NSF on Cyberlearning, NSDL, and Open Access

Nsf082041 The National Science Foundation recently published "Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge." Working from the premise that new technologies and new understandings of how people create, consume, and repurpose information, The Task Force was charged with on identifying opportunities to seize and strategies to implement in to take advantage of developments in technology-mediate education environments.

From these opportunities and strategies, the report provides five recommendations, and there is plenty of promise (and room for debate) in these recommendations for those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the overlap between libraries, education, and technology.

I won't recap each of the recommendations here, though there are a few points are worth mentioning. In the context of the National Science Digital Library, the authors state, "NSDL is now in competition with commercial services such as Google that are much more comprehensive in the genres of material that they cover. Although these competing services cover learning objects specifically in less depth, the question of cost benefit of the specialized NSDL portal needs periodic revisiting." In the paragraph that follows this statement (and the appendix devoted to extending the conversation on the NSDL), the authors discuss the ambiguity of the NSDL's position as a portal that claims neither provenance over the materials to which it provides access nor exclusivity to that access. There are plenty of users accessing these resources for use in classrooms and home-schooling, but it seems as if the authors are suggesting an unrealized potential in NSDL. This opens up room for critical conversations about how we build our collections, utilize them, and de-accession them if and when the cost/benefit ratio begins to tip in the wrong direction. That's not to suggest the NSDL is headed in that direction, but that we may learn from the public conversations NSF has about NSDL.

The authors also call for the NSF to adopt a policy of requiring all NSF projects to "adopt programs and policies to promote open educational resources." That a federal funding agency is being encouraged to mandate all materials allow "automated searching and processing and permit unrestricted reuse and recombination" is certainly worth keeping on our radar.

Tags: techMETRO