This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Kindle Singles

One of the highlights in last week's digital news was the announcement of Amazon's new "Kindle Singles." The idea is a short work limited to at most 30k words, but well-researched. One of the more interesting aspects is one of the first ever books published by TED -- the site and conference which has the inspiring and thought provoking videos and content.

The concept is an interesting one -- and moves Amazon into a unique content-production business that could be viewed as a first step into new forms of competition for publishers, and begins to change the author-publisher dynamic for certain types of work. I will admit, it is the first real content or development that has made me consider downloading the Kindle app to one of my devices.

To be fair, the concept is not entirely new, though. I see similarities to the "Nooners" and "Spicy Briefs" concepts pioneered more by publishers like Harlequin a couple years ago. That is -- recognizing that there is a niche for short works on a topic or by a favorite author, that can be delivered digitally on demand, and which might be used to drive demand for additional short works, or additional longer works by the same author. It will be interesting to watch where these pieces will go in the future.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pressure to Use Classroom Tech May Yield Opposite Results

Students tend to learn many new technologies by just playing around with them on their own time. As it turns out, that may also be the best way for educators to become comfortable with technology and more willing to incorporate it into coursework and classroom instruction. At least that’s the view of Rushton Hurley, who leads the Next Vista for Learning project, a library of free online videos produced by teachers and their students.

In this interview with T.H.E. Journal, Hurley discusses how teachers—in an all-too-human reaction—are more likely to turn their noses up at new technologies when their use is mandated by school administration. Like students forced to complete an unpleasant assignment, teachers pressed to master new tech will do just the minimum to get by.

But when administrators back away and give instructors the freedom to monkey around with applications and hardware as they see fit, they’ll try a few things here and there. More importantly, Hurley notes, teachers will support and encourage each other if they have opportunities to share their technology experiences and learn from others’ trial and error.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crowd Accelerated Innovation

There was an interesting piece by Chris Anderson not long ago in Wired on the concept of "Crowd Accelerated Innovation." He uses specific examples of how video can speed up innovation by "creating new global communities, granting their members both the means and the motivation to step up their skills and broaden their imaginations." He goes on to write how things like videos are
... unleasing an unprecedented wave of innovation in thousands of different disciplines: some trivial, some niche in the extreme, some central to solving humnanity's problems. In short, it is boosting the net sum of global talent. It is helping the world get smarter.
A tall order perhaps -- but the idea is intriguing, particularly as we look at the role of students today in creating new content. What impact will that have on the future of course materials and learning? Will today's students turn tomorrow's learning models (and the key players) on their heads by redefining what could be? Perhaps it is a trend to be dismissed, but remember, radical change typically comes from a quarter that no one expects, and we are still in the early stages of thinking about how video and other multimedia technologies can really change things. Maybe there is another reason to watch the growth of the video movement than just pure entertainment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

iPad pilots to replace textbooks

The iPad pilots at University of Notre Dame, where professor Corey Angst is experimenting with replacing printed books with the devices, continues to get press coverage. This week there are two items worth reading about the experiments:

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed

A Wall Street Journal blog posting

While a fair number of institutions are experimenting with the iPad and comparable technologies, Notre Dame continues to gather more attention. The WSJ posting had a link to a video from Corey's class:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Self-Paced E-Learning Expected to Boom

State budget cuts in education and other financial constraints prompted by the recession are pushing more preK-12 schools to replace classroom instruction with online and electronic courseware products and services that children can use at their own pace, according to a new study by Ambient Insight].

The U.S. Market for Self-Paced eLearning Products and Services: 2010-2015 Forecast and Analysis study examined both web-based products and services as well as tangible media, such as DVDs. The study predicted self-paced electronic instruction will rise 16.8% in the preK-12 market by 2015.

As schools cut teaching staff, more are turning to self-paced systems for such programs as summer school or remedial classes. Schools used to reserve self-paced learning for specialized courses or to accommodate students in remote locations, but an increasing number are now experimenting with self-paced learning in core subjects.

Self-paced e-learning is also expected to grow in higher education. The Ambient study noted the hi-ed market would probably ramp up to become the No. 2 consumer of self-paced e-learning products by 2015, right behind the corporate market. At present, however, hi-ed institutions are more interested in installing lecture capture systems.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Textbook rental programs proliferating on campus

Last fall, 2,200 college stores reported offering textbook rental programs, up from only 300 just a year earlier, according to OnCampus Research, a division of NACS.

Demand for lower textbook prices from both consumers and legislators has spurred college stores to explore new ways of doing business. By renting, students generally pay only 33%-55% of the full price of a textbook.

