Ebooks in Education

Is Artificial Intelligence the Ultimate University Stimulus?

10 October 2019

From readwrite:

What does it take to make the university the best learning experience in the lifecycle of one’s education? Higher education is all about developing skills, exploring new theories, and applying them to the actualities of real life. Throughout this journey, students are encouraged to stay on top of their workload, study, and complete assessments all while simultaneously leading a healthy, active, and balanced social life.

. . . .

The essential materials relied on at university include books, books, and more books. As we move into an age of digitalization of practically everything, there is a reason to believe that the existing higher education model should too be digitalized to allow for an enhanced university experience.

. . . .

Based on a one-module-fits-all curriculum, where students are all expected to learn the same thing in the confines of a classroom, they will then be assessed by examinations based on rigid criteria to determine a pass or fail. These intrinsic features of the education system do little to contribute to an enhanced learning experience. Instead, prospects for development under the current model seems to have come to a halt.

. . . .

Having the entire world become digitalized is essential as little else could be more detrimental to the future than our young minds being taught in obsolete ways. Artificial intelligence has disrupted almost every industry. The AI market is expected to generate $3 trillion in revenue by 2024.

. . . .

AI’s ability to make recommendations and produce answers based on patterns and inferences is precisely what humans cannot do on a mass scale – and precisely what our existing university structure demands.

University 20.35, (https://2035.university/en/), introduces the first university model that provides opportunities for professional development by creating individual educational trajectories and tracking digital skill profiles using artificial intelligence.

The use of digital footprints, which the platform collects during educational processes measures and analyses the students’ skills. Then, it confirms or refutes whether a trajectory module teacher can efficiently transfer skills to the students.

. . . .

We might conjure up images in our heads of groups of students studying together, in an attempt to improve their existing skills and fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Before the introduction of AI, this image of students was the only one conceivable, but it’s not the most effective.

AI, through the collection and analysis of digital footprints, allows for the creation of each students’ digital twin. Digital twins are essentially the digital replica of physical assets, i.e., the physical twin or the replica is of the student.

This accurate and near to real-time data based on digital footprint as well as some biological data can help to establish better solutions for students. This includes the biological of the surroundings as well as personal biolgical data. The application of the digital twin in higher education has the potential to shed light on gaps in the student’s knowledge, their forgetfulness, and hone in on their strengths.

. . . .

Through AI, digital twins can materialize into a functional and personal study buddy.

Twinning is effectively a solid starting point for the development of a proactive educational study plan. From here, as the data reflects the student’s actual profile, the near to real-time data of the students’ progress will represent the students’ knowledge and skills.

Twinning can also be modeled to take into account what the student forgets and the skills they are practicing. The digital economy awaits, and as things stand, the next generation of our workforce have been and continue to be, educated and trained in an educational model that is incompatible with the digital future.

Link to the rest at readwrite

PG notes that the computer becomes the books in this model.

The Future of Textbooks

8 October 2019

From The Bookseller:

Pearson’s chief strategy officer Jonathan Chocqueel-Mangan will give insights into the publisher’s new digital-first textbook policy at FutureBook Live 2019, The Bookseller’s publishing conference. Chocqueel-Mangan will be speaking as part of the conference’s learning stream, which this year will explore key topics including the future of textbooks, publishers’ responses to Open Access mandates, and how UK school classrooms are adopting new learning technologies.

In the textbooks session, Outsell v.p. and lead analyst Kate Worlock, Blackwell’s c.e.o. David Prescott and Lucy Mills, head of publishing (education) in English, Humanities and Languages at Cambridge University Press, will join Chocqueel-Mangan to debate the future shape of textbook teaching and learning across the range of schools and higher education publishing, including international schools. Meanwhile in a session titled “Leading from the Front: how publishers can shape the Open Access debate”, Springer Nature’s chief publishing officer Steven Inchcoombe will discuss his view of how publishers must become “active drivers”, rather than just “passive enablers” of OA.

. . . .

