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An open challenge

Monday, October 21, 2013 - Updated: 10:39 AM


For The Recorder

This year Fulton-Montgomery Community College celebrates 50 years of serving the Fulton-Montgomery region and its students. While reflecting on the remarkable growth of the college and the achievements of thousands of students during that time, it is important to be open to looking toward the future.

Depending on the point of view, higher education in America is either severely broken or severely underfunded. In either case there are many opportunities for F-M to shape its own future through an openness to change. Challenges to the traditional model of course content delivery, for example, are being tested in Massive Open Online Courses. Thousands of learners register for MOOCs suggesting a desire to experience new educational environments. While the results from many MOOCs are so far mixed to poor, the fact remains that for the first time since moving out of the one-room schoolhouse, public education is actively questioning its structures and worth.

Another tradition of higher education is that for every course, each student has a print textbook. This may no longer be the case. At Tidewater Community College in Virginia, a pilot program, with support from Lumen Learning's Textbook Zero initiative, allows students to complete a business administration degree using open educational resources and open textbooks. By accessing the same content as students who buy print textbooks, it is estimated the open route will save students approximately $2,000. Similar programs are already underway in New York state headed by a consortium of community colleges. The impact these programs have on student satisfaction, retention, and degree completion will be closely monitored.

Initiatives announced by SUNY and the governor's office align with the concept of opening traditionally inaccessible enterprises. Launching in January 2014, the premise of open SUNY hints that by moving together and not as single entities, New York's educational centers will be able to offer affordable alternatives to education, to serve more students more successfully, while still maintaining the irreplaceable role of faculty and staff. By being open to new relationships with the private sector, Gov. Cuomo's Start-Up NY proposal will allow New York's higher education administrators and business leaders to jointly explore ventures that foster sustained economic growth.

Concepts of openness are not unique to educational institutions. Long used by technology companies, open-sourcing encourages participation from anyone. General Electric recently announced open access to 30,000 of its long-held and under-used patents. Now, instead of relying solely on in-house intelligence to craft new uses for these inventions, GE leans on the collective power of individuals all over the globe in a new program called GE Idea Works. Harnessing energy is not a new market for GE; asking others to participate in a mutually beneficial exchange of resources signals an important shift toward openness for a traditionally closed company.

Like most community colleges, F-M was founded on the premise that access to affordable education must be open to all. To reimagine, redefine, and repurpose what open access means positively disrupts traditional expectations and outcomes. It also ensures that in 2063, 50 years from now, F-M will still be proudly involved in the lives of students and residents of the region for the better -- 100 times over.

MICHAEL V. DALY is instruction/public

services librarian at Fulton-Montgomery Community Collegfe.


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