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Friday, January 21, 2011

Washington State’s online-course effort faces hurdles

The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges has launched the Open Course Library, a program of low-cost, online course materials intended to save money both for the almost half a million students using Washington State’s 34 two-year colleges and for the state legislature, which pays a large chunk of the textbook costs for those on state financial aid. The first lot of OCL course modules begins classroom testing this month.

But as this Chronicle of Higher Education article notes, some of the course designers encountered unexpected difficulties while sifting through the available open content, some of which is outdated and little of which is geared to learners at the community-college level. Not topping the mandated $30 price cap for course materials is also proving problematic in many cases, especially where primary sources or supplementary materials are necessary.

However, if Washington can make the Open Course Library work, other states will likely jump on it as a template for their own cost-saving efforts.

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