Benedicte Page, deputy editor of The Bookseller, said: “The academic and education fields are facing seismic change, and publishers must make major choices as they look to help their businesses survive and thrive. The FutureBook Live learning stream will pick out some of the central strategic issues facing the industry, and bring together a range of individuals offering innovation, new enterprise and leadership in the field.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Pearson Plunges After Warning on U.S. University Slowdown

27 September 2019

From Bloomberg:

Pearson Plc, the education publisher, dropped 14% after it said earnings would be at the low end of their expected range due to weakness in sales to U.S. universities.

The London-based company had set 2019 guidance for adjusted operating profit of 590 million ($729 million) to 640 million pounds, and the caution reflects shrinkage in U.S. Higher Education Courseware, a unit which makes up a quarter of Pearson revenue, the company said Thursday. The shares fell the most since January 2017, and traded at 726 pence at 8:19 a.m. in London.

Scholars are abandoning traditional textbooks faster than sales of digital learning tools can replace them, and Pearson is already undergoing a transformation program which has seen it cut jobs and sell offices, including the former headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper. It is also losing market share as customers change their consumption habits, including a trend of students using materials that they can get for free, Berenberg analyst Sarah Simon wrote in a research note Thursday.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

 

AAP Flags Declining US Student Spending on Textbooks

13 September 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a statement issued late Wednesday (September 11), the Association of American Publishers reports that average student spending on college textbooks and course materials in the United States has steadily declined in recent years.

. . . .

Student Watch reports a drop of 35 percent over the past five years and Student Monitor indicates a 29-percent decline over the same time period.

. . . .

“When it comes to acquiring course materials, students have more choice and more affordable alternatives than ever, including rental options for both print and digital materials, loose-leaf versions and creative new distribution models such as inclusive access and subscription services.

“The statistics make it clear that students are taking full advantage of the new, cost-effective options that publishers have made available, which has led to a significant decline in student spending.”

. . . .

Student Monitor’s “Lifestyle & Media” report found that student spending on course materials went from an average of US$691 for the 2014 to 2015 academic year to $492 for the 2018-2019 academic year.

In the most recent semester for which data is available, the report indicated that average spending on course materials went from $281 for spring of 2018, to $239 in spring of 2019, a decline of 15 percent.

. . . .

In the AAP report, the staff writes, “Education publishers have long acknowledged that students struggle with overall college expenses.”

Because there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution for college course materials, the AAP notes, education companies are addressing affordability by launching new initiatives such as “inclusive Access,” which provide students with materials on the first day of class—often at a reduced cost—because they’re purchased in volume.

“Other options like subscription models provide unlimited access to a range of textbooks, open course materials, online homework access codes and study guides all for one price,” the AAP says.

. . . .

According to the Student Monitor report, the AAP points out, the $239 in average student spending during the spring 2019 semester included:

  • $102 for new, printed textbooks
  • $59 for used, printed textbooks
  • $47 for rented, printed textbooks
  • $20 for digital textbooks for unlimited use
  • $11 for digital textbooks for limited-time use

Student Watch reports that as of 2019, about one in four students (26 percent) preferred a strictly print textbook, down 21 percent from its highest point in fall 2016, but down only 6 percent from fall 2012 when the question was first asked.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Authors Guild Says Cengage Failed to Renegotiate Contracts

26 August 2019
Comments Off on Authors Guild Says Cengage Failed to Renegotiate Contracts

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Authors Guild in New York has today (August 23) issued a statement on the class action lawsuit filed against Cengage by a group of writers for the service.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall from our mention of this case on August 19 that this is the second time writers have challenged the Cengage Unlimited subscription offer for students and educators, alleging that it violates the author agreement the company has had with its writers.

The new case, as charges that Cengage’s switch to the subscription model changes the royalty formula by which authors were on contract to be paid.

As the legal team at the guild is describing it, the authors now are in court against Cengage “for violating the terms of their contracts by unilaterally changing their payment structures from a traditional per-sale royalty to a relative-use share, thereby lowering their income dramatically.

. . . .

Throughout the first round of legal action, which led to a settlement in October, Cengage’s leadership, under CEO Michael E. Hansen, maintained that its writers were informed and that its development of the subscription model didn’t violate their contracts. In one interview with us, Hanson suggested that authors could well benefit in their usage-based payments as students and instructors explore more subjects and information they can find on offer.

