SI521 "Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan" Open Textbook/OpenTextbook

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Introduction[edit]

As the successes of the free and open source software movement grow in both number and reputation, thinkers and activists in many other areas of activity have tried to harness the demonstrably impressive power of distributed production methods. One such endeavor is the movement to create open textbooks. At its core, the open textbook movement seeks to create and identify a body of free educational materials available to be used, distributed and remixed. The range of materials that can be considered open is large, from "public domain books to existing textbooks to textbooks created specifically for OER", and the goals are lofty, attempting to "help solve the problems of the high cost of textbooks, book shortages, and access to textbooks as well as providing the capacity to better meet local teaching and learning needs."[1] Despite, or perhaps partially because of, this important and broad mandate, attempts to create "Open Textbooks" have not enjoyed the same successes as open software, facing problems both in creation and adoption.

The following chapter examines and investigates open textbooks, their benefits, and the challenges facing them. Because of the open textbook movement's close ties to other open initiatives, this chapter begins by grounding open textbooks in their cultural and historical contexts. It then does on to discuss the potential benefits of open textbooks and to identify some of the specific challenges faced in open textbook creation. Finally, the chapter ends with a description of some ongoing and future open textbook projects.

Open Textbooks in Context[edit]

One way to analyze the strengths and issues facing open textbooks is to understand them as the theoretical descendants of the free and open source software movement and the emerging open education resources or open knowledge movement. This modern “open” movement: open education, open access, open publishing, may very well owe its existence to the dedicated work of a few, deeply dedicated, computer programmers who set out to redefine the way software was conceived, developed, and distributed. By showing that dedicated individuals could create functional products, either solo or in peer production groups, the early open source software pioneers created a model for the open movement as we see it today.

Open Source Software[edit]

While the success of open source software has been well documented and thoroughly analyzed[1], as the antecedent of open textbooks, open source software still has many lessons to teach the creators of open textbooks. Some open source software projects were successes, but for every Linux or Apache, there are countless derelicts, projects that never got off the ground, or that collapsed under their own weight.1 What then, are the elements of an open source project that lead to success, and how can these elements be applied to open textbooks?

First, nearly all successful open source software projects are produced with an actual open license. Attempting to have a partially open project is a surefire way to fail, as evidenced by the case of Xara, a graphics processing company, who released 90% of their source code to the open community while retaining the vital 10% that contained their kernel.[2] This hedge was seen as Xara stating “"you can contribute to this project, and we'd love you to do that. But we're going to ensure you hobble away from it with a leg iron."[3] If a project is going to harness the power of openness, it must go all the way, and it must be able to deal with the resulting loss of control that total openness requires.

Secondly, a successful open source software project needs to have a committed core of developers with a singular vision. For example, he developers of JBoss, an open source enterprise management software suite, credit much of their success to adherence to their mission, stating ”its got to be a pretty damn big project before you need a committee to make decisions. Most projects are better off with one or two open minded people guiding the project and maintaining a single coherent vision.”[ http://www.linux.com/archive/feature/119790] A dedicated core of believers helps to keep a project on task, and provides the energy to keep a project alive, even during the tedious parts of development.

Finally, a successful open source software project must have a good production infrastructure, with a clear process for making updates, changing code, and releasing new versions. Advanced open source software projects, like the Linux kernel or the Apache server code have clear requirements lists, dedicated interfaces for making and sending in changes, and regular and schedule updates. Peer production is a valuable tool, but every added hand on a project raises the costs of interaction. Making use of scheduling and organizational techniques is a must for a successful project.

In summation, a successful open source software project will be: truly open, possessed of a dedicated core, and will be properly scheduled and coordinated. As we examine open textbooks, we will see that many of these lessons ring true there, as well.

Peer Production After OSS[edit]

Search Engines[edit]

Another early example of the success of peer production was competition between search engine companies in the mid-1990s. Early search engines like Altavista and Lycos used “an algorithm to extract meaning and relevance from a mechanical analysis of text and meta tags on webpages”[2]. Yahoo improved upon this by also adding human intervention to create a directory of the web. Both however, were “paying smart employees to map the web”[2]. Google, the ultimate winner of this competition, created an algorithm that “effectively produces an image of the distributed judgments of millions of webpage authors around the web.” Although users were not consciously choosing to participate in peer production, the links in their webpages acted as their 'votes' for what was relevant. In 2000 Yahoo conceded to the peer production model and used Google as their 'search partner' for the next 4 years until they developed their own system[3].

Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia has been referred to as “the most ambitious and successful collectively authored text”[2]. Unlike peer production of relevance (ie. Google, or a posting-based newsletter like Slashdot), Wikipedia operates through single textual documents that can be edited by anyone, including unregistered users. However, it has also been noted that “encyclopedia definitions are distinctly chunky or modular... they can progress at different paces, have different voices... but as long as they are accurate and reasonably well written, they need not form any higher-level coherence”[2]. Wikipedia is therefore inherently modular -- an essential difference from an open textbooks which as a genre must have more of an internal coherence. To achieve this level of “higher order coordination” the contributors must take more time in creating their learning objects and in coherently integrating these chunks.

Potential for Open Textbooks[edit]

There are several significant reasons to be interested in the use of open textbooks, particularly when these models involve the use of peer production.


Peer Production After OSS[edit]

Search Engines[edit]

Another early example of the success of peer production was competition between search engine companies in the mid-1990s. Early search engines like Altavista and Lycos used “an algorithm to extract meaning and relevance from a mechanical analysis of text and meta tags on webpages”[2]. Yahoo improved upon this by also adding human intervention to create a directory of the web. Both however, were “paying smart employees to map the web”[2]. Google, the ultimate winner of this competition, created an algorithm that “effectively produces an image of the distributed judgments of millions of webpage authors around the web.” Although users were not consciously choosing to participate in peer production, the links in their webpages acted as their 'votes' for what was relevant. In 2000 Yahoo conceded to the peer production model and used Google as their 'search partner' for the next 4 years until they developed their own system[3].

Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia has been referred to as “the most ambitious and successful collectively authored text”[2]. Unlike peer production of relevance (ie. Google, or a posting-based newsletter like Slashdot), Wikipedia operates through single textual documents that can be edited by anyone, including unregistered users. However, it has also been noted that “encyclopedia definitions are distinctly chunky or modular... they can progress at different paces, have different voices... but as long as they are accurate and reasonably well written, they need not form any higher-level coherence”[2]. Wikipedia is therefore inherently modular -- an essential difference from an open textbooks which as a genre must have more of an internal coherence. To achieve this level of “higher order coordination” the contributors must take more time in creating their learning objects and in coherently integrating these chunks.

Potential for Open Textbooks[edit]

There are several significant reasons to be interested in the use of open textbooks, particularly when these models involve the use of peer production.

Peer Production Calculations[edit]

Benkler notes how the internet has vastly changed the cost of production and distribution of educational materials. Previously a teacher with an interest area, might collate physical materials from a library and maybe even mimeograph them for his class. However, any attempt at larger scale discribution of those materials would have been insurmountable. The web has made that both easy and free[2]. Benkler goes on to note that 1 billion people in advanced economies have cheap and ubiquitous internet access. Between those 1 billion, they have 2 - 6 billion spare hours each day[2]. If peer production models of education can harness even a small portion of those hours for volunteers writing on a topic of their interest, the effect would be immense.

Peter Woolf, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, conducted a similar “back of the envelope” calculation when he was considering developing an open textbook for his Chemical Engineering course. Although he was unsatisfied with the current textbook, he also did not have time to write a new one. He calculated that an average class of 100 students working on a textbook over the course of one semester could contribute the equivalent of 2,133 faculty hours[4] a significant step towards creating a viable textbook.

File:Woolf-calculations.png
Peter Woolf's student peer production calculations.



Improving Educational Content[edit]

Previous studies of the success of open source software have noted that a major part of the motivation for contributors is to “scratch your own itch” [1]. That is, software code writers do not contribute to projects out of generosity alone, but rather to solve some current problem they are facing at which point they are happy to share that with the world. Similarly in educational content, there is sense that the current watered down textbooks for K-12 are failing students and in some cases, such as Peter Woolf's engineering text, this is also true in higher education. The motivation is therefore there within a frustrated community of teachers to want to improve upon the current educational content to participate in a peer production project[2].

