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.
With the passing of Steve Jobs, I had time to reflect on the painful lug of my then newly purchased Apple Macintosh around the UCLA campus during my senior finals week back in 1986. I remember shouting over a blasting boom-box about the futuristic power of personal computing as my classmates skeptically eyed me typing on the glowing box while they frantically hit return on their typewriters amidst bottles of whiteout on desks piled high with expensive textbooks.
Today, I write this blog from an iPad the size of a composition book while listening to Pandora and watching my email annoyingly pop up as past college friends Tweet the latest gossip or post updates on Facebook. I think few realize that Steve Jobs gave us the future back in the 1980′s. But there is one constant relic that somehow persists as a reminder that we have yet to reach Steve Jobs’ vision for the future. THE EXPENSIVE COLLEGE TEXTBOOK. That book still sits on the desks of over 20 million college students today, right beside their iPods, iPads, and the plethora of e-devices glowing with the social rants pouring out of Facebook and Twitter.
Today we have the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but what we really need is the iTextbook—and it should cost students under $30. Steve Jobs created NEXT, a great company, but today we need somebody to complete his vision for education by pushing every college and university to make the final transition into what I call the “NextBook” era, removing the unnecessary weight on the wallets and backs of our college students.
I left the California Legislature to head up a new non-profit, the 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MM). Our goal? To completely disrupt a complacent and lucrative textbook publishing industry by asking the simple question: do we really need bounded, heavy, overpriced copy-write protected books in today’s ebook, ibook, and Nextbook environment?
Just days ago, 20MM and powerhouse educational software company Kno, released our answer to that important question by announcing a new digitally enhanced NextBook for college students based on open content. We have our eyes set on producing open source NextBooks for the top 25 undergraduate courses in the nation, starting with general statistics. Why? Consider that in our California Community Colleges, nearly 120,000 students take general statistics EVERY year with an average new book price of $150—that is an estimated cost of $10 to $15 million per year for just one course!
Our next step at 20MM is to empower our faculty. Beyond offering professors NextBooks, 20MM will focus on the reusing, redistributing, revising and remixing capabilities of e-textbook material, utilizing faculty’s unique talents and expertise. Who wouldn’t take quality, customized, and student-centric material enhanced by the instructor over a high-cost, standardized, static, and closed publication?
Clearly, we understand that as we move toward this type of customization, the major issues will be quality and built-in assessment. Our statistics Web 2.0 NextBook is better than statistics books out on the market given it is specifically designed for college students to improve their learning experience and results with built in assessment capacities. We are partnering with assessment companies like BenchPrep so that every open source NextBook in our library of 25 has assessment as its lifeblood.
According to the latest report by the social learning platform Xplana, within the next five years digital textbook sales will surpass 25% of sales for the higher education and career education markets. But even with the changing winds, enhanced academic freedom, creative assessment tools, and a price point under $30, our major challenge remains. Will faculty adopt these books for use in their classrooms? We may have the best free and open general statistics e-book on the market, but will faculty place it on the syllabus the first day of class?
Much like those skeptical past college friends in 1986 who stared at the glowing box during finals week, I am confident that our faculty can get past the incertitude and finish the next chapter of the revolution Steve Jobs helped usher in decades ago. They just need to say yes to the future and embrace it as their own.
About 20 Million Minds Foundation
20MM Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to greatly reducing textbook costs. Headed by past California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, the foundation is currently leveraging leading edge technologies to create more affordable, engaging, and effective educational materials for college students throughout the nation.
Connexions has expanded its partnerships to several organizations. I will highlight some of them. Representatives from the following organizations demonstrated, presented and/or discussed their organizations: VOER (The Vietnam Foundation for OER: http://voer.edu.vn ), Upfront Systems in South Africa (there was an excellent demo of http://mobile.cnx.org and a demo showing MathMl and text on cell phones using just a mobile browser, i.e., not needing an iPhone or an Android), WebAssign (http://webassign.net – an excellent homework and grading system for the sciences and mathematics which I personally admire and use with Collaborative Statistics), Shutterfly in South Africa (all content in the K-12 curriculum is available via mobile cell phones, again, not needing a smart phone), Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy (resource for network for the Jesuit 53 secondary schools in US and more than 400 secondary schools worldwide which encourages the development, use, and sharing of educational resources ), UniqU (a spin-off from Connexions that helps folks use Connexions http://theuniqu.com ), Words & Numbers (a publisher that has developed open textbooks for Connextions and other organizations), AKADEMOS (provides an information and commerce platform that serves a single site for gathering all learning materials used in educational environments http://akademos.com). Bridgeport Education (the parent company of Ashford University and University of the Rockies), Full Marks (a South African nonprofit assessment bank that is completely open source; people can add your own questions, score sheets, etc.), and NOTA (OER for K-12).
I will finish up this blog with a few comments from Joel Thierstein. Joel proudly proclaimed that OER is transitioning from a “movement” to “mainstream” as we transition into K-12 market. He announced that in the last two months, Connexions received a grant from a consortium of grantors. It is going to produce publisher quality content initially targeted at community colleges. Phase I is 18 months long and will result in the production of 5 textbooks (Anatomy &Physiology, Sociology, Biology, Biology for non-majors, and Physics). Phase II will also be 18 months long and will produce 15 additional books). The major expense is expected to be clearing the copyright of images. Once that happens, the images will be available freely to all. The goal of funders to increase quality of education. The money folks used to spend on textbooks will now be available to spend on new and innovative ways to do content. “If we succeed in this, it will change education forever,” according to Joel.