By the end of April this year, Cengage Unlimited was announcing more than 1 million subscriptions since the launch of Unlimited in August 2018.

But a year earlier, the company had been engaged in an effort to defend the efficacy of the subscription model for authors, stating that it was “disappointed” to find some of the writers filing a complaint.

At the time, the company stated, “We have communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor. … Our authors, like those at our competitors, have seen declining royalties as a result of high prices that lower demand. The subscription service addresses students’ concerns and enables a more sustainable business model for the company and our authors.”

Now, the Author Guild’s legal assessment of the situation is that the change in Cengage’s approach–”to relative-use of an author’s title as compared to other titles in the same revenue pool, instead of paying the author a traditional per-sale royalty provided for in the publishing agreement”–is problematic in ways the company knows from the first court contest.

. . . .

“Rather than negotiating the terms in good faith and giving authors a chance to bargain for their fair share of digital subscription revenues, Cengage unilaterally decided what its authors’ contributions were worth. In doing so, Cengage took advantage of authors, hedging that few authors would have the resources to mount a lawsuit.”

. . . .

[I]n the fall of 2017 [Cenage CEO Michael Hansen] surprised much of the industry–and even his own sales staff, in his telling of it to Publishing Perspectives–by announcing that some 22,000 pieces of content would be made available by subscription. “I’m not in the business of getting standing ovations,” Hansen said to us at the time with a laugh. “But at this last sales conference when we announced it in Texas, the reaction was, ‘This is bloody brilliant. This solves the price objection, it just solves it.’”

. . . .

And as early as 2016, Hansen had worried aloud in making an address to Klopotek’s Publishers’ Forum in Berlin under Rüdiger Wischenbart’s direction that “We as an industry didn’t care about students.”

By that, he meant that faculty members had become the consumer-targets of the educational industry. Cengage had seen a single quarter drop of 23 percent of sales once students had rejected $150 to $200 textbooks. Facing $5.5 billion in debt, Hansen said, “was the least of our problems. We had never designed a textbook with a student sitting next to us.”

. . . .

Update, August 26: In response to Publishing Perspectives’ request, Cengage has sent this statement:

“We are disappointed to see these complaints against our efforts to improve students’ access to affordable, quality learning materials.

“Since its inception in March 2011, the MindTap learning platform has consistently helped students achieve higher retention, grades and confidence. However, despite significant investments in proven products, it became increasingly apparent that students were not able to afford them. Our authors, like those at our competitors, saw declining royalties as a result of high prices that lowered students’ demand.

“The Cengage Unlimited subscription service was created to address this longstanding problem. It also enables a more sustainable business model for the company and our authors.

“We have communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor. Since the service launched, we are in regular communication with them about the impact of the subscription on their royalties.

“We look forward to vigorously responding to these complaints as we remain steadfast in our belief that our industry must do more to contribute to affordable higher education.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Of course, it’s all about the students. Over many years, textbook publishers have reduced their prices year after year to help rein in the escalating cost of obtaining a college education and allow students to minimize the long-term burden of paying back large student loans.

From Vox:

Hannah, a senior at a private university in New York City, can’t think of a single semester when she bought all the books she needed for her classes. “Even when I was studying abroad,” she said, “there was no way for me to get through the semester without dropping $500-plus on textbooks, which I couldn’t afford.”

So she didn’t buy them. That semester, Hannah, who asked that her name be withheld due to privacy reasons, found most of the books she needed on Scribd, an e-book subscription service. “I used my free trial to do pretty much all my work for the semester and to take screenshots of things so I could access everything once the trial ended,” she said. If she couldn’t find them there, then she would do without.

Hannah’s tuition and housing is covered by scholarships, but she has to use student loans to pay for her health insurance; she pays for other necessities, including textbooks, out of pocket. In other words, her generous financial aid package isn’t enough to cover the essentials. Her situation is far from unusual: A 2014 report by the Public Interest Research Groups found that two-thirds of surveyed students had skipped buying or renting some of their required course materials because they couldn’t afford them.

