There’s been a whole lot of press on open textbooks lately, in addition to my own posts on the Flexbook and the Student PIRGs’ recent report encouraging open source textbooks as the right model for digital textbooks (versus the limited e-books that commercial publishers currently offer). The difference in open source and commercial e-books is wide and deep. Open textbooks are freely editable, downloadable and repurposable by others, keeping with the notion that the search for truth in any academic field is continually being revised, especially in the science and technology fields. The perpetual beta status of knowledge is not just an oxymoron; the old fashioned textbook is simply outdated in this age of lightning fast communications. Furthermore, students and many professors are just not having it anymore.
The New York Times article, “Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free,” features an interview with Cal Tech professor, R. Preston McAfee, who offers his “Introduction to Economic Analysis” online for free. Another article by the LA Times reports best-selling co-author Steven D. Levitt of Freakonomics calling McAfee brilliant. If brilliant minds putting out open textbooks and students buying in (for free and for low-cost print versions on places like Lulu.com and Flatworld Knowledge) are not an indication of a revolution in textbook making, I don’t know what is.
The numbers don’t lie either. Quotes the NY Times on McAfee:
“If I had finished my own book, I would have finished a couple years ago,” [McAfee] said. “It would have taken five years. It would have spent five years in print and sold 2,000 copies.” Instead, he said, he posted it on the Web site and there have been 2.8 million page views of his textbook, “Signals and Systems,” including a translation into Spanish.
Wired also quotes a long-timer in the traditional textbook industry, Eric Frank, who is getting with the changing times: “The nice thing about open content is it gives faculty full control, creative control over the content of the book, full control over timing, and it give students a lot more control over how they want to consume it and how much they want to pay”…“On the surface they’re (traditional publishers) doing OK, but underneath the surface there are lots of problems.”
A long-existing and solid promoter of the open textbook is Connexions, an online platform “for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web.” Connexions, created by Rice University’s Richard Baraniuk, initiated a new way of thinking about textbooks:
“Most textbooks are a mass of information in linear format: one topic follows after another. However, our brains are not linear – we learn by making connections between new concepts and things we already know. Connexions mimics this by breaking down content into smaller chunks, called modules, that can be linked together and arranged in different ways. This lets students see the relationships both within and between topics and helps demonstrate that knowledge is naturally interconnected, not isolated into separate classes or books.”
According to the NY Times, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a staunch supporter of the open educational resources (OER) movement, has granted $6 million to Connexions alone. Connexions licenses all of its content CC BY, the license that allows the greatest sharing capabilities and creativity for education, while still retaining authorship and thereby greater quality in collaborative output.Comments Off
The JISC CETIS (JISC Centre for Educational Technology & Interoperability Standards) is a JISC funded service that has long been researching educational technology and covering the field’s latest developments under a CC BY-NC-SA license. One of their latest publications is a briefing paper on open educational resources (OER) titled, “Open Educational Resources — Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education” and authored by Li Yuan, Sheila MacNeill, and Wilbert Kraan. According to Li, the briefing paper “[looks] at the latest developments and trends in Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives worldwide” and serves as “a quick introduction to funding bodies, institutions and educators who are interested in OER initiatives. The paper includes three sections: a) the conceptual and contextual issues of Open Educational Resources; b) current OER initiatives: their scale, approaches, main issues and challenges; and c) trends emerging in Open Educational Resources, with respect to future research and activities.”
He also explains their reasons for initiating and completing the study:
“It appears that OER will have a significant impact on managing and accessing the existing repositories and in taking these initiatives forward as part of a global movement. We thought it might be useful to carry out a review of OERs that might benefit the JISC community in planning funding programs and in opening up discussions on future research directions concerning the use and re-use of digital content.”
The Center for Open and Sustainable Learning (COSL) has been hosting an OER Handbook on WikiEducator for a while now, inviting others to contribute and edit various elements of the book. Now they’ve finally published the first printable version of one of their mini-handbooks: OER Handbook for Educators 1.0.
The actual handbook isn’t so mini—though it weighs nothing at all in the virtual world, the printed version is a hefty 269+ pages. But you don’t have to print it out; you can access it in various forms for free on the web: as it currently exists on WikiEducator or as black and white or full color pdf’s on Lulu.com.
