Open courseware on every campus by 2016?

MIT’s faculty has shown widespread support for making their course material available for free online, according to a university survey. Almost six in 10 faculty members said adding to MIT OpenCourseWare improves their department’s reputation, and 34 percent said it improves their personal reputation in their academic field.

Eric Frank, CEO of Flat World Knowledge, a popular open-license textbook publisher that provides open textbooks at more than 800 colleges and universities, told attendees of UC Irvine’s Open Textbook Forum that the proliferation of free web-based books has been the death knell for traditional publishing.

Frank said the old college textbook business model “built walls around information” and “treated content as a fundamentally scarce good, which it isn’t anymore.”

Ease of access to educational material forced publishers to abandon the “nuclear arms race of supplements”—such as DVDs, presentations and other add-ons to a course textbook—that was prevalent until the early-2000s, Frank said.

“Simple access to the material in the course remains one of the most … solvable barriers to access and completion,” he said.

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