Athabasca University press releases open textbooks

Rory McGreal, UNESCO/COL Chair in OER at Athabasca University, recently shared that the university press at Athabasca has published the first in a series of open textbooks, available for free download under a Creative Commons license.  From his post on the OER Forum:

AU Press has just published  two course texts in the  OPEL series (Open Paths to Enriched Learning).  These books are teaching focused, and for undergraduate courses. There will be more coming (hopefully a couple a year).  Here are the links to each of the books.

You can also order print copies for a modest fee.  Great to see more open textbooks rolling out!

India launches new National Repository of Open Educational Resources

In a speech today, Human Resource Development Minister Dr. Shashi Tharoor, announced the launch of a new Indian National Repository for Open Educational Resources.  From the speech:

I am delighted to be here at the National Conference on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in School Education and at the launch of the National Repository of Open Education Resources (NROER). As Prof. Sinclair knows, I have been a staunch supporter of open education resources as a significant part of the response to the challenges that are faced by the education sector in our country and the launch of the NROER is a significant step in this direction. Reaching the unreached, including the excluded, has long been the priority for us in extending education to all. I am informed that the NROER aims to offer “resources for all school subjects and grades in multiple languages. The resources are available in the form of concept maps, videos, audio clips, talking books, multimedia, learning objects, photographs, diagrams, charts, articles, wikipages and textbooks.” The Ministry of HRD has been actively engaging with various organisations to propagate Education for All. This repository will most certainly help to open the doors of educational opportunity to those very little or no access to education.

This initiative is also a significant step towards inclusive education. Opening access to all requires a debate on the issue of ownership, copyright, licensing and a balancing of reach with legitimate commercial interests. This is particularly important for public institutions and public funded projects. I am glad that the NCERT has taken the initiative of declaring that the NROER will carry the CC-BY-SA license. I have been lobbied by Wikimedia and other advocates of open educational resources for this standard to be adopted, rather than the CC-BY-SA-NC which contains a more restrictive clause. This decision by NCERT is in tune with UNESCO’s Paris Declaration on Open Education Resources and will ensure that all the resources are freely accessible to all. To put it in the language of the Creative Commons—to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute. But to ensure the smooth functioning of this repository, one needs to take support of the various ICT tools. Read more.

(via OER-forum)

The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish (The Atlantic)

Great piece by Rebecca J. Rosen in The Atlantic on the effect copyright law has on the availability of books.  Suppression of the availability of knowledge would seem counter to the purpose of copyright as stated in the Constitution “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

Last year I wrote about some very interesting research being done by Paul J. Heald at the University of Illinois, based on software that crawled Amazon for a random selection of books. At the time, his results were only preliminary, but they were nevertheless startling: There were as many books available from the 1910s as there were from the 2000s. The number of books from the 1850s was double the number available from the 1950s. Why? Copyright protections (which cover titles published in 1923 and after) had squashed the market for books from the middle of the 20th century, keeping those titles off shelves and out of the hands of the reading public.titlesavailable650

…the depression of the 20th century is…notable, followed by a little boom for the most recent decades when works fall into the public domain. Presumably, as Heald writes, in a market with no copyright distortion, these graphs would show “a fairly smoothly doward sloping curve from the decade 2000-20010 to the decade of 1800-1810 based on the assumption that works generally become less popular as they age (and therefore are less desirable to market).” But that’s not at all what we see. “Instead,” he continues, “the curve declines sharply and quickly, and then rebounds significantly for books currently in the public domain initially published before 1923.” Heald’s conclusion? Copyright “makes books disappear”; its expiration brings them back to life. Read more.

(Via OLDaily)

Open Educational Resources: iNACOL Outlines Policy Recommendations (t|h|e Journal)

Open Educational Resources: iNACOL Outlines Policy Recommendations
By Leila Meyer


“Today’s textbooks are obsolete and the acquisition process is broken,” according to a new report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), but as schools work toward implementing Common Core State Standards, open educational resources (OER) can help them provide students with customized content much faster and more cost effectively than the traditional textbook acquisition model.

Open educational resources are learning materials that are available for educators to access and share for the purpose of personalizing instruction. The report, “OER State Policy in K-12 Education: Benefits, Strategies, and Recommendations for Open Access, Open Sharing” outlines seven recommendations for policymakers about how they can help teachers build educational resources, share materials, and personalize instruction by allowing publicly funded learning materials to be shared openly as OER.

Sharing publicly funded learning materials helps reduce duplication of effort across states and maximize resources, according to the report. It points to Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Maine as “bellwether states” that have successfully implemented OER policies and draws on the experience of those states to provide recommendations for OER policy implementation elsewhere. Read more.

The Role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in Making Education Available to All (A Principal’s Reflections)

Juliana Meehan, English teacher at Tenafly Middle School in New Jersey, recently joined us at the LINC 2013 Conference to participate in a panel discussion titled ” The Role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in Making Education Available to All.” She was joined on the panel by Nicole Allen of Student PIRG and Philipp Schmidt of Peer 2 Peer University, and the discussion was moderated by MIT OpenCourseWare Director of Communications Steve Carson.

She has posted a wonderful summary of the event on the blog of Principal Eric Sheninger, her co-conspirator in creating an independent learning program for Eric’s students based on MIT OpenCourseWare materials. From her post:

I recently had the honor of traveling to the MIT campus in Boston and participating in a panel discussion on Open Education Resources (OER) at The Sixth Conference of MIT’s Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC) with three illustrious advocates of these open resources: Nicole Allen, Philipp Schmidt, and panel moderator Steve Carson. The panel discussion, “The Role of Open Educational Resources in Making Education Available to All,” brought together the three of us who have been engaged in very different aspects of open and online education in order to share our respective OER projects and engage in an open discussion on the expanding world of OER with an audience of about fifty individuals from around the world.

