The EdTech Center @ World Education’s CrowdED Learning initiative to increase awareness and effective use of open educational resources (OER) in adult education and workforce development is a central component of a five-year grant award to World Education and our partner the American Institutes for Research (AIR) from the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education.
The funding supports the rollout of the Teaching Skills That Matter (TSTM) in adult education project, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) led by AIR, and will explore how use of the SkillBlox educational application can scale and operationalize use of the TSTM model. The multi-staged project funds refinements to SkillBlox that boost its usability and supports opportunities to work with instructors to increase its TSTM-aligned content. The aim of our collaboration with AIR is to improve teaching in the the areas of workplace preparation, digital literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, civics education.
SkillBlox allows educators to readily locate learning activities by skill and then select, organize, and share customized playlists of content with learners. SkillBlox is free to organizations and learners and supports continued learning during and after exiting formal education and training programs.
Said Jeff Goumas, Founder and Director of CrowdED Learning, “Since March 2020, we have seen dramatic shifts in how teachers leverage educational technology within adult education. This has clarified there is no one-size-fits all resource, tool, or instructional model for putting quality content in the hands of teachers and learners. This IES-funding will help us incrementally test and refine new features within SkillBlox to make it easier to find, organize, adapt, and share quality, reusable OER in practical ways, and will support the growing need for equitable access to flexible resources that facilitate new and yet-to-be discovered models for instruction and learning.”
Said Lauren Crain, Associate Director of U.S. Programs and Strategy at the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, “As seed funders of the CrowdED Learning initiative, we are excited that the U.S. Department of Education is investing in this research to help educators effectively use open educational resources (OER) in adult education and workforce development. We’re proud to partner with the EdTech Center on this work, which aligns with our vision of advancing equity in digital learning. To ensure greater economic opportunity for all, it is essential to provide accessible, high-quality, and personalized learning opportunities that meet learners and workers where they are, particularly for immigrant and refugees.”
The CrowdED Learning initiative began in 2017 with a mission to increase awareness and use of open education resources (OER) within adult education and workforce development, and is currently developing a comprehensive technology platform to support a sustainable free and open content sharing ecosystem via project funding from the WES Mariam Assefa Fund. This broader platform will include SkillBlox and an open resource repository to support efficient creation, sharing, organization, and personalization of adult education content.
To rapidly expand the range of quality reusable learning objects within the CrowdED Learning platform, ETC has begun running regular EdTech Maker Space events. These service-learning professional development opportunities provide digital skills training through applied activities that result in the curation, adaptation, and creation of new learning content.
After a successful EdTech Maker Space pilot in Summer/Fall 2020 that resulted in the Marshall Leveled Reading Program, ETC has developed a guide that is now being used by partner organizations to plan and run their own Maker Space projects. Following on this success, in 2021 the EdTech Center engaged nearly 60 educators from across the US, Canada, and Egypt(!) in a Maker Space focused on digital skills resources has resulted in the open Digital Literacy Library to be released November 12th and integrated into the SkillBlox platform.
The new IES funding will enable the CrowdED Learning team along with the AIR and Teaching Skills that Matter teams to better understand how adult educators can take advantage of OER collections through SkillBlox and what features and supports they and their learners need for effective use. The federal IES funding is part of a new research initiative, the Building Adult Skills and Attainment Through Technology Research Network, or the Adult Skills Network. The Adult Skills Network is comprised of six projects that will facilitate the development, evaluation, and adoption of technology-supported interventions. IES Director Dr. Mark Schneider has noted that this is the largest single federal investment made in support of research on adult education. World Education will co-lead key components on two research initiatives and will co-coordinate the Adult Skills Network itself.