It is fun to think where we would be if we had the millions of dollars in funding that the free, and low cost, educational publishers have received. We are self-funded, and the investment doesn't come close to the funding given to OpenStax, Lumen Learning, and the other OER publishers. I am actually glad that we didn't have more money in the beginning because we would have wasted it. But now we are very efficient and the $5M or $10M the other publishers have received would go a long way with us; we probably have the highest return on investment of any of the small publishers And who would benefit the most if we had more funding? Students. Remember, we are the only publisher owned and operated by someone with over 30 years of experience in the higher education classrooms, who enjoys teaching developmental mathematics. We know our students, we are on their side; we want them to be successful. You can support us by using one of our textbooks in one of your classes.
I like OER, especially the Open part. I think some good things will come from the continued editing and refining of the products. Lumen learning has a good model for doing this. But the free part of OER is a myth. OER textbooks are not free; someone is paying for them. If the Gates Foundation donates money to OpenStax, that money didn't just appear in Bill Gates' saving account; lots of people bought computers and software, and Microsoft made money from it. On a smaller scale, if an instructor puts a book online for free, someone is paying for the computer the book was created on, and the server that displays the book. None of these Open Source, OER, or free textbooks are actually free.
Some people who support OER do so because they don't like the idea of publishers and authors benefitting financially from the educational materials they create. Do you think the employees at OpenStax are donating their time? Imagine how your travel budget compares to the person running OpenStax, or the OpenStax employees that attend the conferences you attend. Don't get me wrong, OpenStax is a good company, with an admirable mission, no one there is working for free.
When we started XYZ Textbooks our goal was to offer students a choice between reasonably priced eBooks and reasonably priced print books. (My inspiration was from my publisher at the time; they raised the price of my trigonometry book to over $300.) When we first started, our prices were lower than all the big publishers. If one of our books made it into the final three or four books for an open adoption, the other publishers in the group immediately lowered their prices. (We know this because the instructors at those schools told us.) So we had a effect on the price of textbooks, but we could not make our book free, or we would not be in business.
There is one downside to OER and the financing from big donors that is rarely talked about: If the small, independent publishers, like XYZ Textbooks, are eliminated because of OER, we may lose the innovation, drive, and mission that caused me to start XYZ Textbooks in the first place. Do you want the Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, Barnes and Noble, and the other institutions that give money to OER, to decide what educational materials we will use in the future? They have their place in higher education, and they are making materials available to us that we would not otherwise have, but I don't think we want lose the small, independent publishers in the meantime.
How can you help? You can help support us, and the other small publishers, by using our materials in one section of one of your courses. Its that simple.
I just installed the Canvas App on my iPhone and now I can access the courses I am teaching in the Canvas Free for Teachers LMS. The trick is to input the school as canvas.instructure.com. I installed both the Canvas Teacher app and the Canvas Student app. That way I can see what my students see when they install the app. I think the courses look great on the phone.
Here is a link to a file explaining the process of getting the app and then logging in to your courses:
Installing and Using the Canvas App
Publishers are pushing students away from print and moving them to digital. But the research mentioned in the article below shows that students overwhelmingly say they learn better with print. I have said this before: My experience is that this difference is even more pronounced in mathematics, especially college developmental mathematics. Students never said they did not want print textbooks; they just didn't want to pay the high prices publishers were asking. Let's give our students a chance to buy print books at reasonable prices, and not force them into digital only. Here is the article:
2 reasons beyond prices that this merger of textbook publishers should worry every college student
Ten years ago we published our first book at XYZ Textbooks. This year we are publishing the second edition of that book. As you can see, our revision cycles are much longer than the traditional revision cycles. Here is a video with the details on our new edition..
