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This blog was created to keep our expanding audience informed about what is going on in the world of Open Textbooks and related topics. Please read and enjoy the posts. You are encouraged to add any comments that add to the discussion.



January 2012
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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mentor Cloud and Open Doors Group / College Open Textbooks Partner to Facilitate Sharing Best Practices

 Mentor Cloud and Open Doors Group / College Open Textbooks Partner to
Facilitate Sharing Best Practices Among the Open Education Community
New Community to Share Best Practices and Facilitate Mentoring in Open Education 

Cupertino, CA, January 26, 2012 — In honor of National Mentoring Day, Mentor Cloud and Open Doors Group/College Open Textbooks announced today the availability of an education community that allows 24×7 discussion threads and broadcast email messages to all members by all members. Generally all members will be both mentors and mentees in keeping with 21st century models of learning communities.



Education in the 21st Century faces an enormous challenge:

  • Peace, prosperity, and longevity require that a much larger share of the 8 billion global inhabitants have access to affordable quality education, and
  • Current education processes cannot scale enough to meet this challenge; in particular it is impossible to train enough instructors.

Education in the 21st Century is afforded three important opportunities to meet the above challenge:

  • Telecommunications and computing technologies radically lower the cost of educational materials.
  • Discoveries in pedagogy in the past century show that cooperative and developmental learning are far more effective than traditional methods.
  • New business models including openly-licensed content and tools can remove barriers and create sustainable affordable learning.

Collaboration tools are needed in at least three areas of open education:

  • Sharing of best practices: We cannot afford to reinvent processes in every institution, state/province, or country.
  • Mentor/mentee relationships in careers and to make instructorless open courseware educationally sound. Open Courseware Consortium and Saylor Foundation have large numbers of open-licensed instructorless courses.
  • Mentor/mentee tools to help create and facilitate relationships in the expanding Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.

OpenDoorsGroup.MentorCloud.com, powered by Mentor Cloud, is the tool that allows for all three of the above. During the beta period, OpenDoorsGroup.MentorCloud.com will be free of cost to individuals who are thought leaders and contributors in open education. Invitations will be sent starting in early February. There may be a fee for organizations that sign up 5 or more individuals as well as organizations looking to tap into the open education community. There will also be a fee for organizations that are looking for facilitators to drive conversations on certain topics and areas.

“There is absolutely a need for a central place for those in the open education community to share best practices” says Mitchell Levy, Co-Director, College Open Textbooks, who emphasizes that Mentor Cloud is a great tool to provide this level of service.

Contact Ravishankar Gundlapalli, Mentor Cloud, ravi@mentorcloud.com  650-520-3052 or Sharyn Fitzpatrick, Open Doors Group/College Open Textbooks, sharyn.fitzpatrick@happyabout.info  650-814-5835


An Insanely Great Week

Regardless of your opinion of Apple’s textbook announcement, plenty of good can come when the world’s second largest (or perhaps largest) for-profit company by market capitalization turns its attention to this tiny market.  For starters, it generated a lively discussion in the College Open Textbooks community, which you are welcome to join.  With Steve Jobs gone, we do not know if he would have called this announcement “insanely great,” the phrase he used with many other Apple products, and I will withhold judgment myself until I learn more.  But with the extraordinary potential for technology to accelerate the adoption of Open Educational Resources, I am ready to declare this an insanely great week.

I hope to write about other aspects of the announcement later, but for now I would like to turn to a critical topic: Apple’s commercial and licensing terms.  The following is my understanding; if you think  I am wrong on anything, I encourage you to comment.

A number of comments in the announcement discussion pointed out that what you produce with iBook Author cannot be used on non-Apple devices.  This is definitely a concern, although in fairness nothing prevents you from using other means to create other versions of your textbook for use on any device (including Apple devices).

Apple is a master at negotiating with content providers, and they did not disappoint.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson joined the announcement, saying they “will deliver educational titles on the iBookstore with most priced at $14.99 or less.”  For those like me who have paid up to $200 for a single textbook, this is electrifying.  But watch out for the fine print; the publishers intend this to be a per-student charge.  At one student per year for, say, five years, a typical lifespan of a physical textbook, that is a cost of $75.  Viewed this way, you are not saving much.  But for someone buying a new textbook, it is a big drop.  And unlike the used textbook market, you are getting the latest version.

Apple keeps 30% of the price, which bothers some people, although I frankly doubt traditional publishers would offer more attractive terms.  The main way Apple aspires to make money, in my opinion, is on iPads, iPhones and the like.

From an Open Educational Resources perspective, here is the most important part.  Apple iBook Author is free, and you can set whatever price you want for the textbook you produce.  If you set a price of zero, students do not pay anything, the author does not pay anything, and, outside of the sale of devices, Apple does not get paid.  I cannot argue with that.

I am convinced there is more to come, from Apple, its competitors and other players.  There has been a lot of encouraging things happening in Open Educational Resources, and it is about to get a lot more exciting!



How Textbooks Sparked a Charitable Revolution

Guest Post by Brendan Baker of Chegg.com – committed to making education more affordable by offering cheap textbooks for students to buy, rent or sell.

chegg for good, plant a tree

As we look for ways to make education more affordable, what can start as a simple idea can often expand into something bigger. Just as the open textbook cause spawned into a vast network of open textbook organizations and communities, you never know how big an idea can become until you’ve put it into action.

