Thursday, February 21, 2013

OER: Neuro-Cloud: a new model of textbooks

I am really excited about Neuro-Cloud. I heard about it in a tweet from Creative Commons this morning and went to take a look. This is a textbook that is being created by a community of neuroscientists who first began the project as an open journal. It is free for anyone to use because they are using the CC-by license instead of traditional copyright. It is still a work in progress: they want to have a finished textbook by July of 2013.

I have been very interested in textbooks that are created by a community of scholars rather than the traditional subject matter expert model of the traditional publishers. The math textbooks at my previous college are an example of this. I think it is particulary fitting that this is how a textbook on neuroscience is written and supported because neuroscience is a rapidly changing field. Every advance in technology gives us more ways to look at the brain and like astronomy or physics, the deeper in we look, the more we find. What is fascinating about this project is that students will be reading a text written by this current generation of neuroscientists and then will go on to do research and work that will contribute to the later editions of this book. This is a living community of scholarship as much as it is a textbook:
"The goal of the Neuro-Cloud Textbook Project is to provide a free, accurate and comprehensive introduction to neuroscience for both educators and students. This is to be accomplished through an online collaborative environment where the next generation of neuroscientists will have the opportunity to work with colleagues from all over the world. By providing students experience, connections and a chance to showcase their knowledge, all while providing a needed service to the community, the Neuro-Cloud Textbook Project creates a situation where the whole world can benefit."
There has been a lot of hand wringing about "sustainability" over open education resources and open textbooks. As soon as we move away from the education-as-a-product model and move towards education as community (I am thinking here of the Connectivist model), questions about money become less relevant.
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