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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MOOC Deal Makes Low-Cost Content Available

Lost in the hoopla over massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a cost-saving alternative for higher education is the expense of course materials. Coursera and Chegg have partnered on a pilot program that will make e-textbooks available for no cost and still provide each company with the opportunity to create a revenue stream.

Students will be able to get e-textbooks, or at least required chapters, through Chegg for selected Coursera courses for free. Students won’t be able to copy or print the text and it will only be available for the length of the course.

“Many instructors have been feeling a little hampered by how they must make their courses so self-contained,” Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Even $40 for a textbook is way out of reach for some students, so instructors have had to teach in ways they are not used to. They are unable to rely on any readings outside the public domain.”

According to reports, content will be made available on the Chegg e-reader that has been embedded into the Coursera platform, making it easier for students to find the required materials. Publishers participating in the program are Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, Sage, and Wiley & Sons.

Coursera and Chegg hope to monetize the partnership by selling the textbook or an abbreviated Coursera version to students. The companies would receive a percentage of the money from the sale, similar to how both earn commissions on books sold through Amazon.

The publishers will profit from sales of the content, as well as from data collected from the e-reader versions.

“Because the free versions of the books will be read through an e-reader, we’ll also get information about usage,” said Stuart Johnson, executive editor at John Wiley & Sons. “How students use the electronic text, how they use the materials, will be tracked through software.”

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