There is much discussion about online education but, for the most part, the incursions online have been seen as providing bundled, self-generated content in much the same way as University content is provided now. An exception is Marginal Revolution University that is allowing contributions from many academics. This week two other endeavours were brought to my attention.
The first is Boundless. What Boundless is aiming to do is to give students an excuse not to purchase an expensive textbook. So they gather up the broad chapter outline from textbooks and then associate public domain content with those textbooks. I took at look at how this handled Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbook. The content was not complete but as you would expect for first year economics, most topics were populated. Although they were notably different in expression than Mankiw’s version and lacked the layout with consistent graphs etc. But, when it comes down to it, knowledge is knowledge. And this version may work for many people and perhaps even better given its online layout than a traditional textbook. Of course, and I guess this comes is an expected disappointment, textbook publishers are suing boundless for copyright infringement. Not the content mind you but the chapter outline. One suspects that it will be tough to make that case and crazy if it is possible but this is what happens when there are market distortions.
The second venture is The Learnist. The Learnist is a site that allows anyone to put up ‘boards.’ Basically, it is curated content but it is supposed to have a educational element to it. This is a bit like TED-Ed but with more content on each module. It is also a bit like iTunes U. What makes it interesting is that it links neatly to content across the web. So if you find a set of videos that you think together explain ‘supply and demand’ you can put them all together in a board. You can intersperse it with other web content such as papers and demos. I gave this a shot for the latest course I am teaching for the Next 36. The result is here. Of course, most of the content is my own but as time goes on I’ll add content from elsewhere too.