The OER Handbook for Educators is the collaborative result of various contributors, ultimately authored by Seth Gurell and edited by David Wiley. Its aim is to serve as an introductory guide to educators on open educational resources: how to “find, use, develop and share OER to enhance their effectiveness online and in the classroom.” The handbook is an especial eye-opener for those new to the world of open education. However, it is also useful for more seasoned OER creators and users, grappling with such topics as “The Copyright Paradox”—because we all know that copyright is no simple matter.
The handbook itself is licensed CC BY-SA, so go check it out! If your connection is slow, don’t worry: the black and white graphics are just as stunning as their full color counterparts.Comments Off
The August issue of the Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) is dedicated to education. It is now available online, including two articles specifically devoted to open education: “A Flat Network for the Unflat World: Open Educational Resources in Developing Countries” (Steven Muegge, Monica Mora, Kamal Hassin, Andrew Pullin) and “Why Give Knowledge Away for Free? The Case for Open Educational Resources” (Jan Hylén).
The Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) is an online publication devoted to open source, targeting a broad audience of “Canadian business owners, company executives and employees, directors of open source foundations, leaders of open source projects, open source groups, individuals and organizations that contribute to open source projects, academics and students interested in open source, technology transfer professionals, and government employees who promote wealth creation through innovation.”
All issues of OSBR are licensed CC BY.Comments Off
Today TED announced the 50 millionth view of a TED talk, marking its success since it first launched online two years ago in June of 2006. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design—and it features talks by various speakers from Bill Clinton to Bono. However, the most viewed talks are actually given by persons previously unknown. They are ideas “flying on [their] own merit[s]“, says the executive producer of TED media according to TEDBlog. Almost half of TED’s audience comes from outside the U.S., establishing TEDTalks as a global presence. TED Curator Chris Anderson says,
“TED’s mission is to spread ideas, and we’re now doing that on a scale that was unimaginable two years ago. It’s clear there’s an appetite out there for big ideas and meaningful stories.”
Check out the Top 10 TEDTalks of all time; you’ll be surprised by the speakers and their subjects, with number one titled, “My stroke of insight,” by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor. And while you’re at it, check out Richard Baraniuk’s “Goodbye, textbooks; hello, open-source learning,” a talk by the founder of Connexions, a leading educational platform in the OER movement.
OpenEducation.net tracks the changing climate of education–more specifically, the movement towards the growing availability of Open Educational Resources on the web. In a recent post entitled, The Digital Commons — Left Unregulated, Are We Destined for Tragedy? , they explore the potential of the open digital commons, concluding that open access is the key to avoiding, not creating, tragedy.
They also recognize ccLearn as a part of this movement. ccLearn’s Executive Director, Ahrash Bissell, recently spoke with OpenEducation.net about ccLearn’s and, in general, Creative Commons’ relationship to net neutrality. Check out the interview here.
Both articles are licensed CC BY.Comments Off
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been a tremendous supporter of Creative Commons and our new educational division, ccLearn. The foundation’s newsletter just published a great interview with Catherine Casserly, their Program Officer for Open Educational Resources. Here are a couple excerpts:
Aren’t copyright laws an obstacle to all of this?
Traditionally, they have been. We’re trying to move to “copy left.” That’s really the term they use. It’s a concept of legal constructions that provide much more flexibility so the creator of content still owns it, and those using it must attribute it to them, but the owner can choose the ways they are willing to share it with others. A key player in this is Creative Commons, a non-profit corporation that Hewlett and other foundations support that helps people who create content define a range of legal control that allows certain shared use of their material.
You know, only a very small number of professors ever make money on textbooks. Everyone thinks they are going to hit, but most don’t. I suppose if you’re one of the few, you might give up some revenue stream by making a text available in this way. We’re looking into making these books available for free to those who can’t afford them. And there are other models emerging. There’s a for-profit company planning to make textbooks available for free and makes its money selling the supplemental materials like flashcards for mobile phones.
But intellectual property issues have been huge and will continue to be a factor.
Look into your crystal ball. What do you think all this will look like in another decade based on advances in technology and current trends?
