Grants/Worldwide Calculus Textbook Series

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Worldwide Center of Mathematics Textbook Series

Applicants: Worldwide Center of Mathematics
Affiliation: N/A
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Brian Lepley
Coordinator: Worldwide Center of Mathematics
Project Start: 2010/09/01
Project End: 2011/05/31
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

We produce PDF versions of calculus textbooks with embedded teaching videos, providing a deeper, richer learning experience for mathematics students. We are looking to experiment with a multi-tiered business model that utilizes Creative Commons licenses in order to provide students and faculty with an affordable option relative to many of the calculus textbooks that are currently available in the market. In addition to offering traditional textbooks at a much more affordable price, one tier of the business model would be to give the digital textbook to students for free utilizing our CC license, but use educational advertising in order to support the sustainability of our Center. The other tier of the business model would be to license our content to universities and high schools at a marginal cost so they could create their own custom calculus textbooks that would best serve their students learning preferences.

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

The output of the project would be many new CC licensed resources that would come from the various universities’ and high schools’ customized textbooks as well as a new business model that would hopefully revolutionize the way the textbook industry currently operates.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

The community we are targeting is the education system in the US, specifically at the collegiate and high school level. Between 1986 and 2004, the price of textbooks rose 186% in the United States, which is roughly double the rate of inflation for every year. Also, on average, students currently spend over $900 per semester on textbooks, which translates into $7,200 over the course of their college careers.

This project will benefit this community because as it stands currently, many students and high schools cannot afford all of the necessary, updated materials they need for their classes. This inhibits the students’ ability to learn and ultimately, their ability to get the most out of their education. Our new proposed business model using CC licenses will help these students afford their necessary course materials and benefit society as a whole, since high schools and universities could now graduate better-educated students who could become more productive members of />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

Our author, David B. Massey, is a full professor at Northeastern University and has over 25 years of teaching experience at the collegiate level. He is also a leading research mathematician in the field of singularities and has published 32 research papers, and two research-level books. He understands how the textbook industry works from a professor’s perspective and how to best target professors to adopt our textbook.

Our Director of Business Operations, Brian Lepley, is a recent graduate of Northeastern University, and as such, understands the plight of students with regard to textbooks and how to best serve their needs going forward. He has consulted for numerous companies throughout the globe, and he knows how to target students to get them excited about our mission.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

Obviously the impact on our main participants (college students and high schools) will be immediate because they will avoid paying the exorbitant prices that the textbook publishers impose on them. We would calculate the number of dollars saved per college student by switching to our textbooks or the number of dollars saved in the budget for high schools that could then go to other worthwhile projects.

It would be difficult to measure the immediate impact on the larger community, but over time we could track the overall price of education to see if it decreased as more companies adopted this textbook model, which would give greater opportunities to students.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

Currently, Northeastern University has committed to using our textbooks for the 2010-2011 school year, and we have numerous soft commitments from high schools that are interested in adopting our textbook. The total number of participants in the pilot program this school year will be around 500 students. We know that those who have adopted our textbooks will be satisfied with the product, but in the event that they are not, we will work with them to address any concerns they have.

In order to attract more high schools and universities in the future, we need to work to market to these institutions so they know how their students could really benefit from implementing our textbooks. We intend to do this through a variety of different channels that both engage faculty and students in positive ways by getting them excited about the project.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

Our project will seek to increase the amount of creativity in “the commons” by advancing and promoting a business model that other producers of educational content could emulate in order to make their potential businesses more sustainable. In addition to the promotion of the business model, there would also be many new CC licensed resources from the universities and high schools that decided to develop their own customized textbooks.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

From a product standpoint, we produce our textbooks using TeX and TeXShop, which are both GNU GPL products and part of the open-source software community. Since our project deals with proving and promoting a business model, our technical skills lie in the area of sales, marketing, and strategy. As we are trying to revolutionize part of an industry, our technical needs lie in this realm with regard to promotion and advertising. In order to create change, we need to create awareness, which is where some of our biggest challenges are.

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

The biggest challenge we will face is convincing professors that the digital textbook is the future. Most professors are resistant to the change, but we want to show them is that the digital textbook can be used in coordination with a traditional textbook to actually enhance a student’s learning. As we know, all students do not learn in the same ways, and it is time that the education system began embracing this fact by implementing these new types of learning tools. If professors are truly committed to helping their students become the best they can be, than the transition to our textbooks from the old model should make sense from a learning perspective.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

As we stated above, we are looking to experiment with a multi-tiered business model that utilizes Creative Commons licenses. Hopefully, this model will prove effective and allow us to achieve sustainable revenue for the future. If it does not, we are hoping this project will show us the flaws in our current business model, and then we can tailor it to continue to spread the use of CC licenses throughout the collegiate and high school education systems.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

This project can have a scalable impact because much like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails did by releasing their Ghosts I-IV instrumental selection and exposing the music world to that new business model, we want to have that kind of impact on the textbook world. We want to prove that textbook companies can produce an affordable textbook option for students through CC licenses, while still generating a source of revenue that will make a business sustainable.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

Worldwide Center of Mathematics would like Creative Commons to help promote and market the project should we qualify for a Catalyst Grant. You could help us by perhaps announcing it in a press release, posting it on your website, or any other means that would help promote what we are trying to accomplish here at the Center.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

We currently communicate with our community members and network partners through a variety of channels including email, phone calls, and in-person meetings. We feel that the only way for us to deliver exactly what the community wants is by effectively communicating with them in a positive way.