Washington open text effort
The Chronicle is carrying an article on the open text effort in the state of Washington. It highlights some of the difficulties in adoption and adaptation of open resources, but I think the end note is more or less right: they are going to get there.
Many course designers thought they would find everything they needed in the open content offered by universities like Carnegie Mellon. Those treasure-troves, developed with grants from several foundations, offer free courses in addition to lecture notes, virtual laboratories, and online “cognitive tutors” that guide students through complex problem-solving exercises. One company, Flat World Knowledge, offers free online textbooks that professors can customize for their own classes. (Flat World makes its money by selling ancillary study guides.)
But instructors in this group were annoyed with the assumption that it’s just a matter of plucking ripe fruit off the Internet tree. They said they had been surprised to discover how few open-source sites cater to students who struggle with basic math, which describes many at the community-college level.
One of the reasons so few resource are available for remedial math is that the schools teaching remedial math have so few resources and thus can’t launch OER efforts, so they are stuck using overpriced textbooks. It’s a bit of a vicious circle, but it will be broken at some point, especially with help from groups like the Gates Foundation.