Online books let college students earn credit—and cash

“I’m having fun and learning a lot about how professors set up their curriculum and the process of choosing a textbook,” said Dwyer, 22, adding that faculty members she has met with are aware that traditional textbook costs have become a major educational expense. “Teachers seem sympathetic to what students are going through.”

Open content and its impact on higher education was highlighted in the recent “2010 Horizon Report,” an annual study conducted by the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative that details coming trends in higher education.

“Open content has now come to the point that it is rapidly driving change in both the materials we use and the process of education,” the 2010 Horizon Report says. “At its core, the notion of open content is to take advantage of the internet as a global dissemination platform for collective knowledge and wisdom, and to design learning experiences that maximize the use of it.”

The report references Flat World Knowledge—which launched in 2002—as a company that is using the Creative Commons license to distribute peer-reviewed textbooks written by authors who want to make their works freely available on the internet.

“An outgrowth of that perspective is the emergence of open-content textbooks that can be ‘remixed’—that is, customized, modified, or combined with other materials—and a number of publishers are finding ways to support authors of such materials,” the report says.

Flat World Knowledge has worked in recent months to make online publications more accessible for students who are blind, have low vision, or can’t turn a page. Flat World teamed up with Bookshare, the largest web-based library for people with print disabilities, to produce about 50 more books—covering algebra, genetics, sociology, and a range of other subjects—that will be released over the next two years.


Flat World Knowledge