Textbook publishers, for their part, have begun acknowledging that textbooks and other course materials have become so expensive that some students simply can’t afford them, even if it means their grades will suffer as a result. Publishers claim that new technologies, like digital textbooks and Netflix-style subscription services, make textbooks more affordable for all. But affordability advocates say that if anyone is to blame for the fact that textbook costs have risen more than 1,000 percent since the 1970s, it’s the publishers — and, advocates claim, these new technologies are publishers’ attempt to maintain their stranglehold on the industry while disguising it as reform.

. . . .

Some professors don’t assign textbooks at all, instead opting to fill their syllabi with a combination of journal articles and other texts, some of which cost money, some of which don’t. Thanks to the advent of textbooks that come bundled with online access codes — a single-use password that gives students access to supplementary materials and, in some cases, homework — other professors can rely on one textbook for almost everything.

As a general rule, though, the amount of money students are expected to spend on course materials has rapidly outpaced the rate of inflation since the ’70s. Affordability advocates point to two major factors behind this: a lack of competition in the higher education publishing industry, and the fact that professors, not students, ultimately decide which texts get assigned. Four major publishers — Pearson, Cengage, Wiley, and McGraw-Hill — control more than 80 percent of the market, according to a 2016 PIRG report. Major publishers also tend to “avoid publishing books in subject areas where their competitors have found success,” which ends up limiting professors’ options for what to assign.

Digital textbooks, especially those that come with access codes, have also contributed to rising costs. When students buy a textbook, they aren’t just paying for the binding and the pages; they’re paying for the research, editing, production, and distribution of the book. And when that book comes with an access code, they’re also paying for the development of — and, as the name suggests, for access to — all kinds of supplementary materials, from lessons to videos to homework assignments.

Access codes, the PIRG report notes, also undercut the resale market. Since the codes can only be used once, the books are essentially worthless without them. They can also prevent students from turning to other cost-saving measures like sharing a book with a classmate.

Kaitlyn Vitez, the higher education campaign director at PIRG, told me she’s met students who couldn’t afford to buy books that come with access codes, even if they knew their grades would suffer. “One student at the University of Maryland had to get a $100 access code to do her homework and couldn’t afford it, and that was 20 percent of her grade,” Vitez said. “So she calculated what grade she would have to get on everything else to make up for not being able to do her homework.”

“On a fundamental level,” Vitez said, “you shouldn’t have to pay to do homework for a class you already paid tuition for. You shouldn’t have to pay to participate.”

. . . .

Student advocates don’t expect the move toward truly affordable course materials to be led by publishers. Instead, they’re encouraging professors to adopt — and help develop — free, open source textbooks. Kharl Reynado, a senior at the University of Connecticut and the leader of PIRG’s affordable textbooks campaign, told me she’s had to pay “upward of $500” for books and access codes and has dropped courses because she couldn’t afford the costs. “I’ve had friends who spend entire paychecks on just their textbook costs in the beginning of the semester and had little money left over to cover food, gas, and sometimes, in extreme cases, rent because of it,” she said.

“We work closely with students and campus partners such as the UConn Library to promote open textbooks to different professors and educate students on their options,” she added.

The real challenge is getting professors, who are ultimately responsible for which books get assigned, to adopt the free options. Professors don’t assign books by major publishers or books with access codes because they want students to suffer — they do it because, more often than not, it’s easier.

As Vitez noted, an increasing number of universities are replacing full-time, tenured staff with adjunct professors. Adjuncts, many of whom are graduate students, are paid by the course, typically don’t receive benefits, and occasionally find out they’re teaching a class a few weeks before the semester begins. In other words, they don’t necessarily have the time or resources to spend the summer developing a lesson plan or to work alongside librarians to find quality materials that won’t come at a high cost to students.

That’s where books with access codes come in. These books come loaded with vetted, preselected supplementary material and homework assignments that can be graded online. They require a much smaller time investment from underpaid instructors.

Link to the rest at Vox

Open Access Publishing

19 August 2019

Based upon a comment to another post, PG refreshed his high-level knowledge of open-access academic journals.

From The Lloyd Sealy Library at The City University of New York:

Peter Suber has written extensively about open access,

“Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free
of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing
restrictions.”

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) ‘s definition:

“Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.”

. . . .

