Textbooks

Boston Library Consortium signs letter to President Obama about Open Educational Resources

In June, the White House called for suggestions from the public for its third Open Government National Action Plan, to be released later this year. The purpose of this plan is to increase transparency in government as well as support open research and learning tools, which were identified as areas for development in the first two National Action Plans. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international group of academic research libraries, has responded to this call with a letter advocating for increased support for the development of open educational resources. The Boston Library Consortium, of which Northeastern University is a member, has added its name as a signatory of this letter. We are proud to voice our support for open educational resources! Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible learning objects that support teaching and learning at all levels - from kindergarten through higher education. Because they are openly licensed, educators can customize OERs or create mashups of different resources to provide their students with the material that best meets their teaching objectives. OERs include textbooks, audio and video materials, tests, software, interactive modules, and much more. Many are peer-reviewed either before or after being publicly released, so teachers can be assured of their quality. OERs benefit students as well as educators—they serve as free alternatives to costly traditional textbooks. A recent NBC News story about the astronomical increase in textbook prices (more than triple the cost of inflation since 1977) quotes an incoming Northeastern first-year student on the struggle to afford college textbooks. OERs would help him and thousands of others get a high-quality education at a more affordable price. The Open Education Group, which conducts an ongoing review of empirical research on the use of OERs, reports that studies show students and educators using OERs are satisfied with the quality of these resources and that learning outcomes are equivalent to or better than those in classrooms using traditional resources. Instructors and students, are you interested in learning more about open educational resources? Check out my guide to OERs and textbook alternatives, and please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

Spread the word: New full-text e-resources in medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy are now available

AccessPhysiotherapy covers physical therapy, AccessMedicine covers medical/health sciences, and AccessPharmacy is the tool of choice for pharmacy. These resources from McGraw-Hill were designed especially for instructors and students, with a focus on curricular topics, Q & A, self-assessment, core titles for assigned reading, high quality images, animation tools to convey concepts, and videos that demonstrate clinical practices.  Content can be embedded in Blackboard. Mobile access: These resources are optimized for the iPhone, Google Android devices and the Blackberry Bold. Highlights: AccessPhysiotherapy
  • 500+ videos and narrated lectures in key topics in orthopedics, neurology and sports medicine; demonstrations of various examination and treatment techniques
  • Anatomy and Physiology Revealed”, a powerful cadaver dissection tool with imaging slides and animations
  • Essentials of Neuroscience in Physical Therapy”, an ongoing lecture series, which combines graphics, case studies, and narration to teach key neuroscience and neuroanatomy concepts relating to physical therapy
  • “Custom Curriculum”, a cutting edge tool to assign, manage, and track the progress of student assignments
AccessMedicine
  • 77 essential medical texts, including “Harrison’s Online”, “Hurst’s The Heart”, “Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment”, and “DeGowin’s Diagnostic Examination”
  • Thousands of photos and illustrations
  • Diagnosaurus, the differential diagnosis tool
  • Interactive patient safety modules, musculoskeletal exams, case files, and Q & A
  • 200+ procedural videos and Grand Rounds lectures
AccessPharmacy
  •  Drug databases, cases, self-assessment tools, animations, and full text of these core titles:
    • DiPiro's Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach, 8e
    • Pharmacotherapy Casebook: A Patient-Focused Approach, 8e
    • Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 12e
    • Applied Biopharmaceutics & Pharmacokinetics, 6e
    • Basic & Clinical Pharmacology, 12e
    • Casarett & Doulls Essentials of Toxicology, 2e
    • Drug Information: A Guide for Pharmacists, 4e
    • Ganong's Review of Medical Physiology, 24e
    • Pharmacy and Federal Drug Law Review
    • Pharmacy Student Survival Guide, 2e
    • Understanding Health Policy: A Clinical Approach, 6e
Register for a My AccessMedicine, My AccessPharmacy or My AccessPhysiotherapy account to enter the mobile sites, save and download images, bookmark content pages, view and print CE certificates, customize patient education handouts, re-run recent searches, and use the Custom Curriculum. For more information on health sciences resources, please see the biomedical and health subject guides.  

Affordable Textbooks 2012…Now, With Even More Options! [Updated]

It's been two years since I last posted about textbooks, and with classes starting this week, I thought it was a good time to write an update to that post. Since then, a few things have changed.

First, the Bad News...

