continuing efforts to expand the scope of their education abilities, online
learning startup Coursera recently announced a partnership with five publishers to
offer free textbooks to students enrolled in Coursera’s classes. These
publishers, Cengage Learning, Oxford University Press, Macmillan Higher
Education, Wiley, and SAGE, will offer their textbooks through the online
student hub Chegg.
content consists of eTextbooks that will be delivered for free via Chegg’s
eReader and will only be available to the students for the duration of their
course. Access to these textbooks gives professors far more options when
assigning required reading. In the recent past, professors who have taught
online courses have been reluctant to assign reading, preferring to “recommend”
reading instead because of the added cost of these materials.
lack of access to reading materials clearly stands as a hindrance to higher
education, what is not so clear is how this lack of materials negatively affects
efforts to have online courses count for formal credit. All open online course
providers—like Khan Academy and edX—strive to have their courses count for
formal credit, and Coursera appears to be leading the charge.
obvious question is what do the publishers get from this arrangement? Free
textbooks is something most of us thought we would never see—but there is value
here. Like advertisers tailoring their content based on what they learn from
social media, these textbook publishers gain valuable insights from the worldwide
usage data returned from online courses. The publishers also have the
opportunity to sell the full versions of these textbooks to students who might
have otherwise had no interest.
partnership with Chegg is clearly a step forward for open online educators.
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