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.
Arguably, the open educational resource (OER) movement developed as a response to a strong desire to not only expand the free and open learning materials available to faculty, but also to reduce or perhaps eliminate the students’ costs for textbooks and supplementary tools. These basic problems have led to a wide variety of attempted solutions. Most notably, organizations such as College Open Textbooks, Connexions, Orange Grove Texts Plus, and others have worked diligently to create and collect complete open textbooks. This is absolutely wonderful for today’s students and even rings as a louder success for future students.
One thing to consider, however, is the overall role and importance of the whole textbook in, say, five or ten years. As our student population changes, and as information becomes so widely accessible with pervasive computing resources, so much time and effort goes into research and practice with different methods for reaching the student in the classroom. Salman Khan, creator of the Khan Academy (a collection of short tutorials for math, sciences, and other subjects), recently presented a TED talk entitled “Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education.” Loosely speaking, he proposed the idea of using the classroom for homework and activities, and having students watch or experience “lectures” at home. One might wonder where the traditional textbook fits in.
Ideas and considerations such as these motivated us at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif., to apply for a U.S. Department of Education FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) Special Focus grant through the College Course Materials Rental Initiative. And though textbook rental was a significant component of our grant, our primary focus was to create academic content “playlists” of material to augment or replace existing textbooks. With so much traction already in place to create full open textbooks, we wanted to develop a means by which existing galleries and collections of open educational resources could be put to effective use.
Our goals and plan are not entirely unique. Already in place are tools such as OERGlue, which provides an assembly mechanism for OERs. As such, we are mainly focused on the padding, of sorts, that needs to go between many of these objects. After all, if learning objects for a given topic are all created and prepared by different authors, one misses out on the common “voice” that exists in a traditional textbook.
We have created several modules (approximating chapters of traditional textbooks) that bring together common learning objects, but also employ the efforts of a single author to narrate the collection. As students view and interact with the materials, they are guided through the process. We are currently assessing the student response to the use of these tools, but anecdotal evidence thus far indicates high levels of satisfaction and engagement with the learning materials. And though work is required on the part of faculty to author the transition materials between learning objects, there is much less heavy lifting than creating a full textbook. In addition, educators want to participate! It becomes an opportunity to be published, while maintaining a manageable workload.
And so our work continues. We continue to evaluate the feedback from students and faculty, and we are creating a guideline, or template, for the process. If the work speaks for itself, as we hope and expect it will, then projects such as these are likely self-sustaining and can only help in the continued fueling of OER efforts worldwide.
I heard that there were some cool educational resources on YouTube. I finally went there to check them out and I found one that is very impressive; the Khan Academy.
Let me introduce you to Mr. Salman Khan who has created the Khan Academy. Salman has quite a deep background in math, engineering, and business. He is very passionate about making information available to people who want to learn and in a way that bypasses the typical bureaucracy associated with traditional education.
The Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that provides high quality education to “anyone, anywhere”. There are about 1200 videos available for viewing on YouTube. The subjects cover the areas of math, business, history, statistics, physics, chemistry, economics, and more. There are some schools and instituations that are not allowed access to YouTube. To circumvent this, there are other partner organizations (The Lewis Center for Educational Research) that are providing alternative access to the content. In addition, Sal is working on getting the videos mirrored on other non-YouTube sites. Check out his website. It has alot of good information and personal insite into how and why he started the Khan Academy.
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