Tools of Change – Future of Digital Textbooks

Tools of Change Conference – Future of Digital Textbooks, Feb. 23 10:45- 11:30

Speakers:  John Warren (Moderator) , Eric Frank, Flatworld Knowledge; Frank Lyman, CourseSmart; Nicholas Smith, Agile Mind; and Neeru Khosle, CK12 Foundation


  • What is your company doing?
  • What challenge or problem are you trying to solve?
  • Give an example of a successful business model and conversely, ones that don’t work.
  • How will digital textbooks be consumed?

Eric Frank – Flatworld Knowledge –

  • creative commons license, legal control to faculty to remix the book for their classroom, dynamically create that book and make it available for free; offer various download options for students at various price points. Business model based on abundance and open access.
  • Problem/challenge trying to solve? currency, timeliness, adjust teaching based on data, personalization of content, integration of content into things already doing, seamlessly integrate 3rd party content; students – cost issues, portability, adaptive learning.  Assessment driven learning is critical but won’t pursue this at this point.  Where is the pain?  Find that area and use market entry strategies to engage the consumers, different models will emerge to solve all of the issues.
  • biz model – when they asked students and faculty where is the pain?  they never heard “more engagement,” make my learning more efficient, more mobile, more affordable; how can giving away content be working? – sign up world famous authors to write open content (100th author now), authors are looking for alternative models, faculty are changing en mass, give free content to students and 55% of students buy something for an average of $35 per student, selling value in a model to fac/students and see some profitability.  Flawed models confuse price and quality, can you publish quality work under a different biz model that creates revenue and value for members in the chain. Model he likes is from Live Mocha – start up that teaches languages, social network to learn language, made it more engaging at a lower cost to the publisher.
  • devices – variety, consistent fragmentation, intense competition, better experience for consumers, no one device will reign

Neeru Khosle, CK12 Foundation –

  • For K-12 audience, completely free, doing similar things as Flatworld Books; offer online reader and a living book – kids embed videos, links, multimedia; provide templates to print books.
  • Challenge/problem trying to solve?  How do we fix the broken and broke system? We need to recognize that we are each separate and different and the content we need to learn on is individual and must be customized, get content to speaks to the child.  Break the textbook into granularity, allow teacher to customize that content to help with student comprehension.
  • biz model – non-profit – luxury to sit back and decide what they want to do first, then come up with the biz model. Think about how we can change access for the kids. We need to change (disrupt) the way we have been doing biz in K12, move from adoption to free content
  • device – K12 will not catch up soon, laws that restrict the move to digital textbooks b/c some states require that every student have a print copy of the book, devices without interactivity will not survive

Frank Lyman, Course Smart –

  • joint venture of 5 publishers, distribute for 15 publishers, 10K titles; every college student has a choice to access at least one of their textbooks digitally; efficient delivery of content to students.
  • What challenge/problem are you trying to solve? Scalable biz model problem , they are trying to solve. Complete access to content for students, innovative new learning products, channel for publishers for new products = significant learning impact.
  • Biz Model successes?  Student choice models and faculty mediated/choice models.  Faculty are for the assessment area (new tool, new job).  Success is publishers knowing the difference b/t these models and focusing on one of these. Student model – must have page numbers and the same content as the print source. Offer a print option – key to success.
  • devices – think about the faculty member – not all have computers/broadband, I have an ethical responsibility to deliver equitable education, he thinks we’ve crossed that bridge.  Where can the faculty member be comfortable that every student can have an equal experience?  That’ the device.

Nicholas Smith, Agile Mind –

  • overview and problem/challenge – middle school through 12 area; “designing a car and not a faster horse” (H. Ford) – technology makes it possible to marry multimedia, text, instructional design concepts together; reframe our paradigm of what a digital textbook is; traditional online textbooks can help solve problems b/c better access and price points are lower, publishers can monetize every student for a lower price point; online textbooks – get feedback, interactivity, demonstrate comprehension.  Marriage of content, pedagogy, curriculum – we have the opportunity right now to bridge this gap and help to solve the core problems in education.
  • biz model – we all do content, but charging for the service – getting the content easy, adding the value is the biz model, they could monetize every student with the ability to do homework, get immediate feedback and get good grades.  If you offer something for a grade – it must be accessible all the time, easy to use, prevent any obstructions to the service.
  • K12 space devices – not every student has a laptop or a computer lab