Why do we still have basic textbooks in higher ed?

Textbooks, particularly basic textbooks, are not very efficient containers of information in the Digital Age and represent pernicious cost-drivers for our students. We need to reconsider their role in the modern instructional landscape. A recent study by the College Board indicated that the average cost for a year’s worth of textbooks is over $1200. That’s roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of in-district tuition at my community college.

There is widespread acceptance that this is a national problem and a lot of efforts, stretching all the way from open educational resources (OER) to Congress, have been initiated over the last decade in an attempt to address this issue. All of these efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, miss a basic point: We are still thinking in an industrial mode when it comes to role of the book in our world. These efforts all seek to make books cheaper without asking the question of what their role in education is in the first place.

The problem with textbooks

For centuries, books have formed the backbone of our educational experiences. The earliest universities coalesced around their bibliographic collections. You went to Oxford to “read” history because that was literally where the books were. Even with the advent of printing, books were still a scarce and precious resource. However, books are not the ideas contained in them. They are merely the repositories for the ideas in them and those two are often conflated. The Digital Age is awash with ideas not contained in books. The world of textbooks ignores this basic fact.…Read More

This backlash trend is gaining momentum

Students say they’re not ready for an all eTextbook offering

textbook-online-collegesIn a trend occurring in multiple colleges across the country, students are saying ‘no’ to eBooks, due poor ease-of-use, limited funds for eReaders, and lack of available resources.

The most recent example occurred at Alamo Colleges, where students say they have gathered more than 1,000 petition signatures in an attempt to stop the community college district from implementing a recently approved instructional material approach that has also drawn opposition from faculty members.

Northwest Vista College freshman Alexis Morrow, 17, who is leading the petition drive, said many students prefer traditional textbooks, don’t have the resources to buy eReaders and don’t want to see their options to rent or purchase textbooks limited. She presented the petition to Alamo Colleges trustees at their board meeting March 25th.…Read More

New open-source strategy would drop textbook costs to $0

These open-source textbooks have different features that electronic versions sold by traditional publishers

textbooks-open-sourceHolding a whiteboard, the University of Maryland-College Park students scrawled their complaints and posed for a picture.

“My name is Justin and I spent $114 on ONE textbook,” a student wrote. “My name is Jeff and I spent $736 on textbooks,” wrote another.

The images, posted online by the Student Government Association in recent months, are designed to highlight the rapid rise in the price of college textbooks over the past decade. This semester, the University System of Maryland is exploring ways to bring that cost to zero with “open-source” electronic textbooks — the latest experiment in changing the way students in Maryland and across the nation are taught.…Read More

The business of ed-tech: Textbook shopping made easy

Site allows students to save hundreds of dollars in an efficient way

textbooks-online-shoppingDavid Miller knows that when a college student pays $30 for a textbook they had seen available for $200, they’ll never go back.

That’s the story of cash-saving deal students find regularly once they’ve scoured the web for the cheapest versions of books required for their various classes. It’s Miller’s site, SlugBooks.com, that brings efficiency to the process.

SlugBooks, launched in 2008 at the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz–where Miller attended college–has helped even the textbook playing field in recent years. A quick SlugBooks search will show a student where they can get the best price, even if it’s at their campus bookstore.…Read More

1 million students to get free textbooks

OpenStax College will provide more than 1 million students a free textbook

openstax-college-textbookThis fall, over 1 million students will have access to the free textbook, Principles of Economics, provided by OpenStax College.

Founded in 2012, OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization developed by Rice University and supported by numerous foundations, which provides free textbooks and learning materials.

The organization has produced six textbooks that have been downloaded over 480,000 times, estimating students have saved about $8 million.…Read More

Students still prefer print textbooks over digital

Study suggests college students are slow to adopt eTextbooks

textbooks-digital-printCollege students still prefer print textbooks over digital textbooks, partially because they can’t resell eBooks at the end of a semester, a new study found.

The report, released by the National Association of College Stores, was based on a survey of 12,000 college students from 20 campuses around the country.

“A majority of college students still prefer print textbooks over digital, though many would opt for including a digital component with the textbook if given the choice,” the researchers said.…Read More

Open-source textbooks projected to save students $3.7M

Students are going without required textbooks because of rising prices.

The open-source online textbook publisher OpenStax College, which claims it could save students upwards of $750 million in textbook costs over the next five years, announced this week that their open-source books would cut textbook costs by $3.7 million during the 2013-14 academic year.

OpenStax College, a nonprofit based at Rice University, said adoption of its online textbooks had doubled since May, with more than 300 educational institutions worldwide using the open-source textbooks — an alternative that technologists have seen as an answer for skyrocketing textbook costs.

The nonprofit’s announcement said OpenStax College had exceeded its first-year textbook market share and usage among colleges and universities.…Read More

OU pushes online material as textbook alternative

Some college students go without required textbooks.

Students are saving money on textbooks because of a program that puts more college course material online, according to University of Oklahoma officials.

The first year of the Textbook Alternatives Initiatives has saved students about 25 percent of the typical $1,400 yearly cost of textbooks, according to OU President David Boren’s office, a cost that Vice Provost Kyle Harper said is often too high.

“The price of textbooks in many cases is absurd, and the value added by new editions and other ways that publishers find to make students buy books doesn’t add that value that would justify that cost that they ask,” Harper told the Tulsa World.…Read More

When textbooks were the next big, evil thing

The “MOOC revolution” in higher education— the advent of massive online open courses—is causing massive anxiety in American universities, where professors are worried about the consequences of computers replacing campuses as places where people learn, Boston.com reports. Two hundred years ago, higher education faced a different distance-learning technology, one as cutting-edge as MOOCs, that also augured a revolution in the way we think about knowledge. “A textbook is something anyone can read no matter who they are or where they’re from. It allows education to occur on a global, universal scale,” says Hansun Hsiung, a fourth-year graduate student at Harvard University who studies the rise and spread of textbooks in late-18th-century Europe and Japan. Today it might seem that there’s nothing more boring or conventional than textbooks, but 200 years ago they were a radical idea. Before textbooks, learning typically happened through direct exchanges between students and professors. But beginning in the 18th century, scholars began redacting blocks of information into standardized books that laid out content in logical, easily digestible fashion. The goal of the textbook, according to one 18th-century French pedagogue, was to “make all truths universally familiar, and spare [ourselves] any useless effort in learning.”

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