How Gavin Newsom’s open textbook plan differs from Schwarzenegger’s plan to use ebook readers

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on Gavin Newsoms plan to have the state of California fund the development of online college textbooks.

My Thoughts on California’s Plan to Develop Free Textbooks

Curt, a Facebook friend, commented as follows: “Arnold tried it a decade ago….perhaps Gavin should recruit his help.” He provided the following reference.

Arnold Schwarzenegger to scrap school textbooks in favor of ebooks
Governor of California seeks to cut budget deficit by replacing ‘outdated’ textbooks with electronic reading devices
by Mark Train
9 June 2009

Here’s my response to Curt:

Thanks Curt,

Your reference is useful, but my proposal and Newsoms are both different from Arnolds.

First, Arnold was talking about K-12 where the state buys physical textbooks for the students. He wanted to replace these physical textbooks with e-books – the reading device, not the content to be read.

Both my proposal and Gavin Newsom’s have to do with college textbooks. Further, they both have to do with how the content to be read is to be created and maintained.

Newsom’s proposal is to have the state of California directly fund the development (and maintenance, I believe) of Open Educational Resources that will be online. I don’t know if there’s a plan to have the state pay to have this content printed off in the form of physical textbooks. The article on Newsom’s plan did not get into these details.

My article on Newsom’s plan contains a reference to Mikail’s article. Here is that reference:

Newsom calls textbooks “racket,” proposes money to create free ones
By Mikail Zinshteyn
13 January 2021

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend $15 million to develop more degree programs that include free textbooks, taking aim at the “usurious costs” of commercial textbooks today. The state spent $5 million on a similar program in 2016-17.

Mikail’s article does mention the possibility that these OER textbooks that Newsom wants to fund may not get used widely. In other words, he’s alluding to the fact that faculty in traditional colleges and universities want to be academically free to select the textbooks they want.

If open source textbooks get adopted widely, students could complete their college majors without ever having to spend money on textbooks, saving thousands of dollars over the course of their time pursuing degrees.”

My proposal talks about how the British Open University gets around this problem. Not only do they hire senior faculty to create and maintain content on a work-for-hire basis, they also hire teaching faculty to work out of their 300 or so teaching centers. These teaching faculty are obliged to use the content developed by the senior faculty. In other words, the OU is set up to make sure their textbook/online-course content gets developed, maintained, and used.

Newsom’s plan, on the other hand, just talks about how the state can directly fund content creation. It doesn’t talk about how they will make sure the content created actually gets used.

2 thoughts on “How Gavin Newsom’s open textbook plan differs from Schwarzenegger’s plan to use ebook readers

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