Flat World Knowledge Public Beta!

FWK, the open source textbook publishing company, has come out of private beta! Find out what all the excitement is about at http://flatworldknowledge.com/.

As a quick recap, FWK textbooks are much like traditional textbooks in that they are:

  • beautiful looking printed books,
  • written by world-class authors,
  • supported with all the supplementals and teaching aids (like an instructor manual, slides, and assessments) teachers expect, and
  • available as review copies (for teachers),

FWK textbooks are UNLIKE traditional textbooks in that they are:

  • licensed CC BY-NC-SA,
  • always available in full-text online for free,
  • offered in a variety of additional, affordable formats (paperback black-and-white ($30), full-color ($60), audio book ($30), individual book chapters as audio ($3), etc.),
  • supported by a variety of study aids available at the student’s option (NOT forcibly bundled with the book)

I’m SO excited about FWK because we’re going to show the world that extremely high quality open educational resources can be produced and disseminated in a way that is sustainable over the long term. Jump over to the Catalog page, choose a book with a Feb 2009 publication date, and click “Start Reading” to see what I’m talking about.

More on the Three Parts of Open Education

D’Arcy had a great post tonight about the three parts of open education. It validates something I’ve been wondering to myself about for a while. While I use slightly different language, you can me my take on the three toward the end of my Open Ed 2008 General Session presentation (start at slide 100):

Ten Years of Open Content

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: history content)

I’d love to engage in a bit more of a discussion between what I think of as learning support and what D’Arcy calls open access, just to make sure I understand what he’s saying.

I’m thinking about it from the “future of higher education” perspective, as opposed to the “what constitutes open education” perspective (as D’Arcy is). Still, it’s pretty cool that we pick basically the same three – it just means that the future of higher education is open education! In the presentation I basically argued that we can already see the three core functions of higher education starting to pull slowly apart from one another – the OCWs provide access to all the educational content (and now some research content thanks to MIT’s recent deal with Elsevier), places like Yahoo Answers provide the learning support and question/answer function (and RateMyProfessor carries much of the advising load), and Western Governor’s is a fully accredited university that offers no courses – only assessments (in other words, just credentials). This disaggregation is already happening, and higher education will just pull itself apart faster and faster in the future. Whenever a business function can be separated and specialized in, that business function is destined to be either spun off or outsourced. Wither the university then, huh?

In the video D’Arcy refers to open accreditation as the elephant in the room. Well, the elephant certainly stepped on me last week in Jeff Young’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, When Professors Print Their Own Diplomas, Who Needs Universities? After saying I was giving out diplomas a few times, Jeff accurately reports about my Introduction to Open Education class last year, “unofficial students paid no tuition and got no formal credit, but they did end up with something tangible: a homemade certificate signed by Mr. Wiley.” He even interviewed one of the unofficial students from Italy:

That [homemade certificate] was plenty of recognition for Antonio Fini, a doctoral student at the University of Florence, in Italy. “I include it in my CV,” he says.

I wonder if, somehow, we’ve stumbled into part of the answer for open accreditation. Of course, WGU still charges tuition, but D’Arcy’s right. Let’s talk more about this… Maybe instead of hacking WordPress, we should be hacking degrees. Anyone up for a completely informal, completely open, homemade certificate-style diploma? A handful of courses offered by all of us – take intro open ed from me, connectivism from George and Stephen, media studies from Brian (you know you’ve always wished he would teach it), and then complete three cumulative edupunk projects under the tutelage of the Reverend, D’Arcy, and Tony. Maybe D’Arcy will also offer an elective in mobile video production? 😉 Why not? I want my homemade edupunk diploma!!!