Access[edit]

With the costs of textbooks rising at tremendous rates, there is a great potential benefit for making quality textbooks available to students and educational institutions. In a 2007 study, the General Accounting Office found that “(i)n the last two decades, college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation...Increasing at an average of 6 percent per year, textbook prices nearly tripled from December 1986 to December 2004.”[4] Open textbooks provide a clear financial benefit, as once the fixed costs of their production have been paid for, they are effectively free. This was the rationale behind Connexions decision to purchase the rights to various textbooks; once they had paid the fixed cost for the book, the marginal cost of every additional copy was zero.

Access is not only about money however. Open licenses that allow for remixing also have significant benefits for individuals with disabilities or non English speakers. Whereas academic publishers have been given an economic incentive under the Federal Quota Program to make copies of their works available in disability accessible formats, they are often woefully slow to do so.[5] There are also instances where open publishing works to fix market failures: for example, there is not much of a financial incentive to translate works to languages like Ojibwe, but there is a substantial demand for Ojibwe materials. Creating open textbooks allows interested parties to create their own translations, providing increased access.

Scalability & Flexibility[edit]

Another benefit presented by open textbooks are the advantages of scalability and flexibility. Educational models with one teacher to many students eventually reach a limiting threshold. That one teacher can only hope to education a certain amount of students before the quality of education would begin to go down. The hope with the creation of his Open Textbook and Open Classroom was to take advantage of the peer production of knowledge in a manner in which the students were learning from each other. He noted the common axiom that “you never really know a subject until you teach it.”

Open textbooks also have a great amount of potential to allow authors to create books for their own purposes. This is important, because the commercial textbook market has extraordinarily high barriers to entry. In his article Common Wisdom, Professor Yochai Benkler illustrates this problematic situation:

“Significant consolidation in the past decade has left four major textbook publishers in the United States. At the same time, statewide adoption practices have meant that decisions by government officials in California, Texas, and Florida control the demand in roughly a quarter of the K-12 textbook markets. The combination has led to the content of most textbooks being determined through intense lobbying in the three state capitals.”

Specificity was one of the motivating factors of Peter Woolf's open textbook project. Professor Wolf teaches a class on chemical process dynamics,and he was dismayed at the lack of modern textbooks on the subject.2 Whereas the process dynamics is now a totally computerized discipline, the textbooks that are commercially available are taught from the pencil and paper techniques developed in the early half of the twentieth century. Since there was no commercially available textbook that met his requirements, creating an open textbook was necessary for Professor Wolf to effectively teach his students.

Additionally, the texts created by Peter's class were extremely flexible. Seeing as they were active and interactive, they were able to be continually updated, corrected and optimized. Errors in traditional texts on the other hand could take years to correct, let alone respond to current events or interests of the class.

File:Cartesian-v-social.gif
Cartesian View of Learning [Source]
File:Cartesian-v-social2.gif
Social View of Learning [Source]


Pedagogy: Cartesian vs. Social View of Learning[edit]

Most of the benefits discussed above have been for the users of open textbooks. But there are also benefits to those who create them. When students or other learners collaborate to create an open textbook, they are learning as they write. The pedagogical aspect of open textbook authorship is significant; in one study, undertaken by Harvard Professor Richard Light, students who worked collectively on projects in small groups performed dramatically better in the classes in which they worked than did students who worked alone, and this was true across relative levels of academic success.[6] Working together on peer authored text has the double benefit of educating students while at the same time creating open materials.

Peer authored texts resonate with progressive educational theory as well. Whereas a constructivist, or empty vessel, theory of learning sees knowledge as an object which can be transferred between techer and student, and “(l)earning is conceived as a process of changing or conditioning observable behavior as result of selective reinforcement of an individual's response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment,”[7] modern social learning theory sees learning as occurring in a situated context; as John Seeley Brown put it in his article Minds on Fire, "(t)he focus (of social learning) is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning"[8] Creating peer authored textbooks engages this process of social learning, and teaches students to become active members of an intellectual community.