We can’t even imagine what the technology will look like in ten years. I think we’ll have a vast library of available knowledge and alternative ways for people to get access to higher education. I think we’ll have institutions that grant credentials for this learning. And I hope we’ll have students who engage in learning in rewarding ways that make them creators of knowledge. And it’s through that creation that they learn. That will be a big turning point.
Thanks to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and our other supporters! Please join them.Comments Off
Caltech economics professor Preston McAfee appears to be mad as hell about high journal and textbook prices, and he’s doing something about it. He’s published a complete Introduction to Economic Analysis textbook under a Creative Commons license. See his page about the license and high textbook prices:
Why open source? Academics do an enormous amount of work editing journals and writing articles and now publishers have broken an implicit contract with academics, in which we gave our time and they weren’t too greedy. Sometimes articles cost $20 to download, and principles books regularly sell for over $100. They issue new editions frequently to kill off the used book market, and the rapidity of new editions contributes to errors and bloat. Moreover, textbooks have gotten dumb and dumber as publishers seek to satisfy the student who prefers to learn nothing. Many have gotten so dumb (“simplified”) so as to be simply incorrect. And they want $100 for this schlock? Where is the attempt to show the students what economics is actually about, and how it actually works? Why aren’t we trying to teach the students more, rather than less?
In addition to including a prominent CC license notice in the textbook PDF, the license is briefly mentioned in the subject text in the context of explaining sources of monopoly, page 25
17 (emphasis added):
also confers a monopoly for a supposedly limited period of time. Thus, the
Disney Corporation owns copyrights on Mickey Mouse, copyrights which by law
should have expired, but have been granted an extension by Congress each time
they were due to expire. Copyrights create monopoly power over music as well
as cartoon characters, and
Paul McCartneyTime-Warner owns the rights to the song “Happy
Birthday to You,” and receives royalties every time it is played on the radio or
other commercial venue. This book is copyrighted under terms that expressly
prohibit commercial use but permit most other uses.
Via the Freakonomics blog, which includes links to additional data from McAfee about journal prices.
Also check out the Science Commons Publishing Project.
Update: The current version of the textbook contains the correction noted above regarding “Happy Birthday” ownership. Thanks to Gordon Mohr for pointing out the error in a comment below.3 Comments »
This is the second of several postings describing potential innovations to our licenses. It comes courtesy of Rob Hallman, a Stanford Law School student in the “Advanced Contracts: Creative Commons” seminar.
You have the power to make learning fun. At least partly. Promoting education is a personal goal and a corporate mission for many copyright holders. If you have creative work that you’d like to share with students and educators, but you don’t want people to use it for other purposes, an “educational purposes” license option may be just your size. “Educational purposes” gives the green light to any use of a work in a classroom setting.
There are all sorts of classrooms (including virtual), and we’d like to include them all, as long as they’re run by a legitimate educational institution, commercial or not.
But what about fair use? We don’t imagine that this “educational purposes” provision would replace or compete with fair use. Instead, this provision is designed to allow copyright holders to share even more usage rights with students and educators than fair use allows. We want students and educators to feel confident that their use is legal and happy that the artist or owner is a willing accomplice in the learning process.
Educational Purposes. The licensor permits students or educators to copy, distribute, display, and perform the Work in whole or in part for educational purposes as defined in this section.
Educational purposes include classroom use affiliated with an educational institution, research or other projects developed and displayed exclusively for classroom use, or for the review of instructor(s), or degree-conferring committees, where:
Educational institutions include individuals, corporations or trusts, commercial or noncommercial, whose primary purpose is educational, and whose educational purpose is demonstrable through governmental recognition or through comportment consistent with a customary understanding of educational purpose among practitioners in the field.
Classrooms include the traditional classroom setting as well as other recognized forums for instruction or coursework that are administered by an educational institution. On-line and other nontraditional “classrooms” will be considered classrooms for the purposes of this definition where they are the forum for a legitimate course, seminar, or instructional program administered by an educational institution.
Students are a distinct, limited community currently participating with the permission of an educational institution in a course, seminar, or other program with an educational purpose offered by that institution. Student status is coextensive with the duration of the course, seminar, or program.
Educators are full-time or part-time/adjunct faculty, administration or staff of an educational institution.
Can this be simpler? Should it be broader? Narrower? Tell us why you’d use it or why you wouldn’t.19 Comments »