OpenStax Introduces Personalized Digital Textbooks

Have you ever wondered why education can't be as personalized at the recommended movies on your Netflix account? Now thanks to OpenStax, a non-profit based out of Rice University, it can be, reports David Nagel from The Journal.

The company will be bringing K-12 students digital textbooks which are not only free but also personalized.

As of 2012, it is estimated that the states and district spend roughly $5.5 billion on K-12 textbooks annually. OpenStax has already saved $13 million for college students who utilized the philanthropically funded online books. Now they are taking on K-12 texts and pushing it farther by creating a personalized experience for each student.

According to a report by Matt McFarland from The Washington Post, Richard Baraniuk, the founder of OpenStax, has found from his own research that students' learning performance is dependent on how the information is presented, and that is unique for every student.

"Imagine a digital textbook where because I'm a different person and learn differently, my book is different than your book," said Baraniuk "Because I understand things in a different way from you, the book itself should change. It's exploding this whole idea of this paper, canonical textbook and creating something that's much more like a pathway a student explores."

OpenStax has received a $9 million grant to develop a prototype textbook for high school physics and AP biology. The company will spend two years creating the personalized, interactive books and put them to the test with students in the Houston area.

The technology will help isolate areas where students need more assistance and will reinforce those areas with extra material, videos, and quizzes, reports Jeff Fitlow for The Observer.

"The technology is already here, in the sense that most of us use it online every day," said Daniel Williamson, OpenStax managing director. "However, the full potential of this technology has yet to be realized for education. The project will allow us to demonstrate that this technology is effective and can be used in the classroom to improve both students' and teachers' return on effort.

Parents and teachers will be able to track a student's progress, as well as which sections they take more time on. It has the potential to help students who could possibly otherwise fall through the cracks, according to an editorial in The Capital Journal. The pace will be altered based on how well a student absorbs the material and teachers can receive an email if a student is struggling with specific concepts and may require one-on-one attention.

The books will endure a 60 person, peer-reviewed vetting process just as a traditional textbook would.

These textbooks will give both students and teachers the technological advancements necessary to ensure that every child is performing to their highest potential.

08 12, 2014
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