Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

Clicks and Bricks

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 by Roberto Saracco
Courses on Robotics at Coursera

Courses on Robotics at Coursera

MOOCs, Massive Open On line Courses, are changing the education world, particularly in those areas where education is not very good. Nowadays students all over the world have the possibility to enroll into top courses given by the very best teachers in the world. It is, to a certain extent, like attending Berkeley, … and Stanford and the MIT and Cambridge or Oxford, and all at the same time. Of course, without the tuition fees.

I have to say I got curious and I enrolled into a course at Stanford, on Data Analytics, and I should say that it was really good, at least for the first few lessons. Then I gave it up because it was not just good, it was really demanding! I had to fill in forms, show the practice I did, take basically one exam at any lesson to move on to the next one. It was really a serious commitment and I decided I did not have time for that. Still, it reinforced me the feeling that these courses are for real.

Of course, you need to have a good Internet connection and this is not a given in many parts of the world. Just last week I gave a talk at the St. Joseph College in Kerala, India, and I discovered that they had very good Internet connection. Actually, THEY said the connection was very good. It was as good as the one I have back home in Italy, but mine is serving just my home, their is serving the whole college! Just imagine what a student can do in such places if he tries to follow a course from his home. Connectivity is still a dream to full fill in many parts of the world.

Because of this, projects like this one from Microsoft make perfect sense.

They aim at blending real classroom in bricks and mortar where it is feasible to provide connectivity with on line open courses given by the best professors in the world.

So it is clicks and bricks.

This makes the access to high quality education economically sustainable in most Countries. At the same time it will change the way we think about education, and these changes are in synch with changes we are seeing, and will be seeing more and more, in the biz environment with a seamless interplay of bits and atoms.

You will still go to bricks, at the client premises, but you are likely to bring bits along, not just the ones of documents in your computer but also, and more important, the ones of your colleagues brains that will become available through clicks on the customer premises.

Another important twist is the evolution towards continuous education. This will be more and more required to counteract the depreciation of knowledge over time. With a half life in many areas that has now approached 5 years (and keeps shrinking) one has to keep “updating” his knowledge to remain on the leading edge, and in a world that is more and more competitive and demanding, where industry and their organisational capabilities diminish, leaving the single person to take care of his own education and training, continuous education will become a must.

Shifting towards on line education

Friday, September 28th, 2012 by Roberto Saracco

I read an interesting article (and you should read it as well) that compares the past with the future of education. What interested me is to see that distant education started over hundred years ago with the advent of an effective postal system! Universities could print their courses material and send it to students all around the Country by … mail, and, I am quoting:

Frederick Jackson Turner, the famed University of Wisconsin historian, wrote that the “machinery” of distance learning would carry “irrigating streams of education into the arid regions” of the country.

Doesn’t it sound like  a sentence someone could voice today referring to the electronic connectivity made possible by Internet?

Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOC, a new acronym to remember) have already seen the participation of over one million students (based on stats from Stanford, Harvard, Priceton and MIT alone). One of the driver for this success is the ever increasing cost of education. In that article there is a cost estimate for a bachelor degree averaging at 100,000$.
Indeed, I remember that one of the motivation to launch remote education for university students in Argentina at the turn of the century (I was there on a World Bank program to bring innovation leveraging Internet) was to make education economically affordable to students living far from Buenos Aires, where everything goes and everything is expensive.

It is somewhat sobering in the general rush towards online education to go back to the “revolution” in the 1920ies, based on correspondence courses, to note that by 1930 that drive was no longer there and on campus study took, again, the upper hand.

Is today’s technology so much better that on line education is here to stay? For sure technology is better, can provide real interactive engagement of students, can support virtual classroom and virtual campus (FaceBook is being used for that). but still doubts remain. The first statistics indicate a far bigger drop-out from on line courses (only 5-15% may finish the course, and that is way lower than an average course on campus, but of course out of an average course on campus at the MIT they get 175 students finishing it, on line out of 155,000 they got 7,000, lower percentage but much higher absolute number).

The jury is still out for the long term success but a few companies are already betting on this way of getting educated. Companies like Udacity, Coursera (for profit) and eDx (non profit, initiated by MIT and Harvard and now joined by Berkeley) are already in the game.

Interestingly, some considers that one of the advantages that will come from these initiatives is the possibility to track every single interaction generated by students thus generating Big Data on the education process as never before. EDx is seen by Harvard and MIT as both an education platform and as a research platform on education. Some researchers are starting to analyse the huge amount of data (when are students stopping a lesson, when do they make comments, what is that confuses them…) and to develop applications for providing customised and better education.

