Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hubris 2.0: OERs, Publishers, and Federal Money

This version doesn't have text. The version wi...Image via WikipediaIn "Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Education Resources" a nice little article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed this week, Blackboard lets us know that the sky is falling because of government funding of open education resources (OER) and open textbooks. You know you are doing something right when Blackboard crawls out of its shell to look around, blink, and then accuse the U.S. govt. of stiffling innovation in education by funding OER. The federal government is investing 2 billion dollars over 4 years in OER and companies like MacGraw-Hill are worried about what we will find out - that the costs of textbooks are over-inflated and a major contributor to the runaway cost of education which is rising faster than inflation and the cost of healthcare. Kevin Wiggen, the chief technology officer at Blackboard Xythos is quoted as saying "I fear when big bucks from government is put into certain places, it actually stops pushing people to innovate." For those of you who have been watching Blackboard buy and sue its way to mediocrity, this may comes as the biggest laugh from them in a while. Nothing encourages innovation more than being sued out of existence or being broken up into unsupported bits (WebCT). I know from direct experience at College of the Redwoods that home-grown textbooks, customized for the local student population by local professors are enormously successful.

If Blackboard or McGraw-Hill wants to see the future and innovative business models, they should look to Flatworld Knowledge. These new business models are the future of education. For myself, textbooks, teaching and learning materials are better when they come from the learning community. If you have to have a commercial textbook, FWK is the next best thing.

I personally like it when the government takes my hard earned tax-payer dollars and uses them to broaden access to education, lower the costs of education, and get people to work together. It is so much cheaper than invading other countries and funding the things I don't like about the world to the tune of trillions of dollars.

If you are interested in open textbooks or want to know more about what dangerous things we are doing with some of that federal money at the College of the Redwoods, leave a comment here or email me at
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