Thursday, August 28, 2008

UWO Continues to Grow. Is This a Good Thing?

UWO issued a report yesterday about the continuing student growth of UWO.   It made the Northwestern this morning and more details can be found in the university's press release.

The report emphasizes that we have grown by almost 1000 students since 2000.   They also note that the incoming class is slightly stronger academically than it was last year.

My first reaction in these reports is the missing information about increasing the number of faculty to support this growth.  There were multiple positions as part of the growth agenda, but the basic number of teachers remains stagnant.  Many tenure-track lines are still filled with staff people, undermining the basic principles of quality college education.

It is good PR to emphasize the growing number of students.  The quality of their experience remains in doubt as classes overflow and we do not talk seriously about reducing our faculty to student ratio.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Momentum for open-source textbooks building?

The LA Times is running a story about an open-source economics textbook, where the author turned down $100,000 to sell it to a publisher.

Is the profit motive the key reason academics write textbooks?  That seems to be the key question--will people do it if they don't get paid?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Illegally Download your textbooks?

I came upon this technology news link this afternoon that pointed me to a new website that allows you to download textbooks using bittorrent.   I also saw an article in the New York Times about this several weeks ago.

Clearly this is a violation of copyright law, but it is interesting in several ways:

1. Textbooks are becoming increasingly available electronically.

2. Once books become digital, they will be traded legally or illegally like music.

 There may be even more incentive to illegally download your textbook, since it is quite a bit more expensive than an album.  The slogan of Textbook Torrents is "Because you can't torrent beer."   Will this reshape the textbook market like it has the music market?

If textbooks more toward an open-source model, everyone might be better off.  I suggested before that we needed something like the PLoS model for textbook production--this might push things in that direction. . .