to the Colored Conventions Project, for which she is faculty director.

“Education without limits begins a much needed discussion,” Foreman said. “As public education is eviscerated in urban cores and debt burdens college students in a limited job market for decades after graduation, many agree that we need to discuss an invigorated public education system that makes education available for everyone, not just those who can afford it.”

The project uses free digital access to help teach college students and researchers worldwide about the history of black men and women and their efforts to gain local and national rights. Foreman said education like this should be available and accessible to everyone and more needs to be done to improve schooling.

Foreman said college students do not have the same access to financial aid as they did in the past. A movement is needed to ensure equal access to education is prioritized, she said.

“Ten years before I graduated from college, a Pell Grant would have paid for 80 percent of college costs at a school like UD,” Foreman said. “For students today, it covers less than a third.”

Foreman’s collaborator, graduate student Sarah Patterson, said the Colored Conventions Project allows students and researchers access to information about the movements by black men and women that helped to “transform” America.

“CCP is a progressive digital project because everyday people can interact with deeply researched histories on black contributions to political, legal and social life in America, including some content that would be nearly impossible to locate outside of the ivory tower,” Patterson said.

Patterson also said digital technology through open education has helped to spread information and make it available free of cost.

Open Education Week also works to reduce the racial divide in educational opportunity. By offering free access to educational resources, this information can be spread globally as well, Patterson said.

Foreman said the average white American family’s wealth is 544 percent greater than what the average African-American family makes. This translates into fewer opportunities for adequate schooling and SAT prep classes.

“Discussions and policy about educational access and justice are sorely needed and go hand-in-hand with the action we need to take as a country and globally to address economic access and justice as well,” Foreman said.

Mathieu Plourde, an educational technologist within the Information Technologies Academic Services at the university, held open hours after the launch event on Monday.

Plourde said students are dropping out of school because they cannot afford the costs of paying for school, particularly when it comes to buying textbooks, which are not valuable to students after the course ends.

“Textbooks have so little value that everyone is selling them at the end of the semester,” Plourde said. “They are good for the time of the course and they are going to help you through the time of the process, but then they have so little value that no one wants to keep them anymore.”

More people are getting passionate about these ideas and topics, but the movement for open education needs to keep growing, Plourde said.

“Eventually, faculty members are going to become aware of these resources and are going to start asking themselves, ‘Well, is there something outside of what I’ve been using for a while that could be useful?’” Plourde said.

Open education is important because students need access to knowledge, Plourde said.

Plourde said Open Stax College, a website that offers free online textbooks for major introductory college courses, is useful for students. The textbooks use open licenses, which allow teachers and students to utilize the information and edit it to fit their needs, as long as the users credit the book, he said.

Plourde also said increased student involvement in open education could encourage change.

“In terms of students, you guys play a role in there,” Plourde said. “Students have a voice and they should use it.”

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