The e-learning web
May 13, 2005 1:19 AM   Subscribe

My son will enter his school years soon. I'm envious of all the choices he's going to have. I think it's exciting that education is diversifying this way.
posted by ironisokratic at 1:52 AM on May 13, 2005

I can't even get through to the homepage. I went through to the repositories and could only get maybe 10 to load. Out of that 10 I could only get maybe 30% access to the abstract/pdf links and out of that 30% I guess it was about 70% Dutch. It's notionally good (and it *seems* that there's nothing newer than 2003) but it's not organized very well at first glance. [There was a whole bunch on CERES -- ?Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System? and some web tech architectural content]
Oh hang on.....through to homepage ---

Due to overwhelming attention for Cream of Science and DAREnet the website has encountered an overload. Since the official launch on Tuesday May 10, the number of hits has greatly exceeded our expectations. Unfortunatly the system cannot handle this; the downside of the success. At this moment extra capacity is being set up. We hope you understand this temporary delay and have patience or try again later.

posted by peacay at 2:07 AM on May 13, 2005

Here's the searchpage by the way (the repositories page gives no indication as to content). [the frontpage has an english translation but I'm not sure about the actual articles or abstracts -- I didn't load any actual articles but there was a Dutch/English split as above in quick viewing the abstracts]
Thanks for the post bwerdmuller.
posted by peacay at 2:11 AM on May 13, 2005

I had no trouble getting through, no trouble getting to see the abstracts or consulting (one of) the documents. Thanks for the link.
It is good to see that some universities are offering course material on the open internet. Like many colleagues, I have been putting my own courses on the net for some time, but this was a personal decision rather than an institutional one - French universities seem to be rather lagging on this. In any case, I can think of several advantages to doing this outside the institution.
posted by TimothyMason at 3:17 AM on May 13, 2005

The MIT link is great. It offers full lecture notes and problems sets for classes previously taught on campus. Some classes even have midterm and final. I don't go to MIT, but I am a student taking similar classes at another university. This will be an excellent resource. Now if only they could do away with textbooks, college would be a step closer to being affordable. Except for publisher profits, I can't see any reason we need books at all, at least books with the jacked up prices that I have to buy.
posted by Roger Dodger at 5:20 AM on May 13, 2005

Except for publisher profits, I can't see any reason we need books at all, at least books

Ummm. Because authors of books deserve to make a living and because there won't be any new ones if we can't.

Why do people expect authors and musicians and filmmakers to give away their work? Any lawyers out there want to come over and review my will for free? I'll give you a copy of my book.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2005

In Hungary, financier and philanthropist George Soros is also backing a new effort to provide free and unrestricted access to scientific and other academic literature.
and i already liked the guy.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 7:27 AM on May 13, 2005

realcountrymusic is right. Selling books is the only possible business model for people with the knowledge and expertise to write textbooks. It's an unfortunate and sad state of affairs, but clearly it is impossible for them to make money any other way off of their skills and talents.

Same with musicians too, by the way. If they can't sell CDs, it is impossible to make a living as a musician. Yup. That's why there were no musicians before the development of recorded music, or educators before the development of the Gutenberg Press.
posted by Jairus at 9:18 AM on May 13, 2005

The historical analogy is polemical, but not accurate. Most of us practice professions with antecedents in the division of labor in pre-capitalist, pre-literate human societies. Whores and lawyers included. So what? The modern form of compensation for labor is money.

OK. I'll give away my book for free if you will feed me, house me, provide my medical care, and tend to my swidden gardens. You of course will be busy providing whatever service you provide to the community in exchange for 6 pigs and a flask of palm wine a month.

posted by realcountrymusic at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2005

Note that it's the publishers who aren't amused by the situation. No authors were consulted in the making of this article.
posted by palinode at 9:55 AM on May 13, 2005

realcountrymusic, I've no problem with authors making a profit off their books. But the college textbook market puts out new editions every year with minimal changes or improvement and charges $80 and upwards for it. More for math and science books. How much has calculus changed since last year? Not to mention, all of the student book stores in my town are owned by the same company. Doesn't do much for competitive pricing when the book is a requirement. I buy what I can used online, but you can't deny that the books are overpriced.

I asked a professor why he didn't publish a textbook since he didn't seem to like how any of the books he read taught music theory. He said he plans on it, but not until after he leaves his teaching job, as the university would claim 75% of his take. Plus the publishers keep a fair share I'm sure.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:02 AM on May 13, 2005

realcountrymusic, that's a fantastic strawman you've built there.

I never suggested that compensation shouldn't be money, I'm suggesting that musicians and authors who think they can't make money without selling books/CDs had better realize there are alternative business models, before they find themselves replaced by people who do.
posted by Jairus at 10:04 AM on May 13, 2005

Perhaps the universities could make professors to write course material for their courses and then give those course materials to the students free of charge? I'm under the impression that as a professor you're obligated to do a certain amount of research, for which you are not compensated other than the wages you receive for being a professor. The results of this research are then often given away with the university and professor gaining noteriety as compensation. I don't see why coursework would be different, or why it would be considered absurd for the professors to make their own - I've purchased books written by my professors before. Alternatively, universities could also offer extra compensation to the professors or pay outside consultants to write books for them. They could offer electronic versions for free and print versions for a cost. I think not having book fees would probably be a large draw for some people, plus the coursework would be better suited for the particular classes/teachers.

realcountrymusic - You seem to have accidentally clipped a portion of the text, "at least books with the jacked up prices that I have to buy.", which makes it clear that the author never intended to do away with sales of books altogether. I'm also confused about this later statement: "I'll give away my book for free". How will you make a living?
posted by nTeleKy at 12:12 PM on May 13, 2005

One of the best topology books out there is free online, though there's also a published hard copy.

I mean, in theory, if you're being paid by the Uni to hang out and do math all day, so long as the grant money's out there, you might as well have a couple people writing text books. I don't think anyone in academia really expects to make a million dollars off their textbook royalties. And, at least in mathematics, it doesn't seem like people are so avaricious as to want to. There's a good long history of textbook PUBLISHERS (and even then ther are good ones, like Dover and Springer-Verlag who aren't playing the same game at all) doing all they can to make another buck off the freshman classes. It sucks for everyone. Except maybe the publisher.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:31 PM on May 13, 2005

maybe i missed something. go to the sites of most universities. look at faculty bios. follow the links to their lab pages. you'll find most research material is already out there. just not in one place or organized.

another open courseware site: connexions at rice.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2005

That Netherlands site is written in Dutch, one of many languages I can't read. It is, therefore, E-V-I-L and must be removed.
posted by davy at 8:55 PM on May 13, 2005

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