Sunday, November 24, 2013
OER and Devices
Has anyone out there figured out the device question?
If it is competent (which I suspect it is from your nicely designed web site), your IT department ought to be able to tell you exactly what your students use (software and O/S) to check their e-mail.
Second, a resource isn't open if it requires a specific device, whether it be the currently dominant player (Microsoft), or the secondary ones (Apple and Google and Amazon) who are being challenged by the former in the portable market.
The biggest problem I know about is that the "flashy" resources did not work with Apple portables at first, but an app gets around that.
They have a nice little mini-course on developing resources which I suggest you watch. One take-away I got from it was that ePub seems to be the way to go if you want to maximize access: ePub readers are available for all platforms, and while you loose the nice extras of Apple's iBooks format you gain in portability. (And, if you use a decent XML-based system for managing content, you can easily generate ePub books as well as web pages, so you can have both mobile and large-screen content without increasing your overhead.)
One other caveat: don't assume that your students have recent-vintage devices, or high-bandwidth connections. Open University makes instruction great videos, but they have several versions available scaled for non-Retina iPods up to HDTVs, so you can download only the video that fits your device (or your data cap).
I'll have a good look-see at what Open University is doing (to the extent that there's a gold standard for distance education, they're it) but the UK isn't beholden to the, shall we say, wild and wonderful ways of the United States Department of Education.
I shill actively for what OpenStax College is doing, and the hope is they'll have something online for the general chemistry course soon so I can use that as a foundational thing in my course sequences. I already use the OpenStax text in my pre-med physics course.
If you want more of just a "tablet" tablet, I've been happy with my Saumsung Galaxy Tab. With the Nook and Kindle apps. :-)
Also, we instituted a netbook rental program that has been quite successful. Students pay $50-$100 to rent an inexpensive netbook for the term. The program is pretty much revenue-neutral for us. Problems do arise however, when a student has their netbook stolen or loses it, because then they are on the hook for the purchase price ($250-$300). Still, we are pretty happy with this plan.
Adoption on the part of faculty is uneven. Some are quite happy with the 15th edition of the same text that they have been using for 25 years. Others have not found a book good enough to replace what they were using. Having perused the science offerings, this is indeed true, as open-source offerings in the science disciplines are also quite uneven. Others have found very good alternatives, particularly in Math.
To Anonymous 7:10 AM:
What were the good OER math books you found?
- Select books which do have a print version available. Flat World Knowledge is a favorite of mine here: while they're not OER, they're affordable and they offer print AND ebook versions of all texts. Many open access book come with print versions, or you might be able to make coursepacks out of PDFs.
- Open licenses give you freedom to export to any format. If you choose a CC-licensed text (any of the licenses that exclude NoDerivs will work) you can convert it to PDF, ePub, etc. and possibly set up print-on-demand if necessary.
- In terms of devices, it's trivial to save enough for a Kindle Fire in a single semester of free etextbooks. That device would make sense as a baseline, though almost any tablet would work.
What's truly crazy here—we can require students to purchase textbooks that cost $200, but we can't require an electronic device that's less than that? When you put it in perspective it's strange.
Our biggest struggle is with the campus bookstore: it's run by a corporation which doesn't want to sell competitors devices. That severely hampers what we can do, e.g. faculty can't require Apple iTunes U materials or .mobi ebooks.
I guess multimedia may be a problem, but if it's just the occasional video file it's much easier for students to go to the library for that rather than having to continually refer to the text.
Also worth a mention: Dover Books. Some of their textbooks are a bit out of date (many things in Chemistry have changed since Linus Pauling's time) but there are a number of their books that are still relevant, and the cost per book is around $10-20.
Your challenge is how to get financial aid to pay for a device?
1) Most students at my CC appear to use the "living expense" part of their financial aid for such things. The exception would be the ones with kids where that part feeds their kids.
2) I have seen a number of universities that mandate some sort of computer but do so with a set of minimum specifications rather than requiring a specific combination of hardware and software. I'd suggest looking into some of those examples and see if that gets translated into a maximum $$$ amount that gets put in their "cost of attendance" data so it counts for financial aid.