I was invited to be part of a focus group of 12 college educators to view and discuss developmental OER math materials being developed by National Repository of Online Courses. They are an arm of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.
The Gates Foundation is providing funding to them to develop developmental math materials specifically for disadvantaged students. NROC has received $5 million from Gates and $1 million from William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop online and hybrid materials. The goal is to increase number of financially disadvantaged students that pass developmental math. The target group are is those between 18 and 80 (average age 28) who who have failed math at least once. The project approach is to develop new educational interventions for national distribution and sustainability.
According to their website,
NROC content is distributed free-of-charge to students and teachers at public websites including HippoCampus. Institutions wishing to use NROC content are invited to join a fee-based membership organization, the NROC Network. Organizations serving disadvantaged students can become members of the NROC Network at no cost. http://www.montereyinstitute.org/nroc/nroc.html
Colleges wanting to use the materials in their LMS would need to join the NROC Network. However, we were told the materials will be freely available as standalone modules throught the hippocampus.org website.
The materials I saw demoed were in a Moodle environment, but their plan is support a number of platforms. The materials were presented in multimedia and text formats. The videos were in Flash format and plans are to include closed captioning. The latter has now been mandated for all educational videos available in the state of California and likely soon in the rest of the USA. They have also partnered with the KahnAcademy.org which has tens of thousands of video lessons available in YouTube format. The materials ranging from basic arithmetic through statistics will be released later this year and the next.
I came away favourably impressed. However, the missing piece is linkage to an assessment tool in a pre, post and unit test format that helps create ‘learnable’ moments for students. I like the way Pearson’s MathXL can make resources available to learners for each question and each concept. I don’t find the materials Pearson provides particularly helpful. The best of both worlds would be to link these kind of OER materials to an assessment tool like MathXL.