Archive for July, 2012

eBook Review: Kno – Follow Up

We last checked in on Kno in October and if you haven’t already read the initial review, I recommend a quick return as the first review covers the general process of buying your book and accessing basic features of the Kno platform. But now it’s nine months later and as with anything in the technology world, things don’t wait for a calendar year to change before they do. So I checked back in on Kno I and found some pretty cool new features.

Pen: This new tool allows you to write your notes anywhere within the digital textbook or any PDF you add to your library. You no longer need to open a new note and type in your comments. You can circle, star, or even doodle in your eBook now. This feature is only available for Kno on iPad.


Dropbox: Easily import PDFs or other course materials directly into your course manager in the Kno library. Once imported, any digital document or PDF can take full advantage of the Kno platform. This feature is only available for Kno on iPad.


Android and Web Integration: Kno now allows you to access your course manager on iPad, Android (coming soon), and the Web. While the multiple devices are not in synch with one another, this does expand the learning environment if you head home for a weekend and forget your iPad and it surely bodes for further synching in the future.

As we get closer to back-to-school rush, I expect to see more updates from Kno and other eBook technology providers. You can always read about other eBook review, here. Stay tuned and I will keep you updated. In the meantime, stay cool.

College Tuition Continues to Rise

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, average tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate attending a four-year college increased substantially from 2009/10 to 2011/12. The increase for a public institution was 9% in state and 6% out of state. Nonprofit institutions reported a 4% increase. For-profit institutions reported no change.

The cost of a four-year undergraduate program at a public institution will now cost around $7,200 for in-state students, $16,500 for out of state students, and $23,300 for non-profit.

More stats can be found by downloading the report.

Nebraska Book Emerges from Chapter 11

As I reported in March of 2011 , Nebraska Book Company filled for Chapter 11 bankrupcty protection. Earlier this week, the company announced plans to emerge from Chapter 11. The smaller, leaner, less debt-ridden company will now be under new management with Barry Major taking over the CEO role and Master Capital as the new largest stakeholder (along with 15 others).

Based on news articles, it seems that Nebraska will maintain their 250 off-campus bookstores but focus growth efforts on on-campus leasing. In addition, Nebraska will further develop their retail-facing brand Neebo as an online destination for textbook rentals and purchases.

More information can be found here:

Free Textbooks – Crowd funding Your Next Idea

Crowd funding is a term in our new social-media-based society and we should become more comfortable with it and the larger tech-lexicon. Similar to “viral” of a few years back, I am hearing “crowdsourcing” more and more. The concept is basic, but it’s pretty cool and far reaching in its implications. In a nutshell: a person has an idea (such as creating a free textbook), that creator registers and posts the idea on a crowdsourcing funding website such as The post describes the textbook project, why the creator is qualified to proceed, and the vision for the funds and execution. People who believe in the project and contribute money are called “backers” and the project only gets the green light if the target funding is met (or exceeded). The fun part is that the creator can market his or her Kickstarter project and page and even add incentives for various levels of support (think NPR or PBS pledge drive but with stuff cooler than a mug or totebag).

Well, that is just what Brendan Myers, a philosophy professor at Heritage College in Quebec, did. Prof. Myers realized that many of his students would show up to class without the required textbook. After asking them why they didn’t have the book, he was often told that they just couldn’t afford it. To help students in his own classes, Myers decided to write his own textbook (Clear and Present Thinking) and he digitized and emailed PDF copies to his students.

The problem in education — no, one of the problems in education — is that just writing a book isn’t enough to get it widespread use across other campuses. It takes money and time and peer reviews and publisher interest, lots of all. That said, Myers’ text was limited to his classes at his university. At this point he used Kickstarter to develop a campaign to raise the money necessary to create a professional version of his book that could be more widely applicable and distributed.

The original goal of the campaign was to raise $5,000. The campaign recently closed raising $16,872 and funded by 707 backers. Five backers each gave more than $250 while 11 each gave between $100 and $249. Pretty amazing if you ask me and unheard of a couple of semesters ago.

With the extra money, Myers will be creating a French-language edition and audiobook edition of the textbook. With any extra money over $15,000, he will be creating a series of dramatic readings from the works of Plato as the works are core curriculum in philosophy courses across the world. Now that’s a project I can get behind.

Massive Open Online Courses

My search through Open Education Resources is opening my eyes to the quality and quantity of information available. Earlier I discussed the 500 Free Online Course from Top Universities . It’s fair to say that those resources triggered greater curiosity in me and I have started to dig deeper in order to see what other free courses are available and the quality of the listings and content.

In researching, I came across Udacity  and Coursera. These two providers represent what is now being called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). To give you a sense of the scope and impact, last fall Stanford did an experiment and provided an online/on-campus course on Artificial Intelligence. Enrollment for the online class was 160,000 students in 190 countries! As the class went on, many enrolled in-class students (about 200 to start) shrank to about 30 as many of them opted to take the class online.

With lots of money pouring in  and new courses being developed, this brave new world of MOOCs is sure to make an impact on how education is presented and received.

Consider this: if you are a working professional who needs to go back to school, you can use these course as a refresher prior to (or along with) taking the class you need. If you are a student having trouble with a class or professor, you can find alternatives that may help you master the material. If you are a professor, you can incorporate a bevy of new resources. If you are a member of a state government and you want to make your community-college education more affordable, you can now offer courses based upon economical material. If you are a lifelong learner who is simply curious, you can further your knowledge on your time . . . the opportunities are endless!

500 Free Courses, 150 Free Textbooks from Top Universities

The concept of Open Education Resources (OER) is not new by any stretch of the imagination yet most people remain unfamiliar with this free resource, if only because there is no publisher, author, or seller owning and promoting it.

Since OER is mostly produced via grassroots efforts, it is hard to find the best works, review them, and integrate them into the textbook of the future. Making the problem more difficult is the fact that by its nature, OER content is free so not many entrepreneurs are spending time and money to create the tools necessary to make the discovery easier. There’s simply no profit potential (that’s recognized and capitalized upon yet).

So for now, discovery of such resources is done on a small scale, mostly by individuals, small like-minded Web-based communities, and one-off recommendations. To this point, I wanted to share with you the gem that is and its 500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. This collection includes courses in the liberal arts and the sciences. Each courses is an audio and/or video download that you can add straight to your computer or MP3 player.

In addition, OpenCulture has also created a list of 150 Free Textbooks. Similar to the courses, this list goes topic by topic to provide links to free textbooks for many of the basic courses taught at higher-education institutions today. This list isn’t new but it is growing all the time. Keep checking back as they add more content.

So now that you know, why not take some time to learn something new today? It’ll never be cheaper than free.

Stats and Facts on Investing in the Education Technology Sector

Ever wonder who’s investing in education? What trends are taking shape and how things changing in terms of financial backing? Well, the world of ed-tech is not nearly as hot as some other industries when it comes to capital and investments, but that’s not to say that it isn’t growing and full of potential. We’ve all heard the stories of Chegg raising money, and while they are indeed in the pole position, there are plenty of other drivers on the track. Could we really be in a boom-time for education startups and a heated race to reach a lucrative finish?

Here’s some indication that we may be: GSV is a strategic firm that is focused on the education sector and a major player in the ASU Education Summit. Earlier this month, they released the first in a two-part series called “Fall of the Wall – Capital Flows to Education Innovation.” This 110-page document reviews the current state of the education sector and describes trends and facts that are transforming the sector as we speak. This is a must-read for anyone who covers or follows the education space and I didn’t want you to miss it. Give it a read and let me know your thoughts.

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