I really wonder if the Industry should’t jump on this new way of educating people, considering their need for continuous education and if they shouldn’t start to provide teaching material for their employee and for others based on the day by day work going on.

May be this can become a way for a much stronger integration of industry and academy in education.

Free textbooks will change the education biz…

Monday, February 13th, 2012 by Roberto Saracco

Rice University has just unveiled a plan to provide free on-line quality textbook, thus disrupting a 4 billion$ business (in the USA).

The books will be available on the Connexions platform in the initiative called Openstax.

What is interesting is that they claim to “transform” the eduction biz, not to destroy it. With the availability of high quality free books for college the market will have to evolve and today’s publishers will need to create a higher value offer. No longer is information on paper sufficient to win the market. You need to provide education help based on the information that is already available for free,

It remains to be seen if indeed there is space for “added value” on textbooks (in the sense of willingness to pay for it). We have seen in other markets, like telecommunications, that it has been very difficult to create a sellable value proposition.

It is however true, that being a student today is very exciting, at least, this is what it looks to me. There is an unlimited amount of information, available in many forms, that can be explored through the web. Initiatives like Openstax ensure the quality of the information and provide an open ecosystem for many players to build on it.

Newspapers morph into the digital era

Monday, December 27th, 2010 by Roberto Saracco

There has been over the last few years a lot of discussion on the demise of newspapers as more and more information is available in the digital space and a new habits for getting daily news is being created. Quite a wave was generated early this year when the Editor in Chief of the New York Times said he was expecting to terminate the paper version within the next 2/3 years. Many reacted with indignation at this prediction.

The appearance of the iPad in April has further fueled the discussion showing in practice that newspapers can be read on-line with a satisfying experience. And the iPad, in turns, has been the harbinger of an avalanche of other tablets (will the tablet market surpass the lap top market by 2015? Many believes so) but even more important it has shown that once newspapers go digital they morph into something different, richer in information and experience.

A host of news readers are appearing

A host of news readers are appearing

The paper version, once brought to a digital form, can show clips, can embed links, can be dynamically updated as news flow in, can be a mash ups of several information sources.

This latter aspect has been taken up by Pulse and Flipboard,

And new ones are arriving in these days. One of these is FLUD,

These news aggregators provide the reading experience of a magazine with the plus of delivering to you what you are interested most, since you have the possibility to indicate where your heart lies. This, however, does not cut out the serendipity of discovering new things you weren’t looking for. They are creating a blended experience where what you expect mixes with something else.

By bringing together sources as different as classic newspapers, news agency, Twitter, Facebook and blogs, RSS, you get exposed to a wide variety of news that magically form your personal unique newspaper.

And you can share and discuss the news by sending it to your friends, tweeting on it, post it to your blog and Facebook. In a seamless way you become an actor in the news-space. This morphing of newspapers into a Social Network with you at the centre is what really makes me tick.

I can expect a real revolution in our interfacing with media and a change of role that, I suspect, will change the way we consume the news and the way we use them. I also expect a change in the way news influence our work, our communications with colleagues and clients.

Welcome to the next life of newspapers, an ecosystem with you at the core and so many actors that each single one vanishes from our perception.

CafeScribe: are eBooks on the rise in classrooms?

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 by Roberto Saracco

Digital textbooks are a reality in terms of availability, at least in countries like the USA. CafeScribe is a point in case:

In CafeScribe there are over 10,000 text books available and more are added every day. SOme of them are for sale, other are available for free. Several schools in the USA have adopted digital textbooks but they ae far from being a substitution to paper textbook. According to some recent posts on digital textbooks, ,

students prefer paper books (74% of them in the USA when given a choice go for paper). Teachers have indicated that digital books foster social learning better, they allow the sharing of notes (CafeScribe is an example), but the devices to read them are not yet perfect. eBook readers, like Kindle, do not support colour, iPad costs too much for the average student. So far most schools that have adopted eBooks (or are promting students to adopt them like the New York University that sends the link to the digital textbooks to be used in classes) are suggesting to read them on PC and laptops.

By 2014 the adoption rate in the USA should reach 20% (1 out of 5 textbooks will be bought and read in digital form).

My feeling is that we will see the usual curve of adoption, starting slowly and then taking over. By the end of this decade most textbooks, in many countries, Italy included, will be digital. That will mirror a different approach to teaching and will have significant implication on the way we learn through out our life. I see a tremendous opportunity for new companies to become lifetime tutor and a new business of knowledge management to develop.

Where are the school textbooks going?

Saturday, July 10th, 2010 by Roberto Saracco

All of us remember the textbooks of old, at the time we went to school. We started with just one at the primary school and as we progressed in our education path we got more and more textbooks to deal with heavy in our backpack.

