🔖 OpenStax

Bookmarked OpenStax (openstax.org)
Our high-quality educational tools give students access to the learning materials they need to succeed, at little to no cost. Because we don't believe anything should come between students and their future.


🔖 The American Yawp | Stanford University Press

Bookmarked The American Yawp (Stanford University Press)
A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook

Apparently one of the most annotated texts within Hypothes.is

👓 OER as an Institutional Survival Strategy | Inside Higher Ed

Read OER as an Institutional Survival Strategy by Matt Reed (Inside Higher Ed)
The difference between “tuition and fees” and “total cost of attendance.”

A nice highlighting of why administrators should be pushing for OER. Unfortunately lost here is the actual cost of the remainder of the enterprise. Where do these OER resources come from? Who creates them? Who gets paid to create and maintain them? Or quite often, whose resources, time, and effort are being exploited to use them? Additionally, who on the institutional level is being paid to talk about OER, push it, educate educators about it, and help professors adopt it?

While it’s readily transparent how his accounting works in this limited example, there’s a lot more accounting and transparency that needs to be taken into account.

Let’s not take the cost and just shift it to others who are also ill-equipped to handle it.

👓 University issues statement on textbook pricing | Louisiana.edu

Read University issues statement on textbook pricing (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette issued the following statement regarding the pricing of textbook and software materials needed for Accounting 201 and 202. It can be attributed to Dr. Jaimie Hebert, the University’s provost. “We want to make it very clear to our students and the public that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette makes every effort to ensure that the materials required for courses are affordable. “We welcome the opportunity to clarify some confusion that resulted from the pricing of materials for Accounting 201 and 202.

👓 University’s $999 online textbook creates confusion and outrage | Inside Higher Ed

Read University's $999 online textbook creates confusion and outrage (Inside Higher Ed)
An online textbook priced at almost $1,000 has infuriated students trying to navigate an already confusing textbook marketplace, but Louisiana-Lafayette officials insist they had "good intentions."

This reporting doesn’t drill in far enough. Surely there are a few dozen textbooks that cover all of the same material that are roughly equivalent. What are those textbook prices? What about OER textbooks and their relative prices? Why is the department or even the professors doing anything but recommending textbooks? Why aren’t the students given the freedom to choose their own textbooks?

📑 Anomie – Wikipedia | Annotations about economics

Annotated Anomie (Wikipedia)
Anomie (/ˈænəˌmi/) is a "condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals".[1] It is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community, e.g., under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values.

I can’t help but see this definition and think it needs to be applied to economics immediately. In particular I can think of a few quick examples of economic anomie which are artificially covering up a free market and causing issues within individual communities.

College Textbooks

Here publishers are marketing to professors who assign particular textbooks and subverting students which are the actual market and consumers of those textbooks. This causes an inflated market and has allowed textbook prices to spiral out of control.

The American Health Care Market

In this example, the health care providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) have been segmented away from their consumers (patients) by intermediary insurance companies which are driving the market to their own good rather than a free-er set of smaller (and importantly local) markets that would be composed of just the sellers and the buyers. As a result, the consumer of health care has no ability to put a particular price on what they’re receiving (and typically they rarely ever ask, even more so when they have insurance). This type of economic anomie is causing terrific havoc within the area.

(Aside: while the majority of health care markets is very small in size (by distance), I will submit that the advent of medical tourism does a bit to widen potential markets, but this segment of the market is tiny and very privileged in comparison.)


In a non-economic setting it also seems to be highly applicable to social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, et al as they break social norms. I’ll have to circle back to write a longer essay about this with regard to the IndieWeb movement.

👓 ‘Inclusive access’ takes off as model for college textbook sales | Inside HigherEd

Read 'Inclusive access' takes off as model for college textbook sales (insidehighered.com)
Hundreds of colleges are signing on to publishers’ programs, with apparent savings to students. Some applaud the movement, while others are skeptical.

Inclusive Access is a great marketing term. It sounds nice, but has some insidious implications. It would be interesting to do some additonal in-depth reporting on the economics of these models. The article could have done at least a back of the envelop calculation and been far more skeptical of what was going on here.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The “inclusive” aspect of the model means that every student has the same materials on the first day of class, with the charge included as part of their tuition.  

It almost sounds to me like they know they’re not getting a cut of the money from poorer students who are finding the material for free online anyway, so they’re trying to up the stakes of the piece of pie that they’re getting from a different angle.

This other model of subscription at the level of the college or university is also one that they’re well aware of based on involvement with subscription fees for journal access.
August 21, 2018 at 10:17PM

She said that her institution, which has inclusive-access agreements with more than 25 publishers, had saved students more than $2 million this semester alone. Morrone said this figure was calculated by taking the retail price of a textbook, subtracting the cost that students paid for the equivalent etextbook and then dividing the cost saving in half to account for the fact that many students would not have bought the book new.  

