OpenFiction [Blog]

Here’s collaborative textbook model I think can work

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 5, 2006

Some time ago (note the reference to “Mosaic” in the introduction) MIT Biology students developed an MIT Biology Hypertextbook, which provides the basic molecular biology information needed for 7.102, 7.013 or 7.014 (MIT’s intro bio courses). Because the resource is institution-specific, it can be tailored for a specific body of students in a specific program, rather than having to be a one-size-fits-all general text (although it appears to be fairly general).

I could imagine–especially with the wider use of wiki technology–that major programs in foundational fields around the world might each reasonably be able to support such hypertexts designed specifically for their own needs, and that smaller schools that don’t have the resources can select hypertexts from other programs that most closely meet their needs and alter them (assuming they are published under open licenses).

I realize there is an immediate opening here for an “elitist” critique–that these texts wouldn’t be open for anyone to contribute to, so here’s the big elite schools handing out content again, but it’s not about limiting contribution. It’s about schools creating custom texts for their students and the programs they run, controlling which approaches to their fields they choose to teach to their own students. But if a number of schools did this, each could present the strongest case for their approach to a particular subject, without having to contend with the problem (as Wikipedia does) of representing all views in one publication.

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