Open access (OA) can be green, gold, gratis or libreGreen OA refers to authors’ self archiving their work on their own web or social media site, in their institution’s repository, or in a discipline based repository.  Gold OA refers to an article that is freely accessible on the journal’s website; the journal may be fully open access, or a hybrid with some articles freely available and others behind a paywall. Gratis open access articles can be accessed by anyone without any monetary charge.  Libre open access articles may be accessed and re-used without restrictions.

. . . .

The BBB Declarations; Budapest, Berlin, Bethesda:

The Budapest Open Access Initiative 2002 (BOAI, a declaration drawn up at a meeting sponsored by Soros’ Open Society Institute) defined open access to academic articles thus:  By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles...”  Self-archiving and open access journals were the means suggested. Subsequent declarations from Berlin (2003) and Bethesda (2003) expanded and elaborated on the call for open access.  Subsequent “Berlin” meetings on campaigning & orchestrating for open access have been held, including the latest, Berlin 12, held in December 2015.

Ten years on from the Budapest Open Access Initiative: setting the default to open (2012):   “Ten years of experience lead us to reaffirm the definition of OA introduced in the original BOAI:

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

Recommendations for the next ten years. (BOAI, 2012).  New guidelines issued on the tenth anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

“Every institution of higher education should have a policy assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by faculty members are deposited in the institution’s designated repository….that future theses and dissertations are deposited upon acceptance in the institution’s OA repository…require deposit in the repository for all research articles to be considered for promotion, tenure, or other forms of internal assessment and review… We recommend CC-BY or an equivalent license as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work…”

. . . .

Authors: Choose the right journal for your research.

Think, Check, Submit! There are reputable journals that are completely open or have open access options.  But there are other journals you should avoid.  Choose carefully.  Think before submitting your manuscript to an unfamiliar journal – – publishing in a predatory journal may damage your reputation.

. . . .

What about author fees? The Eigenfactor Index of Open Access Fees compares author charges with the influence of the journal. Price doesn’t always buy prestige in open access.

Link to the rest at The Lloyd Sealy Library at The City University of New York

From Science Magazine at The American Association for the Advancement of Science:

How I became easy prey to a predatory publisher

I was nursing my wounds from my latest manuscript rejection when the email arrived. I was about 2 years into my assistant professorship, with the tenure clock running at full speed, and the pressure to publish was immense. I knew that navigating rejection was part of the job, but I was also starting to wonder whether my study—a modest project designed to be feasible with the minimal lab space and skeleton crew of a new professor—would ever see the light of day. So when I received the email from a newly launched journal inviting me to publish with them, I saw a lifeline. That’s when my troubles started.

I had heard about “predatory” journals during my graduate training but had no experience with them. The email appeared legitimate. It spelled my name correctly, referenced some of my previous work, and used correct grammar. The journal wasn’t on Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers. I thought I had done my due diligence. I submitted my manuscript. Shortly after, I celebrated the first round of favorable reviews. Things were going great—or so I thought.

Maybe it was the daily emails requesting my revisions, but something started to seem off. I rechecked Beall’s list—still nothing. I found that a postdoc at my institution was listed on the journal’s website as a member of the editorial board. I sent him an email asking about his experience with the journal, hoping he would confirm its legitimacy. That’s when the roof started to cave in. My colleague explained that he had never actually worked with the journal. He eventually realized that it wasn’t a reputable publication, but he hadn’t been able to get his name removed from the website. Then a trusted mentor suggested that I check up on the parent publisher. There it was, on Beall’s infamous list. My stomach tightened. I had fallen prey to a predatory journal. I worried that publishing in such a journal could hurt my tenure case and harm my reputation as a scientist.

I asked the journal to withdraw my manuscript from review, figuring that was the logical next step. They demanded that I justify my decision and debated my right to withdraw, insisting that I pay at least $400 to do so. After an exchange of emails—akin to “no way,” “yes way,” and “no way”—and one phone call demanding payment, I informed the journal that we were at an impasse and diverted all correspondence to the trash. I submitted the manuscript to a demonstrably legitimate journal, believing that I had put the mess behind me.

. . . .