The cost of textbooks just keeps going up. The New York Times article from October 2009 that I cited in my previous post estimated that college students spent, on average, between $700 and $1,000 each year on textbooks. Fast forward to August 2012... the Wall Street Journal just reported that the average student's textbook bill is now up to $1,213 a year. (Of course, you can always try selling a purchased textbook back to the bookstore at the end of the term, but, having stood in the buyback line myself recently, I know as well as you do that it's not exactly a money-making opportunity - if you're able to sell it back at all, that is. Textbook editions change so frequently that the copy you just bought may well be worthless in only a few months.)

Okay, How About Some Good News?

There now are more alternatives to paying the full amount for a new, hardcover textbook. Textbook rental programs have really taken off in the past couple of years - the NU bookstore has been offering a rental program since Fall 2010, with both print and e-textbooks available for rental. If you're taking ENGL 1102 this semester, for example, you can choose between buying a new or used copy of Ways of Reading, or rent a copy for about half the cost of buying a new one. Rental can be a good option when you can't picture yourself referring back to your dogeared copy after you're done with the course. Online rental companies are also popular - Chegg has been around for a while, and Amazon just got into the textbook rental market, too (although at least one blogger found their selection a bit "skimpy"). It seems like we've been hearing a lot about e-textbooks for a long time now, but the iPad has really helped that market take off in the last year. More publishers are working to convert their traditional textbooks into iPad apps, which allow for interactivity in ways that an e-book on, say, a Kindle doesn't offer. It looks like publishers are realizing that an e-textbook can be much more than a PDF. "Open" textbooks are also gaining traction, as more faculty choose to adopt them for their courses. Publishers like Flat World Knowledge and Boundless offer online learning materials that are free or available for purchase on a sliding scale. Individual faculty are creating open educational resources (OERs) as well - here at Northeastern, Dr. Albert-László Barabási's network science course website offers a great example of how OERs can be much more than static texts.

What's the Bottom Line?

This is a great time to start investigating alternatives to traditional printed textbooks - and as you can see, there are lots of options. Faculty - I encourage you to "think outside the shrinkwrap," if you're not already doing so. Students - investigate options and talk to your instructors. Let them know that you want to see textbooks become more affordable. And, if nothing else, ask them to put a desk copy of the textbook on reserve at the library! Update, 9/10/12: If you’re interested in learning about new developments in this area, I maintain an up-to-date list of links to news stories and blog posts on Delicious (also available as an RSS feed).  

Celebrate Open Education Week – March 5-10, 2012

Today's News@Northeastern featured a "3Qs" interview with our Dean of Libraries, Will Wakeling. The focus was open access to research, and Will specifically highlighted Open Educational Resources (OERs).  Development of OERs involves remixing resources that are openly available in order to create learning materials that don't cost students anything. The average college student paid $700 a year on textbooks in the 2009-2010 school year; given that the price of college textbooks is said to be increasing at four times the rate of inflation, that amount is likely higher today. So, it's no surprise that the need for affordable course materials is becoming critical. Legislation such as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act has placed limits on textbook publishers, but prices are still high. MIT was a pioneer in the OER field with their Open CourseWare system, which debuted in 2002. It offered anybody, anywhere, the opportunity to access MIT course materials for free - a radical concept at the time. Since then many other institutions around the world have also established OCW programs, as well as an international consortium. That consortium is now sponsoring the first global Open Education Week, "to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide." Events are taking place around the world this week - many being hosted as online webinars. I encourage you to check out their schedule of events! How do you think Northeastern can play a role in the development and adoption of OERs? Leave your thoughts in the comments section...

Open Access Week event: Open Textbooks and Flat World Knowledge – Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Join us on Thursday, October 27, at 10:30 a.m. in 90 Snell Library for a presentation on open textbooks. Michael Boezi, editorial director of Flat World Knowledge, the leading commercial publisher of open textbooks, will speak on "Keeping Education Accessible: The Textbook Affordability Crisis and Emerging Open Solutions." High textbook prices increasingly challenge the mission of many institutions to provide affordable, quality education. The emerging trend of open content is reshaping the publishing landscape, allowing for the rise of new business models that:
  1. significantly reduce the cost of high-quality learning materials, and thereby the overall cost of education;
  2. meet the growing demand for alternate, flexible formats that keep pace with the different ways we consume information; and
  3. provide authors with a forward-looking compensation model.
Boezi will discuss the emerging trend of open content, examining the advantages (and challenges) of "open" as it relates to textbooks, as well as the economic, social, and technology drivers that are transforming education and propelling the growth of free, low-cost, and open alternatives to expensive, traditional college textbooks. Refreshments will be served. For a full schedule of our Open Access Week events, visit our News & Events page.