Based on the results of their initial forays, two-thirds of the stores participating in the OnCampus survey said they plan to expand their rental offerings. Of the responding stores that didn’t offer a rental program, 43% said they plan to launch one. In addition, another 200 chain-managed college stores will add rental programs for the spring semester.

"This means that almost 2,400 college stores are currently offering textbook rentals, and more than 3,000 should be offering textbook rental by next fall,” says Charles Schmidt, NACS director of public relations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Washington State’s online-course effort faces hurdles

The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges has launched the Open Course Library, a program of low-cost, online course materials intended to save money both for the almost half a million students using Washington State’s 34 two-year colleges and for the state legislature, which pays a large chunk of the textbook costs for those on state financial aid. The first lot of OCL course modules begins classroom testing this month.

But as this Chronicle of Higher Education article notes, some of the course designers encountered unexpected difficulties while sifting through the available open content, some of which is outdated and little of which is geared to learners at the community-college level. Not topping the mandated $30 price cap for course materials is also proving problematic in many cases, especially where primary sources or supplementary materials are necessary.

However, if Washington can make the Open Course Library work, other states will likely jump on it as a template for their own cost-saving efforts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mobile retailing blueprint

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has come out with version 2.0 of the Mobile Retailing Blueprint. This is a product of NRF's mobile retail initiative and was produced with input from a range of retailers, vendors, analysts and standards organizations. It details both opportunities for consumers and retailers and provides retailers with concrete examples and useful information for crafting a mobile commerce strategy.

The NRF's mobile retail initiative aims to serve as a "catalyst for mobile-inspired innovation that enhances the retail shopping experience and improves internal business processes." In addition to providing definitions and simple examples, the document provides a number of lessons learned and best practices from current adopters of mobile commerce technology.

With mobile commerce becoming more common in the higher education environment, and globally, retailers (particularly collegiate retailers) would be well advised to peruse the document or begin thinking about a mobile strategy for both commerce and content. With changes in the collegiate retailing environment, this could be viewed as "one more thing" on top of crafting social networking strategies, content strategies, device strategies, and other issues. Like those others it will be increasingly difficult to remain viable in the future without thinking about some of the associated challenges and begin formulating some strategy.

The NRF document is a good place to start. As we move through 2011 and into 2012, NACS and some of its subsidiaries (particularly NACS Media Solutions) will also begin to offer more education and information to help stores with the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trial and Error in the K-12 Classroom

A number of K-12 schools are experimenting with the use of laptops, netbooks, and tablets as standard classroom tools, even to the point of replacing print books with the hardware. But, some schools are finding it’s a mixed bag, as this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows. Students love the “cool” factor but it is not clear if computers are actually helping them learn better, and schools don’t necessarily save money on course materials.

And the article inadvertently highlights why the publishing industry is skittish about e-books: One youngster who lost his paperback “finds” the novel online and therefore is able to keep up with the class. Problem is, The Lord of the Flies isn’t yet in the public domain (and will not be for nearly 40 more years), so the boy is apparently accessing an illegally pirated copy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update on Open Access

Peter Suber from SPARC has produced his annual summary of global developments in the open access movement. While he notes he has greatly summarized the details providing only "highlights" and left many items out, it is still an excellent review -- and has links to prior years reviews and other resources. Here is a sampling from the 'highlights from the highlights:"

3. The University of California. For standing up to an unaffordable 400% price increase on its site license from the Nature Publishing Group. For using its unrivaled bargaining power, especially against a publisher with its own unrivaled bargaining power. For pushing back with an effect that smaller institutions simply could not hope to have. (Today, however, the actual effect is still unknown.) For acting decisively in the interests of research, researchers, and research institutions, and not leaving publishers to be the only players in this game who act decisively in their own interests. For inspiring other institutions to voice a common grievance and take concerted action.

2. The EUR-OCEANS Consortium. For adopting the largest consortial OA mandate ever (covering 29 organizations in 15 countries) and the first consortial OA mandate for organizations other than universities. For a giant step that should inspire other giant steps.

1. The 38 new funder OA mandates in 17 countries (Section 1) and --depending on how you count-- the 72-105 green OA university mandates in 15 countries (Section 2). For giving us a year in which we averaged more than three funder mandates and 6-9 university mandates every month. For preserving and extending the momentum. For bring us closer to the new normal in which research institutions routinely put the interests of knowledge-sharing ahead of the interests of knowledge-enclosure.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mobile + computer = potential higher ed win

While this BlogU posting from Inside Higher Ed doesn’t view the announcement of 70-plus new tablet devices as “the” big story on the education front from CES 2011, it does rave over the Motorola Atrix Android phone and docking system.

