Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Academics at the University of Minnesota

The Richardsonian Romanesque Pillsbury Hall (1...
The Richardsonian Romanesque Pillsbury Hall (1889) is one of the oldest buildings on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was really excited this morning to see Stacy Olson's tweet () about the University of Minnesota's Open Textbook Catalog. This is more than a collection of links: their Open Academics site is easy to navigate and encourages faculty to post their reviews of textbooks. This is a great model for institutional support of open textbooks. In the words of the site: "If you are a faculty member from any institution, you can support this project and help your peers evaluate the textbooks in this catalog by writing a review of an open textbook in your field. Only experts like you can determine quality." This has been a perception issue with open education resources in the past - uneven quality. I want to encourage everyone to visit this site and contribute a review. These efforts should be supported because faculty should be vetting textbooks, not corporate education publishers. In a posting I made here earlier (OER: The Myth of Commercial Textbook Reliabilty), I wrote that "Instructors and academic departments should partner to author, revise, adapt, and vet course materials. We should be partnering with other institutions to support these efforts - a textbook should include a network of subject matter experts, expert practitioners in the field, and advanced students." Efforts like these encourage the formation of communities of scholarship around open textbooks. Commercial publishers do not work this way - it all has to be proprietary and in-house to justify the high costs of their "product." Communities of teaching and learning can do better. The University of Minnesota has taken a big step in that direction.
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