November 5, 2012, 1:00 pm
Pearson, a major textbook publisher, continued its push into digital education on Monday by introducing a service that allows instructors to create e-textbooks using open-access content and Pearson material.
A beta version called Project Blue Sky will begin in the spring with the help of Gooru, a nonprofit search engine. When an instructor enters keywords for the subject he or she is teaching, the system sends back a list of Pearson content, free educational content, and material from other commercial providers.
The instructor can then pull together material from various sources into one e-book—two chapters from a published textbook, three videos from MIT’s OpenCourseWare, and a research study from Harvard University, for example. The instructor can also upload his or her own material, like a syllabus for the course. The system then calculates a price for the Pearson and…
November 3, 2012, 5:00 am
Sometimes free costs too much. As of January 1, 2013, Flat World Knowledge, which used to describe itself as the world’s largest publisher of free and open textbooks online, will no longer offer content at no charge.
Cost partly motivated the decision, according to Jeff Shelstad, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “We’ve got to be smart with the limited capital that we have” if the company is to survive 10 years from now, he said.
There’s also “an element of fairness” behind the move, Mr. Shelstad said. Some institutional partners have been paying as much as $20 to $25 per student for access to Flat World content, while other partners pay far less. The goal is to even things out while remaining affordable, according to Mr. Shelstad. “We have anchored ourselves around affordability, and we are still there with this move,” he said.
The company’s model allows…
October 3, 2012, 2:44 pm
Australia has two main agencies that hand out government research money: the National Health and Medical Research Council, or NHMRC, and the Australian Research Council, or ARC. Aidan Byrne, a nuclear physicist, became the ARC’s chief executive in July. Although he’s still “finding his feet” in the job, he says, Mr. Byrne has made it an early priority to broaden access to government-supported research in Australia. The Chronicle spoke with him by phone about how that effort is shaping up.
Q. In July you told the Australian newspaper that you have a “particular interest” in open access. Why is that?
A. I’ve been working in academic life for nearly 30 years, and I’m a firm believer in disseminating information in the most effective way. I think open access has shown that it can do that very, very effectively. … Earlier this year, the National Heath and Medical Research…
September 18, 2012, 4:29 pm
A well-known computer programmer and activist who allegedly downloaded millions of files from JSTOR, a nonprofit journal archive, now faces nine additional felony charges from federal prosecutors in an indictment issued last week.
The new charges are the latest in the unusual saga of the programmer, Aaron Swartz, who was first charged in July 2011 on four felony counts for allegedly abusing computer networks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and disrupting JSTOR’s servers. Mr. Swartz was arrested on January 6 after allegedly tapping into MIT’s network to download more than 4.8 million academic articles and files from JSTOR. The new charges came in the form of a “superseding indictment” that built on the earlier charges.
Mr. Swartz’s defense lawyer, Martin G. Weinberg, said his client planned to plead not guilty to the new charges, which include several counts of…
July 27, 2012, 3:58 pm
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have each contributed $30-million to the edX online-learning program, but a third university will provide technology instead. The University of California at Berkeley is bringing a new online platform to the project.
The nonprofit group edX is working to create courses specifically for online learning; seven of them will start this fall. The new platform, called CourseSharing, allows students to complete multiple-choice assignments online and receive automated grades and feedback as soon as they click “submit.”
CourseSharing was developed by Pieter Abbeel and Dawn Song, professors of computer science at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. student, Arjun Singh. They tested the program last spring in an artificial-intelligence course. (People can test out the technology at the class site; registration is required, but any e-mail …
July 27, 2012, 3:49 pm
The proposed Digital Public Library of America has gotten a timely $1-million vote of confidence from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The award, announced on Thursday, will “specifically support the creation of the infrastructure for a national open-access digital library,” the agency said in a written statement.
The NEH grant will help support a pilot program of DPLA “service hubs” at the state or regional level. The hubs will function as a kind of information “on ramp” to digital content coordinated and made findable by the DPLA, according to Maura Marx, director of the DPLA Secretariat, which coordinates DPLA planning. Eight working groups have been focused on specific workstreams: content and scope, legal issues, and so on.
The model sounds more federated than top-down. The hubs won’t be built from scratch; they will draw on existing institutions and digital-library …
July 6, 2012, 12:31 pm
The rising cost of textbooks—along with the rise of easy-to-use publishing tools online—has helped drive the popularity of open-source materials and professors’ taking a do-it-yourself approach to textbook publishing. Here are three professors who wrote their own textbooks and are distributing them free.
One year ago, students began coming to the philosophy class of Brendan Myers at Heritage College, in Gatineau, Quebec, without the required textbook.
“I made some remarks, of course, about needing the textbook to pass the class, and they told me that they couldn’t afford it. They needed to spend the money on food, and they would borrow the textbook later from a friend,” he said. “So I decided that one small way that I can help reduce the cost of education without political lobbying work is to write my own textbook, and they wouldn’t have to pay for it.”…
July 2, 2012, 6:33 pm
An Internet-rights petition, called the Declaration of Internet Freedom, started on Monday and has already gathered more than 20,000 signatures.
Supporters include Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Reporters Without Borders. Individual signatories include Andrew McLaughlin, a former White House deputy chief tTechnology officer, and Nick Grossman, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, as well as professors from Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Stanford University Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
The Declaration of Internet Freedom focuses on protecting free expression, promoting Internet access, supporting new technology, and preserving data privacy. The petition, organized by a media-policy group called Free Press, was inspired by the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act this year, said Josh Levy,…
June 19, 2012, 3:07 pm
Britain needs to recognize a fundamental cultural shift in how research is being published and disseminated, and should embrace and help accelerate the transition to the open-access publishing of research results, says a government-commissioned report published on Tuesday. The report, “Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications,” makes a series of recommendations for achieving “better, faster access to research publications for anyone who wants to read or use them.”
Last month David Willetts, Britain’s minister for universities and science, announced that the government would push to make publicly financed research freely available, but few details had been offered until now.
The report notes that, for many people outside of higher education and large research-intensive companies, the only way to read the publications in which most…
June 19, 2012, 12:52 pm
Photo courtesy of Open Book Publishers
Over the years, Ruth Finnegan, anthropologist and professor at England’s Open University, has received dozens of e-mails from African scholars asking for access to her 1970 work Oral Literature in Africa. Though hailed as a classic and a definitive study, the book is now out of print; as a result, Ms. Finnegan has always declined such requests.
But now Ms. Finnegan is working to get the book digitally back in circulation, by collaborating with Unglue.it, a Kickstarter-inspired publishing start-up that opened last month. Oral Literature is featured as one of the site’s five inaugural campaigns, which ask users to pledge money toward “ungluing” each previously published work. If the campaign is successful, Oral Literature will be available as a free, …