Exclusive: New hire at Office of Educational Technology to expand higher ed initiatives

Sharon Leu speaking at a Department of Labor conference in 2014. (Photo courtesy National Information Security, Geospatial Technologies Consortium)

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A Department of Labor analyst who oversees the nation’s largest federal grant program for community colleges is moving to the Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology, FedScoop has learned.

Sharon Leu, who has pushed for educational materials to be openly licensed so different institutions can share and use them, will be joining the office next week to work on higher education initiatives.

“There’s a lot of work that is done in nontraditional higher education,” Leu told FedScoop during an event at the New America Foundation Wednesday night. “It’s going to be a really interesting opportunity.”

Leu said she hopes to work on competency-based education, learning assessments and credential programs that are recognized by different industries — all through a tech-focused lens.

“Industry-recognized credential programs [are] something that technology has definitely driven over the last couple of years,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in that right now and not one or two people just specifically focused on that.”

An Education Department spokesman would not comment on the personnel move.

Leu will be working with OET Director Richard Culatta and his team, which put out an edtech developer’s guide and hosted a “Games for Learning” summit in the past year.

She said she has followed the office’s work closely and collaborated with it on interagency projects to raise awareness about open educational resources, which are defined by the White House as learning materials that are “released with copyright licenses allowing for their free use, continuous improvement, and modification by others.”

“Sharon’s been doing a great job and I think has been a real internal advocate across the federal government on open licensing,” said Dipayan Ghosh, policy advisor at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

While at Labor for the past seven years, Leu monitored the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. The funds allow community colleges to develop new digital training modules, instructional games, 3-D simulations, professional development materials and assessment tools to make students more competitive in the workforce.

All of the content developed with the grant money are licensed to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution license, which allows other schools to use and reuse the materials as long as they credit the original author.

Sources said the OET is also looking to hire a full-time employee who would focus solely on creating more awareness around open educational resources. An agency spokesman would not confirm.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@fedscoop.com or follow her on Twitter @clestch.

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Department of Education, Department of Labor, Departments, Dipayan Ghosh, Education, Education / STEM, Government IT News, Office of Educational Technology, open educational resources, OSTP, Richard Culatta, Sharon Leu, Tech, White House
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