Closing OpenCourseWare

I bought a couple of textbooks last week and it was pretty rough on the wallet, even after rigorous comparison shopping and eventually purchasing used texts off of Textbooks cost a ton. And I really like them. A good intro text book is skimmable in a way that other popular, accessible nonfiction often is not. They have intros, conclusions, practice questions, etc. If you want to grasp a new topic quickly, a 101 textbook is your best friend.

So in theory I should be psyched about Apple’s new move to revolutionize textbooks. But I’m not. The first thing that jumped to my mind as I read the news was Is this the App-ification of education? Will Apple remove the “Open” from OpenCourseWare?

Matthew Ingram has the right take:

as usual, all this great design requires a major tradeoff: namely, that schools and publishers agree to be locked inside Apple’s walled-garden ecosystem. That might be fine for music and movies and games likeAngry Birds, but is that really appropriate for educational material?

The textbook industry deserves to be disrupted. But how? Will Apple’s move lead to more accessibility and openness? Or will it put one company in control of the standards by which we teach our kids and ourselves?

(Nieman has a good round-up of reactions if you want various takes.)

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