When Stanford University’s School of Engineering announced its free Artificial Intelligence class last month, the news took the geek world by storm and even worthy of note in the New York Times. The initial news articles made it sound like another example of open educational resources — a movement popularized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put course materials and recordings of lectures online for anyone to use. But with registration for the class open and more details posted on the class homepage, I’m not so sure.
No, I am not composing this edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads on the Thanksgiving holiday. This was written the day before and scheduled for posting on Thursday. With a significant run of weekly Thursday Threads postings, it seemed a shame to break the trend because of a holiday. So if it is Thanksgiving Thursday (in the U.S.) and you are looking for something to read, how about an article questioning the need for index and abstract databases in light of Google Scholar? Or tips for post-holiday effective meetings? Or how librarians are viewed as obstacles to effective open educational resources? Or simply be thankful that you are not in the cable TV operator business.
I had the pleasure of presenting on a panel at the Ohio Student Success Assessment Summit this morning on the topic of textbooks and open educational resources. Specifically, I was talking about the plans and desires of the University System of Ohio to help faculty help students with the escalating of costs of learning materials. My talk (below and on SlideShare) gives a background of the problem in the context of the State of Ohio, principles upon which a working plan for statewide support is forming, and strategic themes
There has been an increasing focus on the cost of textbooks in the mainstream media this year, and I don’t think it is the case that I’m just becoming more sensitized to it. Take for example the editorial from the Washington Post on February 7th. The second paragraph succinctly describes the issues being debated most often:
There are several reasons that textbooks are so costly. For one, even though there have been no major advances in fields such as calculus and elementary physics in decades or even centuries, publishers still churn out new editions of textbooks on these subjects every three or four years. The changes are typically superficial, but they prevent students from being able to purchase used, older editions. Publishers also frequently bundle unwanted additional materials such as CD-ROMs and study guides with textbooks. Professors rarely assign these extra materials, which drive up costs, and students often cannot sell the books back to bookstores once the shrink-wrap has been removed. Publishers can get away with these shenanigans because there’s a fundamental disconnect in the textbook marketplace: The people paying for the books (the students) are not the ones choosing them (the teachers).