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Pearson Project Will Let Professors Mix Free and Paid Content in E-Textbooks

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 third-party content.

“Both Pearson and a number of leaders in the open-educational-resource community have recognized opportunities for both premium content and free open content,” said Clancy Marshall, the leader of the project. “Education content is not one-size-fits-all—we want to give our customers the ability to get content at the right price.”

An editorial team at Pearson reviews the open content that Project Blue Sky provides to make sure it is high quality, Ms. Marshall said. The project includes only content for psychology courses now in its pilot phase, and 13 colleges and universities are testing it. The project will expand into other subjects gradually, its leaders say.

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