The fragmented world of open courseware should be transformed into "a worldwide resource that's very clear who should use what," Bill Gates said in a speech on Wednesday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking at how to help support innovation in open courseware, he said. "What's been done so far has had very modest funding. This is an area we need more resources, more bright minds, and certainly one that I want to see how the foundation could make a contribution to this."
"With the current Higher Education textbook market estimated at $8.212 billion, and with overall annual market growth projected conservatively at 2%-3% over the next five years, the market could reach in excess of $9 billion by 2014."
One of the greatest perks to electronic textbooks is supposed to be a lower purchase price, said Alice Owen, the Irving district's director of technology. But publishers aren't providing cheaper electronic replacements."It's not working exactly as we thought," Owen said. Paper textbooks cost the district $425 annually per student, she said. "A big chunk of textbooks is going to paper and printing that could be savings."
An alternative may be the burgeoning open-source option, which the Legislature also approved for review.
"People have gotten used to getting content given to them in a nice package – 40 minutes this, 40 minutes that," said Neeru Khosla, who runs California-based CK-12, one of the first nonprofits to provide free, customized digital content to schools via the Internet. "Students today have different learning styles. There's no reason why we have to have a fixed image in our mind."
"Brian Evans, instructor in the Economics Dept. at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, has just made available the results of his study comparing the costs of using Open Textbooks vs traditional textbooks. Brian presents the factors involved in the study, statistics on the choices made by the students, student opinions, and some thoughts looking forward. Brian's Powerpoint presentation is attached to this blog post.
I talked with Brian about his results. One point that was summarized in this study, and also brought out in other studies, is that some students still like traditional textbooks and at times find them easier to use. Could it be caused by a deficiency in the tools (notebooks, touch screens, and associated s/w) that are in place to deliver the content? Hopefully with the new platforms such as the iPad and beyond, the user interface will improve and win more people over.
... Shai Reshef has used $1 million of his own money to start the University of the People, which taps open courses that other universities have put online and relies on student interaction to guide learning; students even grade one another’s papers.
The focus is business administration and computer science, chosen because they hold promise for employment. He says he hopes to seek accreditation, and offer degrees.
Mr. Reshef’s plan is to “take anyone, anyone whatsoever,” as long as they can pass an English orientation course and a course in basic computer skills, and have a high school diploma or equivalent. The nonprofit venture has accepted, and enrolled, 380 of 3,000 applicants, and is trying to raise funds through microphilanthropy — “$80 will send one student to UoPeople for a term” — through social networking.
“A lot of people are telling us, ‘It’s you or nothing,’ ” he says. “We’re the alternative to nothing.” Mr. Reshef says he received a letter from a young man in Ghana who had just enrolled. “He said, ‘I feel like a rich American student studying in an American university.’ ” And that, perhaps, is the broadest impact of all.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Superintendent Jack O'Connell, State Board of Education President Ted Mitchell, and Secretary of Education Glen Thomas have announced phase two of the Digital Textbook Initiative, a project to provide a list of standards aligned free or open source digital textbooks for high schools that cover course content in history-social science, mathematics, and science.
Please note: This website will go live on Monday, April 12, 2010.
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