Post textbook world — from by Tom Vander Ark

Most of the digital courseware being used is decidedly first generation–it’s flat and sequential, not engaging and adaptive. But we’re beginning to see adaptive content libraries that enable personalized digital learning. There will still be a role for curation but that will come in the form of content collections, learning games and virtual worlds, and playlists that (like iTunes Genius but smarter) that stitch objects and sequences together.

Because learning object libraries will replace textbooks, eReaders won’t be big in education. They only make sense where there is a tight narrative. Tablets that can support a full web experience and are also a useful input device will compete with netbooks for 1:1 supremacy.

Digital native kids and teachers expect a more social experience than ‘log in, follow directions, and email me if you have a problem.’ The shift from digital textbook to content libraries requires more flexibility than current learning management systems offers and will kick off more data than anyone is ready to handle.

The type of learning materials that can be produced by an organization such as Virtual Heroes is the type/quality of material that will be produced in a vision that I have been calling “The Forthcoming Walmart of Education.



Also see:

From DSC:
This is why I would encourage the U.S. government to see if they can get 1-2 billion — from the billionaires who are donating much of their wealth to charitable causes — in order to create such professionally-done, interactive, engaging, team-created learning materials.
Then make those materials available — free of charge — throughout the world.

Buffett, Gates persuade 40 billionaires to donate half of wealth — from

SEATTLE — Forty wealthy families and individuals have joined Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a pledge to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Those who have joined the Giving Pledge, as listed on its website, are: Paul G. Allen, Laura and John Arnold, Michael R. Bloomberg, Eli and Edythe Broad, Warren Buffett, Michele Chan and Patrick Soon-Shiong, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, Ann and John Doerr, Larry Ellison, Bill and Melinda Gates, Barron Hilton, Jon and Karen Huntsman, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, George B. Kaiser, Elaine and Ken Langone, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, Lorry I. Lokey, George Lucas, Alfred E. Mann, Bernie and Billi Marcus, Thomas S. Monaghan, Tashia and John Morgridge, Pierre and Pam Omidyar, Bernard and Barbro Osher, Ronald O. Perelman, Peter G. Peterson, T. Boone Pickens, Julian H. Robertson Jr., David Rockefeller, David M. Rubenstein, Herb and Marion Sandler, Vicki and Roger Sant, Walter Scott Jr., Jim and Marilyn Simons, Jeff Skoll, Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, Jim and Virginia Stowers, Ted Turner, Sanford and Joan Weill and Shelby White.

From DSC:
This is fantastic news! Excellent. I’m a big supporter of various charities myself — albeit with far fewer O’s ($$) behind the amounts of my checks than what these folks are able to provide!  🙂     But it got me to thinking…

If the United States government — or the government from another interested nation — could even get 1-2 billion of this enormous accumulation of wealth, think what could be done to create interactive, multimedia-based, engaging, customized/personalized, online learning-based materials that could be offered FREE of charge to various age groups/cognitive levels. Creative simulations and animations could be built and offered — free of charge — to students throughout the world. The materials would be available on a variety of devices for maximum flexibility (laptops, notebooks, iPads, iPhones, tablet PCs, workstations, etc.)

An amazing amount of digital scaffolding could be provided on a variety of disciplines. THIS could represent the Walmart of Education that I’ve been talking about…wow!

From DSC:
We need to deliver content in multiple ways…and let the students select what works best for them. If a particular student doesn’t connect with the information in one way, perhaps he/she will via another method.

For example…drawing from my own collegiate learning experience, I know that I would have benefited greatly from the use of animations in chemistry and organic chemistry…as I struggled all the way through those courses. I never connected with the material.

Also, they say that one really understands something when one has to teach it…so perhaps we could mentor students as they create their own teaching materials. The class of 2011 could start something…and the class of 2012 could tweak it…followed by the class of 2013, etc.

I tried to capture this a while back in the following graphic:


The transformation of textbook publishing in the Digital Age — new business models — from Xplana by Rob Reynolds

In April, we published a report on Digital Textbook Sales in U.S. Higher Education, in which we outlined sales for e-textbooks over the next five years based on current trends and variables. This series — The Transformation of Textbook Publishing in the Digital Age — provides an in-depth look at textbook publishing in Higher Education, and offers a roadmap for evolution and profitability in the industry. In this first installment, we will discuss New Business Models. In subsequent installments, we will explore New Product Models, New Authoring Models, and New Production Workflows.

My goal with this series is neither to extol nor criticize the textbook industry, but rather to provide an understanding of the business as it exists today, and to offer a digital success strategy for the companies that comprise that industry. By doing so, I hope to lay the groundwork for our subsequent summer series on The Transformation of Learning Systems, and The Transformation of Learning Content.

Strategies for New Business Models for a Digital Age

The majority of this post has been about existing practices and product/business models in the textbook publishing world. These practices and models are based on a print-centric paradigm that will be outdated within three years, and are also the result of old assumptions about Higher Education and learning in general.

While the path to digital transformation will be unique for the different publishing companies, there are some constants that will be part of any successful plan for Higher Education learning content in the coming years. The surface chatter will continue to be about e-textbooks — reaching 18%-20% of the new textbook market by 2014 — but the strategies that drive success will all take the following elements into consideration.

  • The Disaggregation of Content — Future profitability will be incumbent on publishers’ ability to conceive of and produce meaningful content at a more granular level and disaggregated from the notions of textbooks. It is not that they should produce less or different content, necessarily, but rather that content must become agile, malleable, and designed to be mashed up easily by customers — institutions, instructors, and students. This means thinking at the key concept or learning objective level. It also means arriving at new revenue streams that are also disassociated from textbooks and ISBNs.
  • A Focus on Lifelong Learning — New estimates have social media sites accounting for two-thirds of U.S. Web traffic withing five years. This growth and dominance is related to a sense of personal connectedness and long-term residence that users associate with such sites. Textbook publishers must find ways to move past outdated notions of students and instructors bound within narrow windows of consumer opportunity, and learn to embrace lifelong learning and see every adult citizen as a potential customer.
  • Embracing Self-Publishing — In the new world order of business in publishing, self-publishing will be a primary avenue for partnership and revenue. And unlike the stigma associated with self-publishing in trade fiction, the educational content market already recognizes self-published content as valuable and embraces it. In the future, textbook publishers should plan on abandoning much of their current content authoring model in favor of aggressive self-publishing services. This will lead to broader partnerships throughout the educational community as well as to more sustainable models for revenue.
  • Partner with Open Content — Make no mistake about it. Open content and open educational resources (OERs) will become leading alternatives to proprietary textbooks for at least 25% of the Higher Education market within five years.  There are many services than can be offered around OERs and there is great value in mapping OERs to existing publisher content. Textbook publishers must take advantage of this opportunity to make their content and services more relevant, or they will see the value of their businesses diminish.

In next week’s installment, I will discuss specific new product models that textbook publishers will need to embrace in order to remain competitive in the coming years.

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