That is, until a few months later, when I noticed an email in my spam folder from the predatory journal congratulating me on my recent publication and requesting payment. I googled the title of my manuscript and found that it had indeed been published. I was horrified: My manuscript had been in review at the legitimate journal for months, and this revelation would jeopardize its publication.

Link to the rest at Science Magazine at The American Association for the Advancement of Science

PG thinks Open Access to the products of academic research is a great idea, particularly if the research is directly or indirectly funded or subsidized by taxpayer money.

However, publications that require payment from the author for inclusion in the publication are (in PG’s humbly educated opinion) akin to vanity presses and, evidently, subject to the temptations that drive sleazy vanity press operations in the non-academic world to fleece authors who wander into their clutches.

From Nature:

Spam e-mails changed the life of Jeffrey Beall. It was 2008, and Beall, an academic librarian and a researcher at the University of Colorado in Denver, started to notice an increasing flow of messages from new journals soliciting him to submit articles or join their editorial boards. “I immediately became fascinated because most of the e-mails contained numerous grammatical errors,” Beall says. He started browsing the journals’ websites, and was soon convinced that many of the journals and their publishers were not quite what they claimed. The names often sounded grand — adjectives such as ‘world’, ‘global’ and ‘international’ were common — but some sites looked amateurish or gave little information about the organization behind them.

Since then, Beall has become a relentless watchdog for what he describes as “potential, possible or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”, listing and scrutinizing them on his blog, Scholarly Open Access. Open-access publishers often collect fees from authors to pay for peer review, editing and website maintenance. Beall asserts that the goal of predatory open-access publishers is to exploit this model by charging the fee without providing all the expected publishing services. These publishers, Beall says, typically display “an intention to deceive authors and readers, and a lack of transparency in their operations and processes”.

Beall says that he regularly receives e-mails from researchers unhappy about their experiences with some open-access journals. Some say that they thought their papers had been poorly peer reviewed or not peer reviewed at all, or that they found themselves listed as members of editorial boards they had not agreed to serve on. Others feel they were not informed clearly, when submitting papers to publishers, that publication would entail a fee — only to face an invoice after the paper had been accepted. According to Beall, whose list now includes more than 300 publishers, collectively issuing thousands of journals, the problem is getting worse. “2012 was basically the year of the predatory publisher; that was when they really exploded,” says Beall. He estimates that such outfits publish 5–10% of all open-access articles.

. . . .

Beall says that he has been the target of vicious online comments, and last December he was the subject of an online campaign to create the false impression that he was extorting fees from publishers to re-evaluate their status on his list. The Canadian Center of Science and Education, a company based in Toronto that publishes many open-access journals and is on Beall’s list, is now threatening to sue him for alleged defamation and libel. But even some experts in scholarly publishing are uncomfortable with Beall’s blacklist, arguing that it runs the risk of lumping publishers that are questionable together with those that could be bona fide start-ups simply lacking experience in the publishing industry. Matthew Cockerill, managing director of BioMed Central, an open-access publisher based in London, says that Beall’s list “identifies publishers which Beall has concerns about. These concerns may or may not be justified.”

. . . .

As a research librarian, Beall has been in prime position to watch the dramatic changes that have taken place in scientific publishing since the rise of the open-access movement about a decade ago. In the conventional subscription-based model, journals bring in revenue largely through selling print or web subscriptions and keeping most online content locked behind a paywall. But in the most popular model of open access, publishers charge an upfront ‘author fee’ to cover costs — and to turn a profit, in the case of commercial publishers — then make the papers freely available online, immediately on publication.

The open-access movement has spawned many successful, well-respected operations. PLOS ONE, for example, which charges a fee of US$1,350 for authors in middle- and high-income countries, has seen the number of articles it publishes leap from 138 in 2006 to 23,464 last year, making it the world’s largest scientific journal. The movement has also garnered growing political support. In the past year, the UK and US governments, as well as the European Commission, have thrown their weight behind some form of open-access publishing. And scarcely a week goes by without the appearance of new author-pays, open-access publishers, launching single journals or large fleets of them.