Challenges for Open Textbooks[edit]

Many open textbook projects with great promise have come and gone, or linger in a state of disuse on the web. This section seeks to examine what makes open textbooks different from other open source products.

Observations by Benkler[edit]

Yochai Benkler wrote an influential article in 2005 called "Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials" in which he discussed challenges to the open source model for creating open textbooks. This text is heavily influenced by Benker's critique, and subsequent projects including Peter Woolf's Chemical Engineering textbook (or this OER textbook) have been successful only by responding to his critiques. Benkler highlights several challenges for the creation of Open Textbooks, many of which are noted below.

Module Size - Authorial Time Commitment[edit]

Textbooks are expensive and difficult to create, and one of the reasons that the costs of textbooks have risen so dramatically in the past decade is the demand that textbooks be of extremely high quality and thoroughness. And while there have been some limited success in creating high quality and thorough textbooks outside of the traditional system, many initiatives have languished. For example, in a recent article, Scientific American reported that “in 2002, the California Open-Source Textbook Project aimed to produce a history textbook via Wikibooks that it estimated could save California $200 million per year. To date, the project has never cobbled together a complete book.“ Failures like these illustrate how difficult it is to produce a quality textbook, and how ambitious open textbook projects can run aground.

Furthermore, open textbook projects like Connexions have also failed to produce many actual texts. Most of the educational materials are in module form, which while important, are not the same as a textbook. The true success story of the open textbook movement, Flat World Knowledge, seems to work more because it emulates traditional publishers than for any other reason.3 While the dream of peer produced democratic learning materials is a good one, the practice seems to indicate that resources may still be more efficiently generated by for profit industry.

Authority/Coherence - Coordination Costs[edit]

Open textbooks also face an authority problem. While traditionally published textbooks are subject to revision and errata, open materials have at times been plagued with challenges to their authority. Wikipedia, for example, has been subject to a series of high profile embarrassing incidents, such as false, early, reports of the death of Senator Kennedy, to stating that John Seigenthaler assassinated John F. Kennedy, to Tony Blair's entry which mentioned that he had posters of Adolph Hitler on the wall of his childhood bedroom. Even when an open textbook is factually accurate, it still can face the perception that is is less than authoritative. Peter Woolf's textbook, which was discussed above, has been met with resistance, not by faculty members, but by the very students who created it. In surveys of his classes, Professor Wolf found that a plurality of students who had worked on the open textbook wanted more “official” materials and thought that their book was less authoritative than a traditionally published book. While this effect will likely diminish over time, currently, even in a situation where the textbook users were their own authors, and were proud of their own work, they still desired an outside authority to tell them that what they had accomplished was worth using.

Audience: Educational Models (ie. K-12 versus Higher Education in the US)[edit]

An additional challenge for open textbooks is the difference in teaching expectations between educational models. At one end of the spectrum is the undergraduate or graduate school system in the US which by cultural practice expects each instructor to “pull together materials from various sources into what is a more-or-less unique educational experience”[2]. If this model were true for all students at all ages, a model of discrete learning objects would be sufficient to support teachers.

However, many educational systems have more centrally controlled objectives that require teachers to adhere more closely to achievement guidelines. It has been noted that “the French education minister could look at his watch and know what every child in every classroom is studying”[2]. A more centralized model is also followed in K-12 education in the US, with state guidelines and countrywide testing (No Child Left Behind) leading to more homogenized curriculum. The K-12 textbook market has also been influenced by this centralization, and due to “economies of scale in not producing different texts for these states” they tend to teach towards the lowest common denominator[2].

Genre: Open Textbooks vs. Open Courseware & Learning Objects[edit]

Does it make sense to continue producing "textbooks" in this new era of distributed information? In the face of new open educational resource models, this is a question Open Texbook creators should be asking themselves. If linear / hierarchical models of teaching are not effective, or are no longer ideal in this new networked, peer produced world, should creators be going out of their way to recreate technologies of the past? Or might their efforts not be better spent on creating discrete learning objects in the hopes that policy might one day change K-12 education models to embrace those new technologies? For the time being, there does not seem to be any movement towards abandonment of the textbook model, rather many new "open textbooks" projects have been undertaken in the past few years. The textbook industry does seem to be headed towards significant changes in the next decade and the questions of whether the challenges noted in this section are required to be overcome, or whether there is educational path to follow, should be seriously considered by educators.