For Chegg.com it started with the idea that all college textbooks could be—rather should be—cheaper for students. But what if you take that belief one step further? What if students had the ability to rent textbooks, which would make them more affordable while helping to save paper?

The idea snowballed from there, and soon enough a partnership with the American Forest Global ReLeaf Foundation was formed. The idea: for every textbook rented or sold through Chegg.com, a tree would be planted. The result? Since the inception of the partnership, over five million trees have been planted around the world—from the San Juan National Forest in Colorado all the way to Pondicherry, India—and the number continues to rise.

Several years later, the trees are still serving their purpose. Whether it’s by repopulating areas that have been damaged by wildfire or through improving the water quality in community rivers, the trees are a much needed presence in their environments.

chegg for good

What’s more, since the start of their partnership with the American Forest Global ReLeaf Foundation, Chegg has picked up a few more partnerships along the way, effectively creating what they now call the Chegg for Good program. Their motto: to encourage and inspire students to become active on their campus in social causes and become philanthropic leaders who make a difference on their campuses, in their communities, and around the world. Beyond tree planting, Chegg wants students be a catalyst for change and help them realize their dreams of making an impact on the world.

Among many of their initiatives, Chegg has even hosted a competition where four student founded non-profit organizations competed for a chance to receive additional financial support towards their cause. Each organization posted their story on the Chegg blog in order to help drive votes (and ultimately more funding), to their respective programs.

And it doesn’t stop there. Chegg has also sponsored two Habitat for Humanity playhouse builds involving the company’s very own employees. In fact, a new employee volunteer program hopes to encourage everyone on the Chegg team to give five days a year, paid by Chegg, to volunteer with organizations that matter to them.

As they look to the future, Chegg continues to seek out influential partners that will expose students to some unique and once in a lifetime opportunities in the philanthropic space. And with any luck, the circle of giving will continue to spread from the high-level organizations down to the young and ambitious students of the world. Once again, a small idea has flourished into a worldwide network of positive and influential change.

To learn more about possible charities you can get involved with or to learn more about the Chegg for Good program, click here: http://www.chegg.com/cheggforgood/


Winning Ideas from the Big Ideas Fest

Both Jacky Hood and I along with 150 other leading educators and business executives focused on education convened in Half Moon Bay on December 4-7 for the Big Ideas Fest (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-big-ideas-fest). In addition to listening to 18 speakers (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-speakers-big-ideas-fest) ranging from Martha Kanter, Under Secretary, US Department of Education, to Kaycee Eckhardt, an amazingly giving and passionate Reading Teacher from New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy, we ate good food, networked, and worked on some big ideas.

Part of the conference was the facilitation of Action Collabs (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-action-collabs-big-ideas-fest, a great way to brainstorm solutions to core questions. There were nine groups of 15-20 people led by facilitators through the multi-day brain-storming process. Open Educational Resources (OER) were the major focus. Four of the nine groups took on the following question: “How might we leverage open (content, data, and research) to transform teaching and learning?” The groups all followed a six step process: 1) Identify the Opportunity, 2) Design the Solution, 3) Prototype the Solution, 4) Present and get Expert Feedback, 5) Update the Solution based on the feedback and Design if to Scale and Spread, and 6) Present it again. Step 1 included interviewing experts. Former COT director and now Open Courseware Consortium/CCCOER community college outreach manager, Una Daly, was one of the experts. The process was engaging and produced very interesting results. It was fun to see the solutions that 150 bright minds can produce. Strong synergy emerged  among educators, business people, foundation managers, and others.  The four different groups focused on the same question approached their solutions in very different ways.

Other Action Collab Topics included Assessments and Basic Literacy/Math Skills.

ISKME secured a $50k grant from the Gates Foundation to take the three most promising “big ideas” to the next level. It is a matching grant and ISKME is looking to find another $50k to match the Gates funding, which means that $100k will be used to bring 3 of the 9 ideas presented to the next level. Everyone in the Action Collab I participated in (aka WeLearn) were elated when our idea was paired with another group as one of the winners. WeLearn emphasized vocational life-long learning. Putting tools and knowledge in the hands of those in the workforce to help them learn and grow. In addition to OER and traditional content, we had focused on mentor/mentee matching and close ties to corporations as one of the benefactors of a more skill-based workforce.

This big idea is similar to a concept that the Open Doors Group has been discussing; it is called CHAI (Commerce, Healthcare, Agriculture and Industry) as a potential sharing space for flexible, affordable education/training materials. This is a much larger initiative with a focus on vocational education initiatives utilizing open resources. Very exciting idea that has synergy with the big ideas that surfaced at the Big Ideas Fest. Stay tuned for more ideas.

Mitchell Levy, Co-Director, College Open Textbooks
- 408-257-3000, http://collegeopentextbooks.org
CEO & Author, Happy About
- http://happyabout.com, http://42rules.com, http://thinkaha.com

Related posting: Read move about the Big Ideas Fest from Carol Hedgspeth’s blog post: http://www.collegeopentextbooks.org/blog/?p=1845