Distance Learning to Play a Major Part in President Obama’s Adult Education Plans

In a speech at Macombe Community College in Michigan, President Barack Obama has made some major new announcements regarding funding and plans for adult education and community colleges. The announcements come as many adults return to education in light of the recession, with recent reports from the state of Utah (at sltrib.com) claiming that the number of enrollments have increased by 19 percent in the past school year.

Obama was generally positive about the nation’s community colleges and highlighted the past trend of treating community colleges ‘like the stepchild of the higher education system’. But he also had some criticisms that called for some reform.

‘Now, I know that for a long time there have been politicians who have spoken of training as a silver bullet and college as a cure-all,” he said. “It’s not, and we know that. I can’t tell you how many workers who’ve been laid off, you talk to them about training and they say, “Training for what?” So I understand the frustrations that a lot of people have, especially if the training is not well designed for the specific jobs that are being created out there.’

$12 billion has been earmarked for a ten year initiative to be used across the USA, in an attempt to improve the degree completion rate by 50 percent. According to insidehighered.com, president of the American Association of Community Colleges George R. Boggs described the plan as ‘pretty ambitious’.

Yet, the use of distance education as a tool to meet these goals can also be regarded as just as determined. President Obama aims to make such courses free online – a move that has been called “historic” and “transformative” at the above source.

According to the transcript of the speech at whitehouse.gov, President Obama said: “Even as we repair bricks and mortar…we’re going to support the creation of a new online, open-source clearinghouse of courses so that community colleges across the country can offer more classes without building more classrooms.”

The idea is a pioneering one, especially as many countries are still behind in regards to embracing open content. Similar moves concerning distance education have been announced in the UK. In order to promote the use of online courses, Prime Minister Gordon Brown as announced a £20 million budget as an aid to students who might drop out of university courses who can then complete their studies online.