$ 2million compared to what? To everyone having purchased the textbooks at going rates before? This is a false comparison because not everyone bought new in the first place. Many bought used, and many more still probably either pirated, borrowed from a friend, from the library, or simply went without.
August 21, 2018 at 10:21PM

Students like the convenience of the system, said Anderson, and all have access to the most up-to-date content, instead of some students having different editions of the same textbook.  

They’re also touting the most up-to-date content here, when it’s an open secret that for the majority of textbooks don’t really change that much from edition to edition.
August 21, 2018 at 10:24PM

A key difference between inclusive access and buying print textbooks is that students effectively lease the content for the duration of their course, rather than owning the material. If students want to download the content to access it beyond the duration of their course, there is often an additional fee.  

So now we need to revisit the calculation above and put this new piece of data into the model.

Seriously?! It’s now a “rental price”?
August 21, 2018 at 10:26PM

Campus stores are often the ones driving inclusive-access initiatives, as they receive a cut of the sales. While the profit margins are smaller than for print, inclusive access means that the stores receive revenue from a larger number of customers. Donovan Garcia, course materials manager at the University of Mary Washington, said that lower margins were also mitigated by lower overheads. “We’re not purchasing books, we’re not paying shipping, we’re not having to put any time or effort into returning unused books or paying restocking fees,” said Garcia.  

I suspect the publisher is also saving on sales commissions to their sales staff as well.
August 21, 2018 at 10:27PM

👓 Why a professor buys his books from the bookstore | Chuck Pearson

Read Why a professor buys his books from the bookstore by Chuck Pearson (Another fine mess)
Friday, I made a visit to my campus bookstore, and I bought my books. The guy who runs Tusculum’s bookstore, Cliff Hoy, is a great guy, and the work that Tusculum’s bookstore does is fi…

👓 My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice | Robin DeRosa

Read My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice by Robin DeRosaRobin DeRosa (actualham)
I’ve spent some time talking about open pedagogy at several universities this Spring, and in each of those presentations and workshops, I have usually mentioned The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, an OER anthology that my students and I produced last year for an American literature survey course I taught.  When I talk about the anthology, it’s usually to make a point about open pedagogy.  I began the project with the simple desire to save my students about $85 US, which is how much they were (ostensibly) paying for the Heath Anthology of American Literature Volume A.  Most of the actual texts in the Heath were public domain texts, freely available and not under any copyright restrictions.  As the Heath produced new editions (of literature from roughly 1400-1800!), forcing students to buy new textbooks or be irritatingly out of sync with page numbers, and as students turned to rental markets that necessitated them giving their books back at the end of the semester, I began to look in earnest for an alternative.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Most of the actual texts in the Heath were public domain texts, freely available and not under any copyright restrictions.  As the Heath produced new editions (of literature from roughly 1400-1800!), forcing students to buy new textbooks or be irritatingly out of sync with page numbers, and as students turned to rental markets that necessitated them giving their books back at the end of the semester, I began to look in earnest for an alternative.  

Repackaging public domain texts and charging a steep markup too much above and beyond the cost of the paper is just highway robbery. Unless a publisher is adding some actual annotative or analytical value, they shouldn’t be charging outrageous prices for textbooks of this nature.
August 13, 2018 at 12:14PM

If OER is free, what hidden costs exist in its production? Making these textbooks is taking me a chunk of time in the off-season.  Thanks to my salaried position, I feel ok about putting in the overtime, but it’s a privilege my colleagues who teach under year-to-year part-time non-contracts can’t afford. Who should be funding OER creation? Institutions? Students? For-profit start-ups? How will you invest time in this project without obscuring the true costs of academic labor? Right now, we pass the corruptly high cost of academic publishing onto the backs of academia’s most vulnerable members: students. But as OER gains steam, we need to come up with funding models that don’t land us back in the same quagmire of exploitation that we were trying to get out of.  

This is a nearly perfect question and something to watch in the coming years.
August 13, 2018 at 12:35PM

working in public, and asking students to work in public, is fraught with dangers and challenges.  

August 13, 2018 at 12:36PM

What David told me was his energy, enthusiasm in the class was at a much higher level with the OER approach. Sure we choose the polished “professional” textbook because of its assumed high standards, quality etc, but then its a more passive relationship a teacher has with it. I make the comparison to growing and/or making your own food versus having it prepared or taking it out of a package. Having produced our own food means we know everything about it from top to bottom, and the pride in doing that has to make the whole experience much more energized.  

As I read both this post and this comment from Alan, I can’t help but think again about scholars in the 14th century who taught students. It was more typical of the time that students were “forced” to chose their own textbooks–typically there were fewer, and at the advent of the printing press they were significantly higher in price. As a result students had to spend more time and attention, as Robin indicates here, to come up with useful things.

Even in this period students often annotated their books, which often got passed on to other students and even professors which helped future generations. So really, we’re not reinventing the wheel here, we’re just doing it anew with new technology that makes doing it all the easier.

As a reference, I’ll suggest folks interested in this area read Owen Gingerich’s The Book Nobody Read which I recall as being one of the texts I’ve read that references early teaching and textbook practices during that time period.
August 13, 2018 at 12:44PM

As the new school year draws near and enthusiasts continue to push the benefits of #OER, let’s also take  a moment to remember and celebrate the ability of students to choose their own educational resources and books.

