TEL Library: A Vision for Affordable Education

Posted by Rob Reynolds on Jan 30, 2018 6:00:00 AM
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Almost a year ago, Vance Fried, Stacy Zemke, and I sat down to dream about how we might build a different kind of learning content solution, one that could have a lasting impact on education in the U.S. and beyond.

Our conversations were driven by a clear and singular mission, the one that is reflected in TEL Library’s identity statement on our website.

TEL Library is a non-profit, public library dedicated to providing affordable learning to anyone, anywhere.

As we talked and planned, we noticed a number of ideas that were repeated.

  • Build a library of content that can be repurposed easily for different learners and types of learning
  • Focus content creation on an integrated general education curriculum so that we can address textbook prices and affordable course solutions in high-enrollment classes spanning grades 11-14
  • Develop a learning design model that supports learner engagement and product flexibility
  • Design product and production models, from the ground up, for high-quality and maximum affordability
  • Implement a business model for affordable learning that is both scalable and sustainable

We had plenty of ideas and even more questions.

What does affordable mean? How much should a textbook cost? At what price could almost anyone in the U.S. afford two years of college education? What product models should we offer to support the broadest number of people possible? How can we use our library content to address adult learners effectively? How should we license the content we create in order to support our mission and the education community.


11 months later, we have arrived at the first iteration of our initial vision -- TEL Librarya non-profit, public library dedicated to providing affordable learning to anyone, anywhere. For us, and for our co-workers and supporters, this library is the culmination of a collective commitment to make education truly affordable.

At launch, we are showcasing affordable textbook solutions and low-cost white-label curriculum solutions for higher education and high school. We are also working to deliver affordable, self-paced courses for homeschool students and other independent learners.

In April, we will open our free public reference library to the world. In anticipation of that event, we are providing a preview of our free reference lessons in a variety of subject areas. Each lesson is designed as self-contained learning environment that provides all the context, explanation, and resources people need to learn about a specific topic. These lessons feature contextual overviews, original videos, readings, interactivities, and resources for further exploration.

Introductory Paragraphs Video-2

Our free public reference library will allow anyone to browse and search for lessons of interest, and will also offer free badges and certificate courses at low prices. Registered patrons will receive recommendations based on the lessons or badges they have collected.

While we are excited that TEL Library will be a place where anyone can come and learn, we also want to provide active support for the formal education efforts of high schools and colleges across the U.S. As part of that support, we will create guides to our free lessons, categorized by course, and distribute these to institutional librarians and instructors. Our hope is that these lessons will serve as supplemental or core learning content that can help lower course costs for students. All TEL Library content will be provided under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

We believe TEL Library represents an ideal expression of our mission to build a scalable and sustainable library of openly licensed, free and affordable content solutions. It is entirely consistent with our goals to:

  • Provide effective life learning for everyone in the U.S., and anyone else who wants to learn;
  • Make it possible for everyone in the U.S. to complete 60 hours of college credit for under $2,000;
  • Build sustainable business and content models that allow students to pay once for access to their learning solutions, and retain access for life learning (this includes lifetime access to their content, as well as personal coursework and performance records);
  • Design and deliver learning that gives students flexible study options (online or offline and in digital or print formats), and schedules (flexible and accelerated self-paced learning options);
  • Deliver, affordable, high-quality online courses that promote inquiry, relevance, student ownership, and mastery;
  • Develop a library of general education courses as an interconnected curriculum that enables interdisciplinary thinking and the meaningful integration of key literacies and competencies.

Best of all, we are only at the very beginning of this project. And while we are excited about what we’re doing today to make learning affordable, we can hardly wait to see where our mission and journey take us. We look forward to working with our many friends and great partners to make a difference through education.


Tags: Affordable Learning

TEL Library Vision

Our vision is a world where cost will no longer be a barrier to quality college education for any student, anywhere, anytime. Learn more about our activities by following our blog posts.

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