E-Learning Caucus panel October 7th, 2013Yesterday, our colleague Jeff Davidson went to Capitol Hill to participate in a Congressional E-Learning Caucus panel on “The College Degree of the Future”. With him were John Ebersole of Excelsior College and Michael Staton of Learn Capital.

Jeff laid it out clean when riffing on the $1 trillion US student debt:

“‘We can’t even open all the doors here,’ he said, referring to entrances closed at the Capitol by the government shutdown. ‘We can’t do another trillion.'” (The Hill, “Online educators want regulators to back off“)

Jeff also encouraged Congress to fund the creation of more open educational resources (OER) that can save money for both the government (tax payers!) and students in the long run.

Other panelists spoke of a disconnect between government’s stated desire for affordable college degrees and perceived regulatory burdens on institutions, as well as a supposed failure of the “business model” of higher education — a model which we persist in following (so the thinking goes).

The Congressional E-Learning Caucus, led by House members Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota), was founded “to improve access to quality online learning opportunities from early childhood education through college”. The group holds regular public meetings.

We at the Saylor Foundation are heartened that, in the midst of a government shutdown, a discussion on the problems and promise of online education could draw a good crowd to a quiet office building on Capitol Hill and gain the attention of members of Congress. Of course, the issues deserve ongoing dialog but also require action. Even as the conversations continue, we’re improving our offerings (including especially our credit-connected courses), seeking to put real value behind “free”.

Photo credit: Allie Kimmel