“Open educational resources” (OER) here refers to the many free learning resources now populating the Worldwide Web. OER ranges from highly structured college courses (MOOCs) to less structured curricula from colleges and other institutes of learning (OpenCourseWare a/k/a OCW), to free online textbooks, and everything in between. The list is growing as are the populations who can benefit from these resources.

My LINC Conference Panel: Perspectives from IOCS, PIRC, and P2PU

Our panel was wonderfully (and serendipitously) poised to cover a wide array of circumstances. I work in K-12 education, Nicole with college students, and Philipp primarily with adult learners. My project is local; Nicole’s is national; Philipp’s is international. The discussion, which ran from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m., was largely driven by audience questions and comments.


My role was to present and discuss the Independent Open Courseware Study (IOCS) program that Eric Sheninger and I developed and piloted this year at New Milford High School in NJ. IOCS is a framework enables high school students to access OCW from prestigious institutions of learning like MIT, Yale, Harvard, and others and earn high school credit for their work. IOCS is aligned to select Common Core Curriculum standards for language arts literacy, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) NET.S Standards, and New Jersey World Class Standards in Technology. Going forward, IOCS plans to partner with MIT to offer New Milford students MIT’s OCW Scholar courses, which MIT defines as “substantially more complete than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content as well as materials repurposed from MIT classrooms…arranged in logical sequences and include[ing] multimedia such as video and simulations.”

My take-away message to the audience: Visit the IOCS website. Use our model to bring OCW to your students; collaborate with us to refine it; adapt the materials to meet the needs of your students.


Panelist Nicole Allen discussed her work as Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)’s Textbook Advocate. Since 2007 she has been engaged in making free textbooks available to college students all across the country through PIRG’s “Make Textbooks Affordable” project. PIRG is a non-governmental organization that defines itself as “a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.” Nicole works with students, faculty, and decision-makers to address the relentlessly increasing costs of college textbooks. She explained that, while the choice of text is undoubtedly the prerogative of college professors, she seeks to inform them of the availability of comparable texts that are completely free of charge. The economics are staggering. College textbooks can currently run upwards of $200 each, and the average student now spends $1200 per year in texts. Nicole’s work has resulted in hundreds of professors across the country choosing free texts over traditional costly textbooks and lowering the cost of higher education for thousands of students. Read an interview conducted by Creative Commons with Nicole in 2010 and watch a webinar that Nicole presented with Cable Green of Creative Commons on the website of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

Our audience was greatly interested in exploring these resources.

My take-away: We must spread the word that there are thousands of free textbooks online available to our students.


Panelist Philipp Schmidt is the Executive Director of Peer 2 Peer University (a/k/a P2PU) a non-profit organization that offers OER to adult learners—or just about anyone—and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU defines itself as “a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. Learning for the people, by the people. About almost anything.” It is operates under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. P2PU is a place where anyone can put up free content, and anyone can take advantage of the learning opportunities available on the site and receive review, feedback, and opportunities for revision. The P2PU consists of six schools:

School of Data, Open Knowledge Foundation
School of Ed, K12 Handhelds
School of the Mathematical Future, Planet Math
School of Open, Creative Commons
School of Social Innovation, Citizen Circles
School of Webcraft, Mozilla

My take-away: Become a member of P2PU and explore the educational offerings; spread the word to thought leaders about creating new online material to share with the world. Read more.

LiNC 13 pre-confernece workshop

One of the kickoff events for LiNC 2013 held yesterday was a workshop panel including Juliana Meehan, a middle school educator who, while interning with Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey, created a program whereby Eric’s high school seniors could use MIT OpenCourseWare to create independent learning experiences, demonstrate their learning to peers and faculty, and earn high school credit;  Nicole Allen, the Student Public Interest Research Group’s Textbook Advocate and director of the Make Textbooks Affordable project; and Philipp Schmidt, the Executive Director of Peer 2 Peer University, a non-profit organization that leverages open educational resources to organize learning outside of institutional walls and give learners recognition for their achievements.  The session was moderated by Steve Carson, MIT OpenCourseWare’s Director of Communications and External Relations.

Steve Carson, Nicole Allen, and Juliana Meehan (Photo: Philipp Schmidt)

Steve Carson, Nicole Allen, and Juliana Meehan (Photo: Philipp Schmidt)

The workshop was attended by around 50 LiNC attendees and featured a wide ranging two hour discussion that touched on accreditation, open licensing, the digital divide, sustainability and pedagogies for open and online learning.  Thanks from MIT OpenCourseWare to the panelists and a special thanks to the attendees for asking such insightful and interesting questions.

B.C. makes free online textbooks available (University Affairs)

Postsecondary students in British Columbia may get a bit of a break when it comes time to buy their textbooks this fall. In the first move of its kind in Canada, the B.C. government said it will make available up to 20 free and open online textbooks for some of the most popular first- and second-year university and college courses.

There’s no guarantee that faculty will choose to assign the new textbooks, but proponents of the project are hoping that rigorous quality control measures and a little nudging from students will win them over. The textbooks also will be available to institutions, faculty and students across Canada to use at no charge.

The B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology launched the initiative in 2012, promising to offer students open textbooks in 40 of the most popular subject areas. It has committed $1 million to fund the venture. BCcampus, the provincial agency overseeing the project, is rolling it out in phases. It recently released a list of the 40 most highly enrolled first- and second-year subject areas for which it is sourcing textbooks. It also identified 10 existing open textbooks, mainly first-year introductory texts. The agency issued a call for proposals to faculty members and teaching assistants to peer review the books and is making available an evaluation rubric to use for the reviews. Read more.

(Via OLDaily.)