The idea of remixing textbooks and mashing up various sources has been around for a while. Most of the companies offering these services sound great, but just didn’t catch on in a big way. But that may change – Pearson announced today that they will be jumping into the textbook remix/mash-up arena with Project Blue Sky.
Of course, instructors have been doing mash-ups with photocopying machines forever, with many of them switching over to scanners and PDFs once they take their courses digital. My prediction is that the price point on these “mash-up” textbooks will be the make-or-break of this project. Students have already grown tired of over-priced digital textbooks.
Another issue to consider is what else can be mixed into the content. What about interactive activities? Videos? If you are going to put these on a mobile device, will you be able to insert blog posts and other websites into the content? Will the authors of these websites be compensated for their inclusion?
I am also curious to see if there will be some kind of bulk rate for entire schools. Most schools purchase access to journals and other electronic research materials… why not just buy access to textbooks also? Then you can mix in journal articles with the chapters from the text book you want, and the students don’t have to pay extra for textbooks on top of fees. Or maybe they just have a low, flat textbook fee each semester? If they focus Project Blue Sky on individual instructors, it will basically just become as convoluted as our current textbook system is – just a bit easier on the back. But focus it on entire Universities – you might have a massive, customizable tool right at your fingertips.
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.