University looks to remove barriers to open textbooks

Seven in 10 college students say they don't buy required textbooks because they cost too much.

Low-cost, open-content textbooks are universally popular on college campuses, but two burning questions have stunted the open textbook movement: Where can faculty and students find these resources, and how can they be sure the books are of the highest quality?

The University of Minnesota (UMN) set out to answer both questions with its April 23 introduction of the campus’s Open Academics textbook catalog, an online repository of textbooks with an open license that lets students read the books for free online, or order a printed version for a fraction of the usual textbook cost.

UMN’s open textbook library, with 90 books in stock, will first provide textbooks for the school’s largest introductory classes, with plans to expand to smaller courses in coming years.…Read More

Make room, Socrates, for Lady Gaga and Beyonce

Professorsd have focused on the underlying messages in Lady Gaga's videos.

In a music classroom on the quiet Catholic college campus, a group of students scribbled notes in the dark, their eyes intent on a 10-minute video.

“Take 30 seconds to collect your thoughts,” Professor Amy Hamlin told the class as the video concluded. They then launched into a discussion of postmodernism, film, and religious symbolism.

On the screen? Lady Gaga’s music video for “Telephone,” featuring Beyonce.…Read More

Ning stays free for educators, with restrictions

Free Ning groups now will be limited to 150 members.
Free Ning groups now will be limited to 150 members.

The social networking web site Ning, which many educators have used to establish online groups with similar professional interests, will remain free for educators despite moving to a fee-based model this summer, the site announced May 4. But some education technology experts believe Ning could see dwindling interest among teachers and college professors because of new limitations on group sizes and video and chat capabilities.

Ning, which has more than 46 million members and 300,000 social networks created by its contributors, unveiled its revamped pricing model last week, which includes a $2.95 monthly charge for Ning Mini, $19.95 for Ning Plus, and $49.95 a month for Ning Pro. The Ning Mini model will be available at no cost to educators. Student must be 13 or older to sign up for a Ning account, according to the company’s web site.

Ning’s new service will begin in July. The shift will mean 80 percent of Ning’s revenue will come from customers paying for one of the three options, the company announced. Jason Rosenthal, the company’s chief operating officer, wrote on Ning’s blog that basic services will remain free for education groups because a “major education company will be sponsoring Ning Mini Networks for educators in primary and secondary education.”…Read More

University of Minnesota sends books to Google for digitization

The University of Minnesota libraries are sending their first shipment of books to be digitized to Google this month as part of the Google books project, reports the Associated Press. Among the books going to Google are volumes from the university’s noted collections related to forestry, beekeeping, Scandinavian literature, and Minnesota’s early history. The scanning project is part of a 2007 agreement between Google and the academic arm of the Big Ten Conference to digitize more than 10 million unique volumes from Big Ten libraries. Under the deal, when the scanned works are determined to be in the public domain, Google will provide the libraries with digital copies. When complete, the project will have digitized more than 1 million volumes from the University of Minnesota’s general collection.

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IBM makes cloud computing available to academia

Cloud computing could relieve increasing strain on college IT infrastructure.
Cloud computing could relieve increasing strain on college IT infrastructure.

IBM has joined technology leaders Google, Microsoft, and Amazon in providing colleges and universities with free cloud computing aimed at easing campuses’ IT strain and enhancing distance learning.

IBM announced Feb. 10 that the company will make its cloud computing servers available to college professors at 20 colleges nationwide—a growing trend among technology giants forming partnerships with higher education.

IBM’s Academic Skills Cloud will be used by faculty members to make course curriculum available on students’ laptops any time, “free up” campus technology resources, and advance online course capabilities, according to the IBM announcement.…Read More

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