The laptop-like docking station acts as keyboard, screen, and battery, with the Atrix providing the OS, memory, and networking—as well as the user’s files, images, videos, and music. All computing occurs on the Atrix. The combination renders the smartphone vastly much more suitable for classroom use.

“The Atrix is a step closer to the dream of a full computer in a mobile device,” states the BlogU post, adding, “…All of a sudden, the mobile device becomes both a consumption and production tool.”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

November ebook sales stats

The latest ebook stats are out from IDPF:
According to sales statistics compiled by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), trade eBook wholesale sales from reporting publishers were $46.6M for November 2010, a 129.8% increase over November 2009 ($20.3M), and an increase of 14.5% over the the prior month of October 2010 ($40.7M). Calendar Year to Date sales (11 months) increased 165.3% from $147.9M in 2009 to $392.4M in 2010.

Note that the usual caveats to this data apply -- specifically around the number of publishers contributing data. These numbers are typically seen as a conservative estimate.

Statistics, historical data and information about eBook sales can be viewed at: http://www.idpf.org/doc_library/industrystats.htm (NOTE: the IDPF website is being revamped and this page will not be updated until the new site is launched later this quarter).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Looking for a few good tablets at CES

This turned out to be the Year of the Tablet at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, with as many as 80 different devices launched, all hoping to become the iPad-killer. None are available at this point and some don’t even exist yet. Most will drop by the wayside. (Remember how many e-readers debuted at last year’s CES? How many of them are still viable concerns?)

This InformationWeek special report culls the herd to pinpoint the new devices that, at first glance, seem to have the best shot at competing seriously with Apple’s tablet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

University presses add e-books to stay in the game

To position themselves as scholarly alternatives to Google Book Search’s 12 million-book archive, university presses and academic content aggregators, acting singly or in partnerships, are rushing to create or expand repositories for digital long-form texts. As detailed in this Inside Higher Ed article, JSTOR, the University Press eBook Consortium (UPeC), and Oxford University Press have all recently announced projects aimed at preserving their revenue streams from scholarly content and keeping themselves from being marginalized by the search giant.

Since these groups will target college and university libraries, rather than individual consumers, via the sale of access licenses, they won’t present any actual direct competition to Google. The addition of e-texts to their archives will, as one university press director noted, enable academics to cut through the “fog” of nonscholarly content that results from any Google Books search. With college stores representing a significant portion of University Press sales, perhaps there are ways for the two constituencies to work together on some of these initiatives.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Three R's begin with i

While watching the list of school closings this morning, there was an interesting story on about the use of iPads in one of the local schools. Each of the students in the fifth grade class has been given an iPad. Here are a couple of the more interesting quotes from the story:

The teacher [Bizan] says iPads have improved student performance in spelling and math and student attendance is up.

"It makes people want to learn. It makes people want to come to school," said Rachel Lyman, a fifth grader.

Bizan says about 75 percent of his instruction takes place on the iPad now and he expects in the not-too-distant-future that'll be 100 percent.

Of course, my favorite quote -- or perhaps the one which is most telling, is the following from the classroom teacher:

"Five to six years from now, or 10 years from now, textbooks, I see them being gone and being on some kind of device," said Bizan.

You can find the story transcript or watch the video clip online on our local news station's site.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What College Students Think

Coming up in February the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) will be hosting a half-day conference in NYC entitled What College Students Think: Making Information Pay for Higher Ed Publishing. The focus will be on the changing needs of college students around course materials.

Julie Traylor (who leads OnCampus Research for NACS) and I will be presenting. However, in addition to speakers, the event will feature an exclusive preview into the findings from BISG's recent student survey: Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education. The survey provides a new look into how students currently enrolled in 2-year, 4-year and for-profit institutions perceive and use different types of educational materials in their course of study.

Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services for Bowker commented that "The timeliness of this event, and the relevance of the data presented, will help academic publishers walk away with tangible insights into these areas." The same is likely true for those of us working in the college store industry, or using textbooks in the classroom.

I hope to see some of you there, and we will report back.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Digital publishers and consumers not on the same page

Publishers run significant risks for their future if they don’t bring their approaches to digital content into better alignment with consumer expectations and desires. A Harrison Group survey of 476 publishing professionals and more than 1,800 consumers indicates a wide gap between those two groups when it comes to digital content management, distribution, and intellectual property.

Seventy-four percent of publishers said they prefer a traditional, subscription-based model for digital content, an option preferred by only 13% of consumers. The vast majority of consumers would rather obtain content under a new model, whether unlimited access for a set price, micropayments for smaller chunks, purchase of single copies, or credits that draw down as content is accessed. Consumers also expect to be able to share content freely with other users and among a variety of devices, including e-readers, smartphones, and tablets.