Got Moodle(r)*? We do, and it is working nicely, thank you. We adopted it for our online learning management platform.
Today I’m happy to announce that Textbook Equity, the company that grew out of Santa Clara University’s CAPE 2010 program, is expanding it offerings to include exams created from our free and open licensed textbooks, as well as online courses based on the same textbooks. These additional revenues will enable our mission to continue to provide free, open licensed, and inexpensive college-level textbooks.
We have four exams currently open for enrollment. Fees are waived for educators, CAPE cohorts,:and the curious student. Just write for instructions from your .edu email.
Pre-Med Anatomy and Physiology, based on our “Accounting and Physiology” textbook. This has exams chapter by chapter, drawing from our question bank of over 500 questions.
Anatomy and Physiology: Vol 1 of 3 (Chapters 1 -11)
[In development]: Anatomy and Physiology: Vol 2 of 3 (Chapters 12 – 21)
Although this attention devoted to the economics of higher education is understandable, it has crowded out a discussion of equally fundamental, and perhaps even more fundamental, issues.
At or near the top of this list, I would argue, are: whom should we teach? What should we teach? How should we teach?
The observations (and assertions) that follow are meant to stimulate a conversation about these questions among professors, administrators and students inside the academy – and citizens who are (or should be) interested in the role of colleges and universities as engines of equal opportunity, empowerment and social progress.
Who gets access?
Let’s consider the first question: whom should we teach?
Colleges and universities, especially elite institutions, can and should do a lot more to enroll academically talented students from lower- and middle-class families. A study completed in 2003 by the Consortium on Financing Higher Educationfound that 36% of all highly-qualified high school seniors (with excellent grade point averages and combined SAT scores over 1200) come from the top 20% of families as measured by income. Fifty-seven percent of undergraduates at selective colleges and universities, however, come from this group.
Wealthy American families, then, are overrepresented on these campuses by 21%.
Financial aid, provided on the basis of need, is of course essential to addressing this imbalance. But so is outreach to underrepresented students and their families, many of whom do not know much about financial aid, in the form of loans and grants, for which they might be eligible.
As is evident in the above details, greater access to higher education will benefit not only the individuals who matriculate but American society as a whole.
Although the content of individual courses has undergone constant change, the underlying structure of the curriculum at many liberal arts colleges and universities has remained the same for decades.
It almost always consists of three parts: a major, which is fulfilled with 10 or 12 courses within a single discipline or under a multidisciplinary umbrella; general education, which often takes the form of distribution requirements, two or three courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences; and electives, which are meant to give students opportunities to pursue intellectual interests or acquire “practical” skills.
As currently constituted, in my view, the curriculum serves the interests of departments and individual faculty members better than it does students.
The major may be best suited to the very few undergraduates who intend to get a PhD in the field. Many majors, especially those in the humanities and “soft” social sciences, have little or no structure, apart from a required introductory course or courses.
Nor is there clear and convincing evidence that focused study in a single discipline (whether it is in a traditional of a vocational field) has a substantial and enduring impact on subject matter mastery, problem-solving, analytical thinking, or reading and writing skills.
General education requirements are even more problematic. Over the years, as Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University, has observed in his book, the aims attached to general education requirements have increased. They now include global competence, quantitative skills, ethics and respect for diversity as well as “literacy” in science, government and literature.
At the same time, dare I say it, many departments have developed “watered-down” general education courses for undergraduates who want to get distribution requirements “out of the way.”
Electives, of course, are left to the students – and virtually nothing is known about how they use their freedom of choice.
Are they exploring genuine interests and acquiring practical skills, Bok asks, or are they taking easy courses to raise their grade point average and pursue extracurricular activities in their spare time? Do they value the electives they have taken more than courses in the major or those taken to fulfill their distribution requirements?
And finally, how do we teach?
Digital technologies have already had a substantive impact on pedagogy. Online presentations, assigned as homework, followed by interactive “flipped classroom” sessions that build on information that has already been absorbed, and use rapid feedback and collaborative problem-solving, are replacing traditional lectures.
This transformation in teaching methods has only just begun.
The transformation also provides an occasion to evaluate the extent to which colleges and universities are effectively nurturing “critical thinking,” ie, the capacity to evaluate the quality and reliability of information and the claims based on it.
Measurements to assess critical thinking, including the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which assesses improvement in writing skills and critical thinking across four years of college, and National Survey of Student Engagement, which gauges how often students experience rapid feedback, interactive discussion and collaborative problem-solving, are in their infancy. Their findings about critical thinking are not encouraging and should be a basis for discussions about pedagogy.
Making education relevant
Those discussions, in my judgment, might include ways to counter the erosion of public confidence in science and scientists.
Better on offense than defense, they often exhibit confidence in their own criticism of a claim and an unwillingness to advance a claim of their own.
To counter these tendencies, Ebels-Duggan proposes that teachers cultivate the intellectual virtues of charity and humility.
More controversially, although she knows she will be accused (by proponents of the pedagogy of “content neutrality” and professorial “objectivity”) of politicizing the classroom, she recommends that instructors make explicit their admiration for values such as respect for human rights; equal protection under the law; and the obligation to help those in serious need.
