I’m working on some product plans and business models for open textbooks in K-12 and have been thinking a lot about how “textbook-like” they need to be to get broad adoption.

A lot of the work in OER is reform-driven, and in fact, the most substantive reasons to produce and use OER are pedagogical, not cost-driven. OER allows innovative teachers and learners to differentiate instruction in exciting ways.

Many in OER have questioned whether new open core curriculum should even be called “textbooks” at all.

Still, I’m not sure that an the best path for anew entry is to be hugely innovative.

The first and important goal for a significant new entry into the open ed market should be broadscale use. And the textbook adoption process in K-12, whether in formal adoption states or open states, is such that an innovative product is not likely to even be considered in many places, much less be broadly used.

I know this firsthand, having created some very innovative products that were used by few.

An important note, for those motivated by reform, is that those who are prone to innovate will do so regardless of the raw materials and/or environment. They are doing so now with very conventional materials (although in many cases illegally with great technical difficulty and huge personal time expenditures).

Providing high-quality open curriculum gives these innovators new resources with which to innovate. Providing open curriculum in a conventional textbook format gives traditional teachers a path to future innovation.

Now I’m thinking about how these materials might look like a conventional textbook but also be packaged with a toolset that allows for more innovation when users are ready. Stay tuned for more on that.

How “conventional” do open textbooks need to be?
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