A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER

Link _community_colleges_obama_ad


“Criticism of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s initiative often takes issue with his money saving logic for deficit-laden California. Arguably, digital materials require a personal computer available to every student, an e-Book reader like Amazon’s Kindle, or mass printing of each reading assignment by the schools themselves. In a recent NY Times article, Tim Ward, an assistant superintendent in California, says his school district cannot afford any of those options.

“Additionally, what Schwarzenegger seems to not have captured is that OER is a reaction to the move of proprietary, analog educational materials management onto the network. OER encourages and enables the open production, sharing of, and access to educational content and resources. This alone is a valuable societal good, increasing the value of investments made in education. But OER creates the opportunity for a more fundamental and transformative change: the move from passive consumption of educational resources to the formal engagement of educators and learners in the creative process of education content development itself. Thus, the core benefits of OER should probably not be conflated with cutting the costs of materials.”


Co-founded a nonprofit online mentoring organization for college-bound high school students with Kevin Adler in May 2009.


Details of Work

  • Co-authored the mission, vision, and values statement of the organzation
  • Co-authored the by-laws and business plan
  • Co-wrote applications to numerous funders and startup competitions, and even edited a video emphasizing the geographic distance between my co-founder and me (see below)
  • Co-developed multiple surveys for prospective mentees and mentors, and deployed surveys online: first using hand-coded html, second using Google Forms
  • Developed and manage website (WordPress), re-designed twice with modifications to html, css, and javascript in base templates
  • Authored most static content on the website and several blog entries, and edited all imagery
  • Developed social media strategy and oversaw BetterGrads’ social media team, curating 200+ blog posts including special series
  • Recruited mentors from across the country for our pilot program
  • Moderated dozens of national conference calls with mentors, mentees, and social media team members
  • Co-developed mentoring program curriculum to prepare high school students for the college experienceOngoing
  • Co-directing the nonprofit, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where my co-founder lives, while living in Boston
  • Personally mentoring a high school senior at Granada High School in Livermore, CA
  • Advising for-profit spin-off founded by my co-founder

Industrial Cooperation Project

Research Assistant on the Ford Foundation-funded Cooperation Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard studying the educational materials industry, March 2009 – December 2009.


Industrial Case Studies at

Details of Work

  • Performed market research on the textbook industry using business databases and market reports
  • Conducted phone interviews with industry experts in open educational resources (OER)
  • Mapped educational materials industry according to positions on copyright and business practices
  • Co-authored an essay on US public policy regarding OER, and contributed a research summary to the Cooperation Project’s annual report to the Ford Foundation
  • Documented all research on a public wiki

Related Publications

2006 RIT Academic Convocation Student Speech

Full Text

Before I begin, I would like to thank President Simone, Provost Stan McKenzie, Vice President of Academic Affairs Kit Mayberry, and Vice President of Student Affairs Mary-Beth Cooper for the opportunity to say something to my graduating class.

And while many of you will forget what I am about to say—probably sometime early next week—it is still a rare honor to stand before you today and deliver your student convocation address.

So here it goes: the clichéd graduation speech on “doing something with your life.” I have spent a lot of time thinking about this topic—roughly twenty-one years. And after that brief bit of life experience, as well as four years of undergraduate education, I still feel less than qualified to deliver any officially sage-like advice to you on the “doing something with your life” topic.

And so for this exercise I will rely, in part, on a conversation I had with my mom during the summer following my sophomore year at RIT.

Here’s the story: I was on co-op at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. One sunshine-filled evening, my mom started up an instant messaging conversation with me. After going through the usual “your dad did this, your sister did that,” she asked me about my plans. I decided to tell her about what I had just done the previous night,

which was: nonchalantly snuck into a bar, down the street, that wasn’t checking IDs.

Being the under-21 college student, when I relayed this to my mom I placed heavy emphasis on the conversations I had, while in the bar. There was one particular conversation, with a grad student from Germany named Wolf, which stuck out.

Wolf told me about how he stopped studying physics in Berlin, after two years, in order to start studying medicine. At the time, he was on an exchange program, mid-medical-degree, at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to work on a thesis concerning Genomics. His plans were to, then, return to Germany and finish the clinical work for his M.D. And, after all that, he hoped to go back to studying physics again.

Besides Wolf’s academic path sounding less-than-straight, and even a bit insane from a career-oriented perspective, his aspirations were, and still are, inspiring to me. His dedication to learning as much as possible, in a variety of fields, in order to generate new knowledge and benefit those around him—is something I find extremely impressive, and indicative of something I find to be of utmost importance: the idea of learning as intrinsic to one’s life, work, and goals.

In other words, being a lifelong learner.

I’ve had the opportunity, as I’m sure you’ve had, to work with, and meet, many other lifelong learners—among peers, coworkers, professors, administrators, and of course family members.

All of us here in the Gordon Field House are aware, that when your eager hands accept the RIT diploma now due to you, your education does not, in fact, stop. But lifelong learning is more than just this simple truth. And although, I can’t exactly present you with a comprehensive, universal definition of lifelong learning, I can give you a few things that I believe it is and isn’t.

Obviously, lifelong learning isn’t staying in school forever. Nor is it simply reading the newspaper everyday. However, it is reading multiple news sources, to try and get the real picture of current events; it is picking up a little sign language to get a sense of the vibrant culture, alive just next door; it is going to hear a lecturer you don’t agree with, in order to at least understand his argument.

Lifelong learning is about actively engaging in, and with, your life. And most importantly, it is about learning what your values are and how you want to be remembered.

Wolf was a lifelong learner and by relating his personality and ambition to my mom, she helped me investigate what being a lifelong learner really means.

I had just finished telling her how I couldn’t be satisfied with what someone would call (quote/unquote) “traditional goals,” when my mom replied:

“Right now you are a taker not a giver. When we begin our education that is how it has to be. You are preparing to give back, but you need to get a lot first. Learning feeds your spirit…

“You will have to have your own definitions of work, success, and failure and no one else needs to understand them. Everyone just needs values to feel good about themselves at the end of our lives. If people remember you were a good person—kind, useful, worthwhile to spend time with—what greater accomplishment is there? Think about what it takes to meet those criteria—it is a huge task—but the most worthwhile.”

Congratulations Class of 2006 and Thank You.

Virtual Reality as a Gateway for Cultural Immersion

2004 Summer Internship at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Helped Prof Miho Aoki construct a 3D Japanese home model for cultural instruction in a virtual reality CAVE.


Using initial designs and textures developed by Prof Aoki, I constructed a 3D Japanese home model using Maya. All models were exported using Maya’s own exporting tools for VRML, as well as the conversion plug-in PolyTrans for OpenGL C code. The VRML files were associated with a configuration file that would allow them to be viewed in 3-d using the VRScape virtual reality software engine. The C files, after code editing, were displayed via OpenGL through the VRJuggler virtual reality framework. The Japanese home was designed to be used in an immersive environment by a small class of students, specifically within the CAVE-based system at the Discovery Lab at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Summary Paper


The Model in Action