Sloan-C July Symposium to Feature Open Textbooks Panel

In July in San Jose, California, at the Sloan-C/MERLOT Fourth Annual International Symposium, several panelists will gather to address trends and developments in open textbooks. The panel is entitled “Building Communities of Practice to Encourage Open Textbook Use.” In case you may not be familiar with the open textbook mission, one of the panelists, Nicholas Smith, the President of DynamicBooks, provides this overarching explanation in the news release: “The vast majority of instructors feel supported yet constrained by the “hard-wired” nature of the textbook as a predefined collection of content. Textbooks aren’t really malleable and customizable. Instructors see themselves as publishers who want to add their own content to a textbook as well as modify what’s already there. For these reasons, we need to move from the old paradigm of “album” in which students have to purchase works in an all-or-nothing proposition and in which instructors are prevented from making changes to the new world of “playlists” that contain customized content that meets the specific needs of a course. Students don’t want to pay for content they don’t use.”

Even if you can’t or don’t plan to attend the Symposium, if you are interested in open textbooks, especially if you are a higher education faculty member (whether teaching online and/or on campus), you might want to scan this release. Yes, the release focuses primarily on the panelists and the planned topics for discussion, all good in my opinion. But of permanent, general, value are links to some online resources championing the open textbook cause.

One is the Community College Open Textbooks Collaborative. As the news release notes, this organization …is funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This collection of 15 educational nonprofit and for-profit organizations, affiliated with more than 200 colleges, is focused on driving awareness and adoptions of open textbooks to more than 2000 community and other two-year colleges.

The second organization is the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Teaching (MERLOT). Again, from the news release, this …is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services.