All of our Fall 2019 courses are FREE. The state of California has eliminated almost all of our traditional developmental math courses, but our students are still underprepared for the transfer level math and statistics courses. Making our courses free gives our underprepared students a pathway to success; send them to us and we will get them up to speed and ready to pass a college level math or statistics course. Here are the links to the bootcamps website and to a flyer you can put up in your classroom if you want to share this information with your students:
I just noticed a LinkedIn post from Macmillan Learning, that they are hiring students for Summer 2019 to test and evaluate some Macmillan products. I did something similar with students in a college algebra course I was teaching and the experience completely changed my career. Here is what happened: On the last day of class, I passed around a sigh-up sheet for anyone in the class that was looking for a summer job. I was writing a college algebra text and I wanted the students to give me their opinions on some of the features in the book and to proofread and edit the book. Six students signed up. The first thing we did was have them take 45 minutes and read one section of the book - approximately six pages. Then we met and discussed what they liked about the section, and where they thought it could be improved. Their comments and insight about what I had written were impressive. But more than that, their conscientiousness for what they were doing surprised me. I knew them fairly well after spending a whole semester with them. But I had never seen them this enthusiastic about anything we had done in class. After working with them for a week, I was curious to see what would happen if I put them in the TV studio to record them working problems. I was surprised by how easily they took direction, and how they improved their presentations with very little coaching. They were much easier to teach in the studio, than they were in the classroom. (I believe this was because they knew their videos would end up public for other students to watch on YouTube.) So we changed direction and spent the rest of the summer doing videos. The result was MathTV.com.
Four of the students in the photo above were from that original group of six students. We used the photo for the banner across to top of the first MathTV home page. A couple of years later we started XYZ Textbooks. The creation of these companies completely changed my career, and it started with those original six students from my college algebra class.
Macmillan Learning is on the right track. If they give their summer students a little room to be creative, and if they listen to what the students are saying, it could be a very exciting summer at Macmillan.
Last year we offered an online Factoring Bootcamp course using the IXL system for our assessments. Their program is excellent. The problems are good, and they gradually increase in difficulty as students progress through the topic. If a student misses a problem, the program backs them up to an easier version of the problem. And, remediation built into the system; each problem is accompanied by three or four suggested problems for those students that feel they are not ready to tackle the given problem. The look and feel of the website is also excellent. You can see the Factoring Bootcamp class itself, and the links to IXL, at www.mathtvcourses.com.
I bought access for up to 25 students in the course, then, as students enrolled, we had them pay $10 for the course. My only problem was that I needed to add them to the roster manually. Then IXL would generate a username for each student and I would have to email them individually because each username was unique. If there was an easier way to get students to pay us for access, and then enroll in the course at the same time, I would recommend IXL to anyone in higher education who is teaching mathematics online. Of course, you can still recommend the website to your students, and even point them to the problems you want them to work on. If they want their scores recorded, so they can see their progress, they would need to pay for an account on IXL.
Overall, a great site for online homework problems. Here is a link to the site: https://www.ixl.com/
I know when I started paying for software. It was in 2003. No one announced it, I noticed its effect on my royalty statement. It was one book that had a net price drop on the royalty statement of around $10, but the actual price of the book students bought had actually increased. When I contacted the royalty department, they knew all about it. They even had a name for it - Value Added. If something was packaged with a book it fell under the category of Value Added. The book became a package that included the book and software, quick start guides, and other items. Each of the additional items were called Value Added, and each of the items was assigned a value. The textbook price became the price of the package, but royalties were only paid on the textbook portion of the package price. In other words, software was added an a Value Added item, but no royalties were paid on it. I told them I never agreed to this and, to their credit, they corrected all the royalty statements. But I wonder how many other Cengage authors are unaware that this is a common practice with Cengage. And I wonder if this is happening across the board with the new Cengage Unlimited pricing model.
I am in a book group that doesn't read books over 250 pages. That's why we call it the Short Attention Span Book Club (SASBC). The group was started in 2012 by my friend Will Jones. We have been meeting every month since then and I have read over 50 books, which is probably 45 more books than i would have read on my own. Will is a former English teacher who loves literature. He started us off with a two-column list of possible books to read. We have expanded the list since then. One column of the list is classics and the other is contemporary titles. (Our current list is below). Some of the books have actually been longer than 250 pages, but not by much.
All the posts you see here have been, or will be, posted on my LinkedIn account. If you want to see them as they are released, follow me on LinkedIn: