OpenStax was founded to lower the cost of course materials through peer-reviewed open textbooks made available in print and digital formats. Now, it is trying to craft individualize textbooks for each student.
The nonprofit organization based at Rice University has received a $9 million grant to develop personalized, interactive textbooks for advance-placement Biology and high school physics. The new textbooks will be housed in the cloud and employ the same sort of algorithms Google and Amazon use to provide course materials that match the learning pace of individual students.
“Imagine a digital textbook where because I’m a different person and learn differently, my book is different than your book,” said OpenStax founder Richard Baraniuk. “Because I understand things in a different way from you, the book itself should change.”
Baraniuk envisions textbooks that will provide students with quizzes that pop up while they work through a topic to gauge their comprehension. Additional study material would also be available, depending on how the student does, and teachers could receive automatic email messages to track students’ progress.
“You know which page a student is on. You also know as they’re scrolling around where they might be within the page,” Baraniuk said. “You know when they’ve clicked on different simulations, practice problems, videos, etc. You have a sense of whether they’re playing those videos through to the end, going back to review material.”
OpenStax will spend the next two years working on these new textbooks, which will be viewable from a variety of digital devices and will go through the same sort of vetting process traditional textbooks go through to ensure quality.