Other Open Textbook Projects[edit]

This section provides a few examples of the many types of "open textbook" projects that can be found on the web. The examples show the diversity of open textbooks, highlighting projects that vary in the method of production, the rights reserved by the creators, and the scope of the materials.

Wikibooks[edit]

According to their website, “Wikibooks is a Wikimedia community for creating a free library of educational textbooks that anyone can edit.”1 Wikibooks is a large site, with over thirty thousand pages worth of open textbooks available.[9] Much like its cousin, Wikipedia, Wikibooks allows anyone to make changes to existing textbooks or to create new textbooks, and it has no central authority.[10] It also, sadly, has few complete textbooks, and many of the ones there are incomplete, poorly written, and no longer under active development.[11] Wikibooks suffers from its lack of direction, coordination, and vision, and from the fact that modular creation, which works so well with Wikipedia, is woefully inadequate when creating a textbook. Unlike a modular Wikipedia article, which is essentially complete on its own, a textbook requires a good deal of coordinated effort to create, and without a unified schedule or guide, Wikibooks is too disjointed to succeed.[ http://www.benkler.org/Common_Wisdom.pdf ]

Free High School Science Texts (FHSST)[edit]

One of the most successful open textbooks projects is the Free High School Science Textbook project, or FHSST. Founded in 2002 by a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, FHHST "aims to provide free science and mathematics textbooks for Grades 10 to 12 science learners in South Africa."[12] The production style has much in common with sophisticated FOSS projects, with a dedicated cadre of users working with volunteers to create high quality, peer reviewed materials. In FHSST, a core team of “administrators” manage the project, recruiting volunteer authors from various mailing lists. These administrators assign volunteers to a module most closely aligned with their interests, or, if there is no clear overlap, attempt to persuade them to work in another area. Each chapter also goes through an editing process, ultimately going to a single author to smooth out differences[2]. While the transactional costs of collaboration for this model are fairly high for both the administrators and the authors, the tiered, peer reviewed system is necessary to create the high quality materials needed for high school instruction.

Connexions[edit]

Founded in 1999 by Rice University professor Richard G. Baraniuk in , Connexions "is an environment for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web. Our Content Commons contains educational materials for everyone — from children to college students to professionals — organized in small modules that are easily connected into larger collections or courses. All content is free to use and reuse under the Creative Commons "attribution" license."[13] In the decade since it opened, Connexions has become well known for its advocacy of modular development of open educational resources. As they state on their website, "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" [5]

While much of the materials on Connexions site are the product of modular non-linear design, they have not limited themselves to one approach.= for creating open content. As evidence of this, Connexions recently purchased the rights from a commercial textbook publisher for a popular textbook: Collaborative Statistics. The executive director, Joel Thierstein, said “We’re hoping that this is the first of many” [6]. In the year since it has been available, 3 additional collections have reused modules for their own purposes, including supplemental material, additional homework, or additional lab materials (View all Connexions Collaborative Statistics Collections).

Flat World Knowledge[edit]

On March 24, 2009 Flat World Knowledge sent out a press release with the notification that it had received $8 million dollars in venture capital funding. One of the venture capitalists behind the funding explained his reasoning on his blog, "The average new business & economics college textbook today costs $150 and many have surpassed $200 during the past year. In an age of seemingly readily available and cheap digital content, textbooks prices are actually rising. For a 4 year public college student, the estimated average cost of textbooks and related materials as a percentage of tuition and fees is 26% and for a 2 year community college student, the percentage is about 76% (U.S. Department of Education). As the recession has deepened, enrollments in colleges rise, university budgets are being cut, and everyone is being asked to do more with less. In response many institutions of higher learning have been forced to raise tuition and fees to keep the lights on while students who are already struggling financially are asked to shoulder an even higher financial burden. The current situation is not sustainable, particulary in today's economic and political climate. A perfect storm is brewing that's created the ideal conditions to disrupt the college textbook market and rewrite all the rules"[7]

Flat World Knowledge has managed to thread the needle between openness and discipline. By using traditional textbook creation models they have ensured quality books which are created in a timely manner, but they have retained the soul of openness by allowing their books to be used for free and remixed into other materials. The textbooks are delivered through a free online version to students who can also choose to pay for black & white, hardcopy, or audio versions at various cost levels. As of this writing, the model seems to be working, with Flat World Knowledge having sold over forty thousand course packs in the Fall 09 semester, and future growth looking strong.