Teachers need to do a better job of providing options, flexibility, and guidance in the panoply of choices available to students of all income levels and abilities. Increased choice at the student level will drastically improve both the literal and proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Here’s some additional detail I wrote on this day a few years back:

On Choosing Your Own Textbooks

👓 The Theranos Story and Education Technology | Inside Higher Ed

Read The Theranos Story and Education Technology (Inside Higher Ed)
A great new book has me thinking about ed tech.

This is an interesting and useful analogy.

In ed tech, schools are the customers, but students are the users.

This also reminds me of the market disconnect between students and their textbooks. Professors are the ones targeted for the “sale” or adoption when the actual purchasers are the students. This causes all kinds of problems in the way the textbook market works and tends to drive prices up–compared to a market in which the student directly chooses their textbook. (And the set up is not too dissimilar to how the healthcare industry works in which the patient (customer) is making a purchase of health care coverage and not actually the health care itself.

🔖 actualham tweet about interactive glossary/encyclopedia for challenging technical/academic jargon that can be layered into textbooks

Bookmarked a tweet by Robin DeRosa on TwitterRobin DeRosa on Twitter (Twitter)

👓 Pearson Embedded a ‘Social-Psychological’ Experiment in Students’ Educational Software | Gizmodo

Read Pearson Embedded a 'Social-Psychological' Experiment in Students' Educational Software [Updated] (Gizmodo)
Education and publishing giant Pearson is drawing criticism after using its software to experiment on over 9,000 math and computer science students across the country. In a paper presented Wednesday at the American Association of Educational Research, Pearson researchers revealed that they tested the effects of encouraging messages on students that used the MyLab Programming educational software during 2017's spring semester.

Introduction to Complex Analysis–Part 2 | UCLA Extension

The second in a series of two quarters of advanced math focusing on complex analysis

The topic for Mike Miller’s UCLA Winter math course isn’t as much a surprise as is often the case. During the summer he had announced he would be doing a two quarter sequence on complex analysis, so this Winter, we’ll be continuing on with our complex analysis studies.

I do know, however, that there were a few who couldn’t make part of the Fall course, but who had some foundation in the subject and wanted to join us for the more advanced portion in the second half. Toward that end, below are the details for the course:

Introduction to Complex Analysis: Part II | MATH X 451.41 – 350370

Course Description

Complex analysis is one of the most beautiful and practical disciplines of mathematics, with applications in engineering, physics, and astronomy, to say nothing of other branches of mathematics.  This course, the second in a two-part sequence, builds on last quarter’s development of the differentiation and integration of complex functions to extend the principles to more sophisticated and elegant applications of the theory.  Topics to be discussed include conformal mappings, Laurent series and meromorphic  functions, Riemann surfaces, Riemann Mapping Theorem, analytical continuation, and Picard’s Theorem.  The course should appeal to those whose work involves the application of mathematics to engineering problems, and to those interested in how complex analysis helps explain the structure and behavior of the more familiar real number system and real-variable calculus.

Winter 2017
Days: Tuesdays
Time: 7:00PM to 10:00PM
Dates: Jan 10, 2017 to Mar 28, 2017
Contact Hours: 33.00
Location: UCLA, Math Sciences Building
Course Fee(s): $453.00
Available for Credit: 3 units
Instructors: Michael Miller
No refund after January 24, 2017.
Class will not meet on one Tuesday to be announced.

Recommended Textbook: Complex Analysis with Applications by Richard A. Silverman, Dover Publications; ISBN 0-486-64762-5


Enroll Now

For many who will register, this certainly won’t be their first course with Dr. Miller–yes, he’s that good! But for the newcomers, I’ve written some thoughts and tips to help them more easily and quickly settle in and adjust: Dr. Michael Miller Math Class Hints and Tips | UCLA Extension

If you’d like additional details as well as lots of alternate textbooks, see the announcement for the first course in the series.

If you missed the first quarter and are interested in the second quarter but want a bit of review or some of the notes, let me know in the comments below.

I look forward to seeing everyone in the Winter quarter!

Michael Miller making a "handwaving argument" during a lecture on Algebraic Number Theory at UCLA on November 15, 2015. I've taken over a dozen courses from Mike in areas including Group Theory, Field Theory, Galois Theory, Group Representations, Algebraic Number Theory, Complex Analysis, Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Calculus on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, Lie Groups and Lie Algebras, Set Theory, Differential Geometry, Algebraic Topology, Number Theory, Integer Partitions, and p-Adic Analysis.
Michael Miller making a “handwaving argument” during a lecture on Algebraic Number Theory at UCLA on November 15, 2015. I’ve taken over a dozen courses from Mike in areas including Group Theory, Field Theory, Galois Theory, Group Representations, Algebraic Number Theory, Complex Analysis, Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Calculus on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, Lie Groups and Lie Algebras, Set Theory, Differential Geometry, Algebraic Topology, Number Theory, Integer Partitions, and p-Adic Analysis.