By putting on display ideas such as these – ideas they respect – and explaining why they respect them, Ebels-Duggan emphasizes, teachers might be able to break through their students’ intuition (or belief) that much of what is taught in college is irrelevant to them and the world in which they live.
Her passion serves as a reminder that who we teach, what we teach, and how we teach matters.
This idea here seems to be that the educational institutions will create the textbooks, using federal grant money, and possibly the books stores will provide the digital and printer services. Might be some role for the libraries as well. – Editors
[WASHINGTON, DC] [November 14, 2013] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) today introduced legislation designed to help students manage costs by making high quality textbooks easily accessible to students, professors and the public for free. This bill, known as the Affordable College Textbook Act, would create a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education, working with professors and other organizations,[emphasis added] to create and expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online and licensed under terms that grant the public the right to freely access, customize and distribute the material, also known as “open textbooks”.
OERs include everything from peer-created and edited texts and ebooks to sound recordings and videos that are licensed for open use and re-use. Where publishers normally impose hefty fees (mainly paid for by students) for the use of their products and services, and impose restrictions on how content can be used, the ethos of the open educational resource movement is share and share alike.
OERs are created in open formats rather than those that are owned by large companies and distributed under open licence regimes such as Creative Commons.
Rather than locking users into a particular format or a particular publishing ecosystem, such as iTunesU, the OER movement encourages experimentation and reuse via the open web. More particularly, the OER movement seeks nothing less than a revolution in breaking down the barriers to sharing knowledge, especially those barriers that separate the developed and developing worlds.
It sounds good, but is OER pie-in-the-sky thinking? Why would anyone spend their valuable time developing content only to give it away? Surely only the most utopian optimist high on the fumes of the internet could imagine that OERs will have a life.
There are many reasons why the future is bright for open educational resources. The model of commercial publication of academic research, where publicly funded research is locked up and sold by commercial publishers, is increasingly coming under challenge. And it’s not just a motley collection of annoyed academics, either.
Research bodies in countries including Australia the US and the UK are insisting on open access to research as a condition of their funding. If widely adopted, developing open research resources won’t just be good practice. Increasingly it will be a requirement of funding.
For example, in October last year, the Australian Research Council announced that it was looking at mandating open access for scientific research that it funds.
Similarly, this year US Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren issued a memo to ensure that Federal agencies with more than US$100 million in research and development expenditures to make the results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication.
The move towards open access isn’t restricted to the education sector. The Australian Attorney-General has endorsed a recommendation that Australian government agencies license their Public Sector Information under a Creative Commons attribution licence.
While the flurry of activity around open access might seem new, OER isn’t new at all. It’s simply a new term for a set of practices and ideas that are as old as Socrates. What we now call “higher education” has for most of human history been based on a gift economy where intellectuals and those with intellectual training essentially gave away the fruits of their labour — or did so without expectation of gain.
That started to change in the latter half of the twentieth century when education and educational services and products came to be regarded as products, much like any other. Ever since, the costs of education have skyrocketed, putting quality education out of reach for all but the most privileged.
The OER movement seeks to use the internet to reverse this trend. It’s about returning us to an intellectual culture that more closely resembles gift exchange.
Australian institutions have jumped on the open education bandwagon but not in a way that embraces these aspirations – we’re still looking at it as an education-as-service model. In doing so, we could be at risk of closing ourselves off from the real purpose of the open education movement.
Ruth Jelley is affiliated with the Open Education Working Group at La Trobe University and is employed by the Faculty of Business Economics and Law to investigate OER implementation.
Christopher Scanlon does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
“A pioneer of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), George Siemens of Athabasca University, Canada, is one of the impressive list of keynote speakers confirmed for ICDE’s World Conference to be hosted by Tianjin Open University, China, 16-18 October 2013. Siemens contends that the most prominent MOOCs are failing the ideals of the Open Education movement.”
“I have long regarded scholarship as the noblest aspect of academia– the scholar’s tenacity in identifying, acknowledging, addressing and building on the intellectual contributions of others. I have not experienced the same profound sense of community among my colleagues in the education realm, however – I have largely been a lone wolf. Now there has been a profound shift in my mindset – I use and build on the educational production of others; I do it openly on public sites, of which I am proud rather than embarrassed; I contribute back, and my students see and learn from this practice of scholarly appreciation, and are even encouraged to contribute to it through their own content creation and sharing. This opportunity for “scholarship” in educational practice is what, as an educator and scholar, I find most exciting about this nascent and exploding online education movement. ” – Professor Doug Fisher, Vanderbilt University.
Book publisher Penguin announced on Wednesday it has reached a $75 million “comprehensive agreement” with U.S. State Attorneys General and private class plaintiffs over e-book price fixing allegations connected to Apple and its iBookstore for iOS.
Apple goes to court on June 3 for allegedly colluding in this price-fixing scheme., prefering to have their day in court instead of settling with the attorney general. Why can’t everyone be a good corporate citizen?
Newly founded international open research and open education organization. First meeting held in Rome, May 15th, 2013.
“ICORE aims to support the design and implementation of innovative strategies, instruments and services for facilitating Open Research and Open Education such as Open Access, Open Educational Practices and Resources.”