Many new open-access publishers are trustworthy. But not all. Anyone with a spare afternoon and a little computing savvy can launch an impressive-looking journal website and e-mail invitations to scientists to join editorial boards or submit papers for a fee. The challenge for researchers, and for Beall, is to work out when those websites or e-mail blasts signal a credible publisher and when they come from operations that can range from the outright criminal to the merely amateurish.

In one e-mail that Beall received and shared with Nature, a dental researcher wrote that she had submitted a paper to an open-access journal after she “was won over by the logos of affiliated databases on the home page and seemingly prestigious editorial board”. But the researcher, who prefers to remain anonymous, says that she became concerned about the peer-review process when the article was accepted within days and she was not sent any reviewers’ comments. She says that last week — several months after her original submission — she was sent page proofs that match the submitted manuscript, and that she still has not seen reviewers’ comments.

. . . .

OMICS Group, based in Hyderabad, India, is on Beall’s list. One researcher complained in an e-mail to Beall that she had submitted a paper to an OMICS journal after receiving an e-mail solicitation — but learned that she had to pay a fee to publish it only from a message sent by the journal after the paper had been accepted. “To my horror, I opened the file to find an invoice for $2,700!” she wrote. “This fee was not mentioned anywhere obvious at the time I submitted my manuscript.” (Nature was unable to contact this researcher.) Beall says that OMICS journals do not show their author fees prominently enough on their journal websites or in e-mails that they send to authors to solicit manuscript submissions.

Srinubabu Gedela, director of OMICS Group, says that article-handling fees are displayed clearly on the ‘Instructions for Authors’ web page for each OMICS journal. Gedela adds that he would assume researchers would be aware that such open-access journals charge author fees. He says that OMICS Group is “not predatory” and that its staff and editors are acting in “good faith and confidence” to promote open-access publishing.

Link to the rest at Nature

Here’s a link to OMICS International and here’s a link to the organization’s Peer Reviewed Journals page (the page has a great many journals listed).

From OMICS International’s Open Access page:

An Open Access publication is one that meets the following conditions:

» The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small number of printed copies for their personal use.
» A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable Open Access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).
» Open Access is a property of individual works.
» Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work.

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Open Access page

From OMICS International’s Membership page:

The OMICS International membership program, initiated to accomplish the vision of making Healthcare & Scientific Information Open Access, enables academic and research institutions, societies, groups, funding organizations and corporations to actively support Open Access in scholarly publishing and also support the participation of its representatives and students in International conferences.

Membership is now available for the scientific societies/corporatecompanies/universities/institutes/individuals/students.

. . . .

Individual membership

Six Months membership

  1. Member can submit 3 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get a prestigious certificate of six months membership from OMICS International

Annual membership

  1. Member can submit 10 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any one OMICS International conference
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Annual membership from OMICS International

Three-year membership

  1. Member can submit 20 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any two OMICS International conferences
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Three-year membership from OMICS International

Five-year membership

  1. Member can submit unsolicited number of articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any four OMICS International conferences
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Five-year membership from OMICS International

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Membership page

From the OMICS International’s Membership Fees section of the OMICS International Membership page:

Membership Six-months* Annual Three years Five years
Individual $ 3000 $ 5000 $ 10000 $ 15000

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Membership Fees page

For the record, PG doesn’t know exactly what “Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work” means (perhaps it is defined further elsewhere on the OMICS website), but, absent other material factors, he would likely advise an author/client to retain ownership of the copyright to the author’s work and to not waive any rights the author may have under domestic or international copyright laws and treaties.

From Queensborough Community College, CUNY:

What is Predatory Open Access Publishing?

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Prof. Jeffrey Beall describes the phenomenon this way:

“Predatory open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. That is to say, they operate as scholarly vanity presses and publish articles in exchange for the author fee. They are characterized by various level of deception and lack of transparency in their operations.  For example, some publishers may misrepresent their location, stating New York instead of Nigeria, or they may claim a stringent peer-review where none really exists.”

Predatory publishers may also claim to be included in directories and indexes when they are not and include faculty on their editorial boards who have not agreed to serve.

Predatory publishers began profilerating in the past few years with the increase in open access publishing, and we are now also seeing an increase in predatory conferences, some which choose a name nearly identical to an established, well-respected conference.

