This is particularly true if, like me, you’re leading a young, mission-driven organization like TEL Library.
Broadly stated, our mission at TEL Library is to “facilitate equitable access to high-quality, affordable learning in the U.S.” We want to make it easy and affordable for anyone to get started on a postsecondary pathway to personal and professional flourishing.
Getting people started in postsecondary learning. That’s our goal. We know that this path leads to changed lives, stronger communities, and a better society.
Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles that prevent people from getting started on this learning journey. Many lack the background to understand what college is all about or how the higher education system works. For them, college and other postsecondary learning is a vague abstraction, something others may do but that is unattainable by them.
There are also those who simply can’t afford it (or don’t know how they could): (1) families with multiple children, (2) working adults with low-wage jobs, (3) the unemployed. These people struggle with limited resources and are unable or unwilling to make large up-front commitments of money or time.
Some want to get started but don’t know if they’re ready or what they should study. They would like to have a way to “sample” college before they make a costly commitment.
So, I ask myself, how are we doing with regards to our mission? What are we doing to make that possible?
To begin with, I think we’ve made great strides in the past year with regards to developing TEL’s integrated curriculum and services to help bridge the gap to postsecondary learning. We have completed our first college-level, General Education courses. We have refined our processes, products, and services so that we can provide truly affordable options for institutions and individual learners. We have also made our content available in multiple formats to support ubiquitous access.
We have worked hard to become an agile, mission-driven organization that can partner effectively with institutions to help more people begin their postsecondary education. In partnership with other organizations and institutions, we will work harder than ever to provide easy, affordable ways for people to begin their postsecondary education journey. This includes:
- Individuals who are underserved, economically disadvantaged, and/or in resource-deficient areas
- Undereducated adult learners who are underemployed or unemployed and currently see no economically viable pathway to additional education
- Anyone needing an easy and affordable way to begin their postsecondary educational journey
In 2019, we plan to expand our efforts and extend the potential impact of our work. These plans include work in the following areas.
1. Experiential learning components for TEL courses — This spring, we will partner with select schools and institutions to develop experiential learning components for our courses. These optional components will facilitate high-quality, blended learning experiences in high schools and higher education institutions.
2. A College Readiness curriculum — For Fall 2019, we are developing a College Readiness branch of our curriculum that explains what is required to be ready for college, helps students measure the gap in terms of their current abilities (cognitive and noncognitive), and allows them to show demonstrable readiness to college-level coursework.
3. Affordable learning for correctional centers — As part of our mission to provide equitable access to high-quality learning for underserved markets, we will work with our higher education partners to deliver flexible and affordable learning solutions to correctional centers in Oklahoma and the U.S. We believe the flexibility and affordability of TEL courses can facilitate new approaches to addressing this largely unserved population.
4. Continued support for instructors through our public reference library — By Fall 2019, our free Reference Library will house between 1200-1400 lessons, each mapped to specific concepts taught in General Education courses. Our goal is to provide subject lists of our lessons to librarians, who can add these to existing LibGuides for instructors.
I’m convinced these initiatives will help us remain mission-focused in 2019. They will give us the curriculum and services we need to facilitate equitable access to high-quality, affordable learning in the U.S. They will help us get more people started on their postsecondary learning journey.
Thinking about the possibilities makes me look forward to this same time next year when I can look back again to see how far we’ve come and how far we can go in 2020.
– Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.