Free Content’s Responsibility

The tag line reads, “education can be…affordable”.

Using a collaborative and web-based compilation model that can manifest open resource content as an adaptive textbook, termed the “FlexBook”, CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality, locally and temporally relevant, educational web texts.

Enter flexbooks from cK-12.org. Enter, potentially, the ultimate in prosumer content creation for education. And it is licensed under Creative Commons, which gives it the edge; most academics support free content.

A few articles on the site talk of how various states across the United States are adopting online resources — the advantages are many: affordability, children do not have to carry heavy textbooks, dependency on publishers, content currency, choice of providers, and not in the least, a green classroom.

Content is still King, however, the King is now more accessible to its subjects. There is just that added responsibility that the King has — educate the users how best to make good use of this content. And while the obvious benefits of online (and free) content are many, the advantage of free content for teaching and learning needs to be harnessed well.

Traditional content came with traditional ideas on how to employ content for teaching and learning. It may not work very well, if the content is online, structured very differently from the standard-print, and the users employ online content for teaching and learning in the same way as standard-print. Users need to have resources to help them understand how best they can use online content to ensure teaching and learning. New method has to meet new medium.

PS: Twenty minutes since this post was published, I stumble upon the “Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning” by Peter Tittenberger and George Siemens. Talk of instant gratification!

Power of Free

Interesting article in The Guardian today, found, not surprisingly via PersonaNonData. Michael’s article of course, talks of Author As Brand. My interest, however, was in the power of free.

“Coelho discovered the power of free when a fan posted a Russian translation of one of his novels online and book sales there climbed from 3,000 to 100,000 to 1m in three years. ‘This happened in English, in Norwegian, in Japanese and Serbian,’ he said. ‘Now when the book is released in hard copy, the sales are spectacular.’”: Coelho finds the perfect alchemy of print and digital | Media | The Guardian

The Harper-Collins ‘compromise’ strategy is interesting — putting out a Coelho novel out for free, every month.

Is free a driver for all things e?

I believe there is definite potential there. Whether as a teaser for premium online services or a related purchase in the real world. In reading the entire Guardian article, you will notice, there is continuous effort (from Coelho) to engage the reader, which I think is a perfect strategy (for sales and “adoption”). And the effort doesn’t cost money — to either the publisher or the consumer. Which makes it more interesting as a strategy!

The power of free on Social Networks.

As a subscriber on GoodReads, I have seen how Coelho engages with his reader, so the contents of this article do not come as a huge surprise. What does come as a surprise is the low level (or lack of) engagement by the publishers on most social websites; it is very easy to engage with sites like GoodReads (am sure they would be mighty pleased). Simple promotions that cost a fraction of conventional promotions can be held at such places and reach more than ten times (wild-guessing, here) the audience that they would have, More so, depending on their privacy policies and such, publishers can reach a very targeted audience.

While Facebook, MySpace and Orkut have been labelled as the playground for college students, the demographics of these sites is definitely changing. Consider this:

Facebook visitors are “maturing”: In June of 2007, nearly over 35% of Facebook traffic came the 18-24 year old segment, compared to around 22% in June 2008. With the bulk of this traffic shifting towards the 25-35 year old group, this movement could be a result of the site’s original base of college students. (Via Facebook vs. Linkedin – Network, Socialize, Be Professional?)

There is more than just photos of college antics and on Facebook. And Facebook, is just an example; like GoodReads, there are other such social networks that publishers may find worthwhile participating. In fact, anyone who wants to promote content, cannot ignore the reach and focus of using social networks.

Facebook Pages, then, is something else that comes to mind. And much more.