It’s about time schools stop assigning outdated, non-engaging textbooks to students, according to Malgosia Green, chief product officer at Toronto-based Top Hat.
At the latest TechToronto, Green talked about how the traditional textbook industry is ripe for technological disruption.
“The traditional textbook needs to die,” said Green. “Over the last 200 years, universities have been hotbeds of technological innovation, and yet their classrooms and the textbooks used in those classrooms has hardly changed at all.”
Green explained that even though universities and colleges continue to regularly assign textbooks to students, it’s important to recognize that these books are usually out-of-date, noninteractive, and very costly.
“We need a viable marketplace built upon a community of the creators, the adopters, the reviewers, and the collaborators.”
Green pointed out how textbook prices have risen by about 90 percent since 1998, and that each of these factors suggests why people need to rethink their attachment to textbooks and find a tech-savvy solution to the outdated textbook system.
“Students don’t want to be paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks, so they’re downloading them illegally, sharing, renting, or not buying them at all,” said Green.
She added that while publishers have tried to change or disrupt their model to keep up with students’ aversion to textbooks, publishers are failing “partly because they’re wedding to this traditional hunk of dead tree, and probably because the digital rights publishing model that they’re using for their digital offerings is completely broken.”
For Green, the solution to removing traditional textbooks from school systems is user-generated educational content.
“[The traditional textbook industry is] destined to be replaced by user-generated content.”
She said that with user-generated content, professors can enhance, customize, and add more relevant information to textbooks so that they aren’t “stale objects.” Green also stressed the importance of ensuring that user-generated content is of high-quality, especially as she’s noticed that some people who have tried to make inroads into the space haven’t succeeded in part due to poor-quality content.
“That model doesn’t create high enough quality content, but there’s something else that’s really missing, [which is] that the professors who create this content and update this content need fairer payment for the work they’re putting into creating this content,” said Green. “We need a viable marketplace built upon a community of the creators, the adopters, the reviewers, and the collaborators to really foster an on-going dialogue between all these groups and that will foster accelerated improvements in quality.”
Watch the full presentation below:
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