The first panel discussed Connexions in Higher Education. Connexions co-founder, Dr. Sidney Burrus, gave a brief history of Connexions, describing how it started in the Electrical Engineering Department of Rice University 1999 with a text written by Dr. Richard Baraniuk. Later, Collaborative Statistics, of which I am a co-author, became a Proof of Concept book. Dr. Andrew Barron explained his current project of including lots of cross references in modules for searching for techniques in the Chemistry discipline. Tom Caswell from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges described its open course library with a project to design and share 81 (summer 2010 – fall 2012) high enrollment gatekeeper courses (face-to-face, hybrid and online). The goals of that project are to improve course completion rates, lower textbook costs for students (< $30 per text), provide new resources for faculty to use in their courses and for the WA college system to fully engage the global OER discussion. The 81 courses will be included in Connexions. Jim Berry from NCPEA discussed his project, peer reviewed journals for K-12 principals. This is a free market of education global, not locally. He discussed the peer review so that manuscripts published are high quality. An organization goal is “educational administrative professional knowledge that is captured by the profession and made accessible via the internet .” The journals are housed on Connexions. More information is available at: http://www.ncpeapublications.org/
Perhaps most important to Connexions end users will be this technical update. EPUB (eReaders) has Connexions content on it. This eReader is used for most mobile devices (except for Kindles). Connexions content is on iTunesU (18 collections), is available with an Android App, has Mobile downloads, and has new math support that is better looking for users. I am excited that Connexions pages now load faster due to a technical change to have better load balancing.
I attended the, once again fantastic, Connexions Conference at Rice University. This year had a great emphasis on expansion efforts – both global and uses of Open Educational Resources. If you are interested in viewing conference photos, become a Facebook fan of Connexions. You can also view the tweets using the Twitter identifier of #cnxconf.
Dr. Joel Thierstein, Executive Director of Connexions, introduced the conference. He announced that there are now over 17,000 modules on Connexions, attracting over 2,000,000 distinct visitors. One of my highlights of the conference was the inspirational keynote speech by Mr. Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Dept of Education, working directly for Dr. Martha Kanter, U.S. Under Secretary of Education. I am honored to have worked with Hal during his tenure as a Board of Trustees member of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District where I teach. Hal was an initiator and a champion of OER use locally and nationally and continues to actively promote OER worldwide.
Among the remarks Hal made were that part of Health Care and Education Bill passed in the Legislature allocates $2 billion of savings achieved by reforming the student loan system to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. The Department of Labor will oversee these funds. All products produced under the first $500,000,000 of funding from these DOL grants require Creative Commons By licenses.
Hal went on to describe inspirational future scenarios of how OER will help careers, learning and even peace in the future. He also cautioned that to continue to receive funding in the future, we need EVIDENCE, as in data (double blind studies,honesty, documentation of success and failure, “open sharing of positive and negative results in as robust as possible”), to “make [the] promise of continuous improvement… real concern about customers … full commitment to a culture of evidence … [and to] adhere to principles of universal design.” Promoting OER, Hal stated that OER are the tools to increasing educational access for all, thus fulfilling one of President Obama’s goals. Finally,Hal described the eTwinning movement in Europe. This movement links primary and secondary schools across Europe to work together, such as a French school studying British History being linked with a school in England. (Note: More information on eTwinning can be found at: http://www.etwinning.net .)
At Merlot’s recent conference, Mitchell Levy – marketing chair, COT – led a panel of industry who’s who’s in Open Textbooks and the OER initiatives. Talking to a packed room, Dr. Judy Baker offered a view on what the true cost of open textbook adoption is as well as the impact they have on enhancing teacher and learning. Clare Mortensen, ISKME shared with the challenges and barriers to wide-spread open textbook adoption that they found through their reserach. She also offered suggestions for how to address them. Joel Thierstein, Connexions offered insights into accessibility and the role it plays in open textbooks and why they need to be addressed by all involved – author, faculty, university and more.
A copy of their presentations is available via download.
Presenter: Barbara Illowsky, Professor, Mathematics & Statistics, De Anza Community College, Co-Author of Collaborative Statistics
Barbara Illowsky will present the benefits she and her co-author have received by open licensing their textbook. These include monetary compensation for the copyright, much higher adoption and usage rates, more and better feedback from instructors and students, media and peer recognition, and more. TAA members who attend this presentation will learn about the various open licenses, where and how open-licensed textbooks are hosted, and how to maximize the benefits of open licensing. They will also learn how open licensed textbooks are a win for students, instructors, schools, parents, taxpayers, and many other groups.
Collaborative Statistics by Susan Dean and Barbara Illowsky has been in continuous publication for more than 15 years. It was nominated recently for the TAA McGuffey Longevity Award. In 2008 the copyright was purchased by a foundation and changed from All Rights Reserved to an open Creative Commons license. The textbook is housed at the Rice University Connexions repository. More than 50 instructors have adopted the textbook. Hundreds of students use it each term online, offline, or in bound format. Five derivatives of the textbook have been published on Connexions.
The wheels of progress in Open Textbooks keep turning. The Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean book titled Collaborative Statistics is being adopted for use in a Mexico University. Portions are being translated into Spanish. Her main focus is in the Homework and Problem sections.
Her courses that will benefit from the adoption/translation are Investigación Cuantitativa para las Ciencias Sociales (Quantitative research for social sciences) & Estadistica para las Ciencias Sociales (Statistics for Social Sciences). In this effort she has had to adapt areas of the text to align with regional familiarity. (ie. English vs metric system….cm vs inches!) I have had some communication with Celine and she informs me that this is work in progress. She is utilizing the Open Textbook concept that best fits with her class situation. This is a good project that we can learn from. We will follow her and see how it turns out.
Some information about this particular textbook from Jacky Hood….
The Collaborative Statistics textbook was nominated for the 2010 William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award. The McGuffey Award was created in 1993 to recognize textbooks and learning materials whose excellence has been demonstrated over time, according to the Text and Academic Authors Association (TAA) website.
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