Peter Woolf - A Chemical Engineering Open Textbook[edit]

Peer production within Wikipedia may be able to create information on a range of topics... however Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls is probably not one of them. The reasons for this have been clearly theorized by Benkler - essentially that few experts (or potential authors) exist in the world to write on this topic, and of the number who do exist, they do not have the time to contribute large modules of content for an open textbook. However, Professor Peter Woolf was facing a dilemma. The current textbook was very outdated, with no new publications upcoming. Following information scale-up models of chemical engineering, he sought to create an open textbook (and open source classroom) model that would take advantage of new technologies and different pedagogical models to harness student labor and learning for goals beyond those of the immediate course.[4] The Open Textbook for Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls was born.

File:Woolf-2006-flowchart.png
2006 Student Collaboration Flowchart for the Chemical Engineering Open Textbook [Source]

Students as Contributors[edit]

Among the potential benefits for students, Woolf included the following:

  • You never really know a subject until you teach it
  • Requires students to interactively challenge the material
  • Reduced textbook costs (free)
  • Meaningful work: Homework could help thousands of people globablly[4]

The use of students also solves one of the major challenges faced by open textbook projects. Rather than searching for volunteers who are expert in the field and willing to freely contribute, this project used student authors (who although not expert) are hoping to maintain a level of expertise by the end of the course. By the end of the first year of the project, 90 student authors had written over 900 pages of text.

Student Roles[edit]

In the second year of the project, Woolf turned the classes attention to improving the text and class dynamics. He created 5 roles for the students:

  • Authors: write new wiki articles
  • Stewards: update wiki articles
  • Anchors: write and narrate PowerPoint presentations
  • Sages: in class tutors or guides
  • Seekers: in class question askers[4]

Students took turns playing each role and revising or presenting on various portions of the text.

Incorporating Student Feedback[edit]

Feedback from 2007 showed that students were not comfortable learning in a peer led environment. The overwhelming message was “we want more material from the professor”[4]. Woolf added video lectures using screenflow which allowed him to switch back and forth between software / graphing programs and him speaking. The benefits to the students included watching the lectures at their preferred time, being able to stop and start lectures, and being able to specify questions related to exact minutes and seconds (ie. "the equation at the 15:40 mark was a bit confusing")[4]

Chemical Engineering Open Textbook Use[edit]

File:Woolf site usage.png
Woolf Site Usage

In 2006 there were essentially 100 unique visitors to the site per day (ie. the students in the class) but by 2008 the site was averaging almost 700 visits per day. Woolf has received email feedback from students in India, someone attempting to translate the book into Portuguese, and from those working in Chemical Industry intending to use his lectures in real-world applications, "Enjoying your series of videos. I intend to use it to model a PHOSAM which is used for extraction of MH3 from sour water service for a local oil refinery"[4]


dScribe & the Michigan Open Educational Course Repository[edit]

File:DScribepublishingprocess2.jpg
University of Michigan's Dscribe student OER publication flowchart. Details

The University of Michigan has not yet expanded Peter Woolf's Open Textbook model for other courses, however they do have a similar project/model in use for their Open Educational Course Repository. MIT's original Open Courseware project posted many curricular materials on the web, including syllabi, readings, powerpoints, video lectures and more. MIT committed staff time (and money) to the project. Economically, that model would be hard to replicate at a larger educational institution like the University of Michigan. This situation is very similar to the challenges facing Open Textbook producers - and the solution was similar as well. Students are now encouraged to participate in the dScribe process. Rather than using those outside of the classroom, dScribes are active participants who often receive course credit for their work (again similar to those students who participate in Peter Woolf's Open Textbook). The course that this open textbook is based on also has an OER page: SI 521 - Special Topics: Teaching, Learning and Research in an Open University.


