George Nikitin/AP

Costs and Content Driving Educators Online for Classroom Resources

July 21, 2008 10:09 AM
by Christopher Coats
With educational costs soaring for both students and schools, many are turning to online resources to supplement textbooks.

30-Second Summary

From primary schools to college lecture halls, students and administrators are heading online in search of reliable content from an increasingly large group of publishers.

However cost is not the only factor driving classes online. Schools and universities are finding their resources quickly dated, forcing them to pay more often.

“Usually textbooks are out of date as soon as you print them,” said Dana Lanham, a University of North Carolina professor who plans on using a new no-fee online textbook program.

Starting small with textbooks for just four business and finance classes, Flat Earth Knowledge is one of many online content providers venturing into education literature.

Meanwhile, companies such as Connexions, based at Rice University, have settled on a building-block approach, with series of short lessons and explanations that can be mixed and matched to create curriculum.

Flexibility, low costs and an ability to be updated regularly have made this type of open source content increasingly popular among school districts and universities.

While there is no shortage of demand, businesses and critics are watching to see if the various online providers have found a business model that actually turns a profit.

Flat Earth plans to make most of their profit from the sale of supplementary material, though detractors have suggested that this would not be enough to attract quality academic contributors.

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