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EdBooks Promotes Sustainability and Affordability in Open Education Publishing
Posted On December 5, 2017
EdBooks, a relative newcomer based in Oklahoma City, is challenging the parameters of open education and affordable publishing through its flexible, high-quality, and sustainable learning solutions.

EdBooks’ Equation for Success in Open Education

When we hear a phrase such as “open education,” we may wrongly think of unstructured content and unreliable sources, which leads to questions of educational value, credibility, and stability. Thwarting these concerns, EdBooks has created an open model for general education that is content-rich and sustainable while remaining financially viable:

Quality + Affordability + Flexibility = Life-Learning for the 21st Century

Unlike typical textbook publishers, EdBooks concentrates on affordable, flexible, and open content that is designed for learner engagement. Three main factors set EdBooks apart from its competition when it comes to 21st-century academic publishing. At the forefront are its lesson design and content development. Both are initiated at the concept level, which means content areas are “broken down into their constituent concepts and create self-contained, stand-alone lessons for each concept,” according to EdBooks’ CEO Rob Reynolds. The stackability of these individualized lessons (its Stackable Lessons model) provides an unparalleled flexibility, allowing curricula to be highly specialized and customized. This method ensures that the lessons are optimally relevant to the needs of the learner.

The second factor relates to the Stackable Lessons technology. Stackable Lessons are versatile, allowing instructors to formulate their curricula materials for optimized student engagement while avoiding the course-textbook silos often found in traditional publishing’s textbook catalogs. These catalogs rigidly associate a designated text with a specific course. A detailed general-education taxonomy structure is behind Stackable Lessons. These taxonomies were developed to allow for a combination of lessons that best accommodate individualized needs. Interrelated taxonomies ensure that all media, books, lessons, etc., produced by EdBooks use vocabularies that are standardized across its greater curriculum library. Using a robust taxonomy structure further allows Stackable Lessons to blend seamlessly together.

Lastly, EdBooks understands, demonstrates, and thereby encourages individuality within general-education curriculum design. Instructional design via the homegrown Stackable Lessons model provides the essential flexibility needed in a variety of education modalities—traditional classroom settings, hybrid courses, or courses run 100% online.

Mission and Values: Supporting Learners

Large-scale publishers—whether predatory or not—and EdBooks have divergent product and service goals. EdBooks’ focus on fostering affordable, open general education and lifelong learning is a testament to how integrated curriculum approaches are more than a textbook or lesson. EdBooks has developed a holistic approach and toolset that allow students to strengthen their foundation of knowledge and grow to their full potential. The Stackable Lessons model is forward-thinking, accommodates learning-style diversity, and comes neatly packaged with a modest price tag.

Just as a high monetary cost is not representative of high quality, the value of a course is not gleaned by assessing the material cost:

High Cost ≠ High Quality

High Cost ≠ High Value

EdBooks’ mission is put into practice though its affordable prices (the company heads firmly believe that no book should ever cost more than $20), engaging lessons, and lifetime access to purchased materials. The cost to learners is kept low by reverse-engineering it. Essentially, cost models for each lesson are developed on the premise that the price of $19 includes a rich-media book, full services (e.g., updates and support), and lifetime access.

The learning solutions EdBooks develops promote information retention and the application of learned knowledge through student engagement with the resources. We live in a time when the cost of education is steadily rising, making it decreasingly realistic for many knowledge-seekers. EdBooks is making education attainable through its learning solutions. This kind of social impact represents its success.

OERs and OA

EdBooks values the integration of high-quality, openly licensed content to promote sustainability and scalability. Reynolds acknowledges that “faculty have traditionally wondered about the longevity of the OERs they adopt, asking who will update the content and who will provide support.” As a solution to this concern, EdBooks built its learning model to include updates and support so that it actively engages with technological advancement and product improvement.

EdBooks has shown its support for the OA movement through the use of OA materials (approximately 30%) within its learning products. The vetting process of OA content is highly selective. The chief content officer (CCO) has developed and curated a library of quality resources. All OA materials are required to be in alignment with EdBooks’ Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) content license, which allows EdBooks to share content with noncommercial partners to ensure that it remains accessible to users. All resources approved by the CCO coexist with the style and pedagogy valued by EdBooks.

Building a Sustainable Future

As the winds of technology are constantly changing directions, EdBooks’ learning solutions and Stackable Lessons must remain nimble and interoperable. The evolution of technology equates to building content in ways that are malleable enough to adapt to change and yet robust enough to withstand it. EdBooks’ commitment to ensuring lifetime access to content influenced its course development through the use of a template. Simplicity in content design allows for hosting in many platforms and formats. Additionally, students are permitted to download lessons in PDF without restrictions pertaining to quantity or sharing options.

The design and development steps taken mitigate technological obsolescence while fostering interoperability through the potential of integration with new platforms and formats. With the ebb and flow of technological trends, including file format support, EdBooks’ commitment to accessibility in addition to high-quality content and affordability is admirable and gives the company a unique advantage.  

Kelly LeBlanc is a knowledge management specialist at FireOak Strategies, where she specializes in OA, open data, data management, geographic information systems (GIS), and data/information governance issues. Prior to joining FireOak, LeBlanc was with the Digital Initiatives Unit at the University of Alberta, where she worked with GISs, metadata, spatial, and research data. She served in various municipal planning and development capacities working with GISs, municipal law, planning/zoning regulations, and resource management. LeBlanc holds an M.L.I.S. from the University of Alberta and a master of letters from the University of Glasgow.

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