OER Open Textbook at the University of Michigan[edit]

This text is one chapter of an Open Educational Resources Open Textbook created by graduate students in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Although certainly inspired by Peter Woolf's Open Chemical Engineering textbook, it was significantly different due to both the size of the class (12 students) and it being graduate level coursework. Students chose or suggested 1-2 chapter topics and then spent the majority of the semester working on those chapters. Each chapter was assigned an official reviewer, although students also contributed/commented on work at will. Each chapter was discussed in class as well and most chapters went through significant revision. Some discussion history can be found in the "discussion" tab in each chapter for logged in users.

The second year of work on the textbook continues apace, with a new generation of students taking chapters created by previous students and making changes, adding content, and generally helping the text evolve. While there are challenges with such an approach, the process has worked to create a better text and to educate the students as they work on their selected chapters.

Conclusion[edit]

This chapter is an example of using student coursework and a socially constructed pedagogical model to create Open Textbooks. Using student work solves one of the major theoretical problems identified by Benkler related to finding volunteers in a specific area of subject matter with the time to create larger blocks of text. Using a peer review model within those courses solves the second major theoretical hurdle, that of the time taken to integrate modules into a coherent text. It also socially constructs a community of authors who come to a better understanding of the 'voice' and genre of the text. Lastly, the evaluation component of coursework by faculty acts as a final evaluation on the open textbook. Although many models of "Open Textbooks" currently exist, the use of students for peer production of open texts seems like a large step towards achieving the long-awaited promise of these technologies.

References[edit]

  1. a b Weber, Steven. (2004). The Success of Open Source. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Benkler, Yochai. "Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials" Center for Open and Sustainable Learning, 2005. http://www.benkler.org/Common_Wisdom.pdf
  3. a b Search Engine History http://www.searchenginehistory.com/#google
  4. a b c d e f g Woolf, Peter. Guest Lecture on January 12, 2009 in SI 521: Open Educational Resources. Slides posted here: http://mediaonion.com/si521/images/3/35/PeterWoolfSlides.pdf
  5. Connexions Philosophy http://cnx.org/aboutus/index_html
  6. Rice U. Acquires Rights to Popular Textbook to Offer It Free Online. Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3239/rice-u-buys-rights-to-popular-textbook-to-make-it-free-online
  7. Hirsch, Brian. Silicon Alley Venture Partners Managing Director. Blog Post: http://newyorkvc.typepad.com/new_york_vc/2009/03/flat-world-knowledge.html

Further Resources[edit]

http://www.fhsst.org/ Free High School Science Texts (FHSST), founded in 2002 by a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ Project Gutenberg was the first producer of free electronic books.

http://www.merlot.org MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) Supported through Institutional Partnerships.

http://www.opentextbook.org/repository/ The Open Text Book repository.

The Collaborative Books Project created in partnership with Internet Medical Publishing

http://www.ck12.org CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide.

http://globaltext.terry.uga.edu/ The project will create open content electronic textbooks that will be freely available from a website. Distribution will also be possible via paper, CD, or DVD.

http://www.opensourcetext.org/ The California Open Source Textbook Project (COSTP) is a collaborative, public/private undertaking. It has been created to address the high cost, content range, and consistent shortages of K-12 textbooks in California.

http://www.maketextbooksaffordable.org The Affordable Textbooks Campaign is a coalition of Students and Student Government Associations in fourteen states who are working to make college more affordable.

http://www.okfn.org/ The Open Knowledge Foundation - a nonprofit housed in the United Kingdom.

http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Open Educational Resources Community

Using OER to teach Physics at the National University of Rwanda document automatically translated into English from the Original in French

http://openeverything.wik.is/ Open Everything - Open is changing the game. And, while Wikipedia and open source software offer great examples of what's up, we know that openness, collaboration and participation are spreading well beyond the realm of technology. It's about value, and values. Where open is headed is huge. Open Everything gathers people who are charting this trajectory.