But now things are changing. My eldest son went through university 10 years ago and I remember spending a significant amount of money on his textbooks.

Now, I have two others going to universities and none of them had spent a single euro on textbooks. All the education material is on the Web. And there is plenty of it.

Universities are making their courses available on the Internet, as well as institutions like COMSOC, . Private citizens are also doing that.

As an example that is creating ripple on the web take Sal Khan. He has created, as of today, 1516 mini lectures all of them available on YouTube.

His lectures span from mathematics to history and the success they have with students have prompted venture capitals to sustain his endeavour. He has now founded the non-profit Khan Academy, , a virtual school for the world, and he runs it from his ranch in Mountain View, California. He is now 33 years old and since he started, in 2006, he has had 16 million page views and he is now having 70,000 lectures followed a day, more than the students at Berkeley University.

To create his lecture he is using Camtasia Recorder, the same program I am using for preparing my lectures, a program costing 200, and a Wacom Tablet costing 80 $ (I got that too…) plus some Open Source program for drawing on his PC.

He is not a teacher by profession, has a computer science degree and an MBA. He started teaching by providing a helping hand to some of his friends’ sons and daughters and got the idea, should I say the dream, to create a space for learning accessible to anybody from all over the world.

His lectures are streamed from YouTube, no paper book. And students love them. Clearly, the future of learning is not including paper book, at least this is my pick.

Also the teaching profession will need to be re-thought: may be the teachers will have to become coachers helping students to get the right information at the right time.

We are really on the brink of a profound transformation!

The e-book family grows: introducing Samsung Papyrus.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Giuseppe Piersantelli

We talked about the electronic book hype and Amazon Kindle case in this blog some weeks ago (1, 2 and 3). Now another big player enters the e-book market with a brand new product. Samsung Papyrus , equipped with a large touch screen display and an onboard dictionary, will be distributed in Korea this summer but the Korean manufacturer is already evaluating other markets, such us the U.K.


Papyrus’ business model has not been disclosed yet.

Wired reminds us that the e-book is becoming a quite crowded segment with many players involved and a good numbers of electronic books available in addition to Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader: the list of e-books is quite long and impressive.

The increasing interest towards the electronic books, after many attempts and announcements but no successful products during the last years, can have two meanings:

  1. the consumer electronic and the content industries are (slowly) making attempts to shift from a value chain model to an ecosystem model: as previously written, an e-book is a good example of an ecosystem of many players contributing with hardware, software, content, connectivity, services and so on.
  2. this time could be the right time for electronic books: previously perceived as geeky gadgets, they are currently becoming a bit more pupolar among readers and non-techno geek.

Again, from a carrier’s perspective, the point is: how to drive the adoption of ebooks and monetize the traffic generated by content downloading? Are there business models alternative to Kindle’s? Which additional services could be driven by the e-books?

Paper Books vs eBooks

Saturday, March 21st, 2009 by Fabio Carati

My daughters usually have to carry a lot of books to school. Their backpacks weigh about 10 Kg each.

They go to school every morning Monday to Friday with those very heavy bags, for 13-year-old children.

Considering that in Italy we have about 10 million students, we have about 100.000 tons of paper that are being carried back and forth everyday. The same happens in Japan and of course, in other countries.

What is the global impact on the environment? It’s huge if we think at a global level. In this sense, can we use innovation technology to overcome this problem? Of course yes.

Professors can prepare lessons beforehand and push them into devices like Kindle (picture below); they can choose the content that editors can mash-up on these professors’ lessons. Educational documentaries can be mashed-up on lessons and be made available on other devices such as iPods, computers, TVs, etc.

Professors and students can be in touch with social networks like Facebook and by email through cell phones.

A Kindle costs less than the total cost of all books used in a school year and can be used for several years. It can also be connected to an ink printer to print some pages when necessary.

The printer can hold robot technology to print books directly and instantly at a classroom with a personalized cover; plus, on this cover there will be a QR Code that you can read with your mobile phone and get services like documentaries, spoken lessons, pictures, and articles about the topics related to the printed book.

Nowadays, in Brazil, at the most advanced primary schools, students are getting their homework through the web by logging in their school website.

This services platform can be seen like a seed where different actors can do business; for instance, book publishers might own the platform, and push their content, professors can add their lessons and post their availability to give private lessons, multimedia companies could add video and audio lessons customized to the students’ profile. In addition to that, companies such as language schools can advertise their services through this service platform.

In this sense, electronic books could expand this type of social network among schools, students, professors, alumni, editors, self-produced content like wiki, companies in the education field, and so on.