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Colleges to Drop Traditional Textbooks for Open Educational Resources

The national reform network for community colleges, Achieving the Dream (ATD), has announced that they will be taking the initiative to develop degree programs that will use open educational resources (OER). The OER Degree Initiative makes it so that programs will use openly licensed learning materials as opposed to purchasing expensive textbooks, saving their students thousands of dollars.

Currently, the cost of textbooks averages to about $1,300 for a full-time community college student. For the millions of students, the cost of textbooks alone prevents students from completing their education. The OER Degree Initiative will be implemented to save students money and improve the rate of college completion. According to a press release, “…there are enough open educational materials to replace textbooks in required courses in four two-year programs: business administration, general education, natural or general science, and social science. But only a few colleges are using those resources.”

“Through the OER Degree Initiative, these community colleges are simultaneously addressing two important challenges faced by educators and students: Not only will they provide their faculty the flexibility and academic freedom to align their open educational resources to curriculum objectives, but also, by lowering textbook costs, they will make it far more likely that their students will achieve the goal of attaining a degree,” said Barbara Chow, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For this initiative, ATD will be in charge of assisting colleges in making the OER degree an important factor in their student’s efforts for success. Upon the initial implementation, the OER courses will be available on an online platform.

The OER Degree Initiative is backed by grants from foundations totaling $9.8 million. Participating colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process “based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of selections offered,” according to a news release.

For more information, please visit the article here or the Achieving the Dream site

Blackboard Partners with ReadSpeaker

ReadSpeaker is the worldwide leader in online text to speech. In 1999, ReadSpeaker created the first-ever speech-enabling solution for websites followed by the first web-based platform for producing digital talking books. ReadSpeaker speech-enables content in 40+ languages and 100+ voices. All of ReadSpeaker’s products are web-based and work with all browsers (Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, Chrome, Lynx, etc.). Having their products be web-based allows users to avoid tedious downloads and allows users to access their products from any location.

ReadSpeaker has teamed up with Blackboard to make its text-to-speech technology more available to students around the world. Enabling text to speech is an important pillar of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Rather than reading through challenging articles, auditory learners can simply listen to the content on-demand. This not only benefits those who prefer to learn by listening, but also students that are language learners. Students with visual impairments and with certain learning disabilities will also benefit from ReadSpeaker and Blackboard’s collaboration.

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(Photo Credit: ReadSpeaker Website)

Blackboard is committed to improving accessibility to learners. Katie Blot, senior vice president of corporate strategy & industry relations at Blackboard, shared that the partnership between Blackboard and ReadSpeaker will help make learning more adaptable and accessible for educators and learners.

Text-to-Speech is opening doors to help students access higher education.

Click here to learn more.

Stephen Fry Launches Pindex, a “Pinterest for Education”

Pindex is also known as “a Pinterest for education”, making use of the powerful educational tool that the Internet can be.

Pindex is able to create educational videos for students and teachers. Stephen Fry was responsible for providing creative direction and is also the voice to one of the first videos.

Other videos focus on science and technology including drones and robots. John Leaver, one of the co-founders, explained that the idea of Pindex came from the same boring material that his daughter would bring home from school. He wanted to make topics more engaging and allow teachers to share their best material.

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While Fry has been involved with other significant projects such as Pushnote and Summly, he is planning to invest a lot of time to Pindex. He wants to make sure he creates high quality material. As Pindex grows, it will be using material from external makers such as Youtube bloggers. That way, their audience can expand as well as get insight from any other sources.

For more info, visit the article here.

Virtual Classroom

Teachers are now receiving more support to prepare them for an actual classroom. The University of Central Florida gives educators-in-training the option of practicing their teaching skills in a virtual classroom.

The program is called TeachLive, the first of its kind. The course challenges educators to navigate social, pedagogical and professional hurdles all at once. Educators are challenged to manage the classroom when the avatars misbehave, act in strange patterns, or ask difficult questions. Each avatar comes with their own personality. One avatar will interrupt class with their opinions on the lesson or teach, another avatar is the class chatterbox. Educators will also work with an avatar that is particularly anxious and may curl up on the floor of the classroom. With each session, the program allows users to change classroom events and avatar characteristics. Educators can practice responding to a targeted behavior or even to student disabilities.

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The program can also be set to specific teacher needs. TeachLive uses Skype conference call and a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor power. TeachLive is being used at more than 80 campuses across the U.S to train some of the next generation of educators. The team at TeachLive is exploring in which technology can be used to help people.

Click here to read more.

Quizlet

One of the most old-fashioned ways of studying is the use of flashcards. On one side there is usually a word or description and on the back is the answer. This is a great way for students to test their memorization depending on the subject. However, making flashcards and storing them can be tedious. Some cards could get lost and having a huge stack of cards doesn’t make traveling and studying on the go easy.

Quizlet is an app that takes all of your flashcard problems and stores it into an app on your phone. This app is available in the Google Play and Apple App Store. The point of this app is to help alleviate the stress of storing and making flashcards. You can simply type into your phone what goes on each side and when you’re done, you have yourself your very own digital stack of flashcards. This makes studying on the go easier and faster to create.

You also have the ability of adding images and audio to each card as well. This might make memorizing certain pieces of art or pictures that are associated with the description. Because of the capability of adding audio, you can record yourself speaking key details to remember and it’s a great way for you to memorize the words you spoke.

Another feature on the app is that you can make your flashcards public for anyone to view and use. In turn, there are thousands of other flashcard decks that might help you study for your next test as well.

Besides studying for current classes, you can also study and learn a new language. They have a customized deck that provide learners a way to memorize words in a multitude of languages. There is also audio for each word and the speaker is native to their language. This making learning a new language not only easier but it also helps with your pronunciation and recognition of real native speakers.

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