How Do I Avoid Predatory Publishers?

Check the publisher and journal on the predatory publishing lists linked to the left.

Contact your department’s Library Liaison for a second (or first) opinion about the authenticity of a publisher or journal. We’re happy to help faculty identify reliable, quality scholarly publishing venues.

Use the following checklist, provided by Declan Butler in Nature, as a guide for assessing publishers and journals:

How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher.

  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information, including address, on the journal site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
  • Check that a journal’s editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of them and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
  • Check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees.
  • Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
  • Read some of the journal’s published articles and assess their quality. Contact past authors to ask about their experience.
  • Check that a journal’s peer-review process is clearly described and try to confirm that a claimed impact factor is correct.
  • Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org). [Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ and Cabell’s; we don’t advise using this as your sole criteria.]
  • Use common sense, as you would when shopping online: if something looks fishy, proceed with caution.
  • Or contact your Librarian! We’re happy to help assess journals and publishers.

Link to the rest at Queensborough Community College, CUNY

The Queensborough CC page cited above also includes the following:

Predatory Publishers List

Prof. Jeffrey Beall, University of Colorada Denver librarian, maintains a list of potential predatory publishers and stand alone journals. Follow the links below to check if a publisher or journal has been flagged as possibly predatory.

PG notes Professor Beall’s two lists are for Potential, Possible or Probable Predatory, etc. Publishers and Journals.

When PG checked the above referenced Publishers list, Professor Beall included Omix International.

All links were created, checked and valid on the date this post was published. PG won’t check back to determine if any of the links are no longer functioning in the future. All excerpts from the Omix International web sites are subject to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC BY 4.0)

 

 

The Radical Transformation of the Textbook

6 August 2019

From Wired:

For several decades, textbook publishers followed the same basic model: Pitch a hefty tome of knowledge to faculty for inclusion in lesson plans; charge students an equally hefty sum; revise and update its content as needed every few years. Repeat. But the last several years have seen a shift at colleges and universities—one that has more recently turned tectonic.

In a way, the evolution of the textbook has mirrored that in every other industry. Ownership has given way to rentals, and analog to digital. Within the broad strokes of that transition, though, lie divergent ideas about not just what learning should look like in the 21st century but how affordable to make it.

. . . .

Pearson is one of the biggest publishers of educational books in the world, with a roster of 1,500 textbooks in the US market. Last month, it announced that going forward it would adopt a “digital first” strategy. It’ll still produce physical textbooks, but students will rent by default with the option to buy after the rental period ends.

“Our job is to provide the very best content with the very best learning outcomes at the very best prices for students that we can,” says Pearson CEO John Fallon. “This model enables us to do that.”

. . . .

It also enables Pearson to staunch the bleeding caused by an explosion in the second-hand market. A company called Chegg launched the first major online textbook rental service in 2007; Amazon followed suit in 2012. Both advertise savings of up to 90 percent off the sticker price. And that’s just two examples. In fact, the market has spent the last decade in something of an unvirtuous circle. As students flock to more affordable options, textbook prices have skyrocketed to make up for the lost revenue. The price of textbooks has increased 183 percent over the last 20 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Students started to reject the expensive textbooks. What they did, since they had no other choice, was find ways to save money on textbooks,” says Michael Hansen, CEO of educational publisher Cengage. “The volumes of textbooks publishers were selling declined rapidly for years. However, they always had this magical price lever. They could always just increase the prices, so their revenue looked relatively stable.”

. . . .

Pearson’s digital-first strategy is a significant step toward a more sustainable business model. Under the new system, ebooks will cost an average of $40. Those who prefer actual paper can pay $60 for the privilege of a rental, with the option to purchase the book at the end of the term. The price of a new print textbook can easily reach into the hundreds of dollars; under digital-first, students have to actively want to pay that much after a course is already over, making it an unlikely option for most.

The benefits to Pearson are self-evident. More than half of its revenue comes from digital already; this move accelerates that transition, while providing substantial savings in printing overhead.

. . . .

“Up until now the product development cycle and the revision cycle were still driven by essentially the way the world has been the last 40 years,” Fallon says. “From now on all updates will be digital first. If there’s a scientific breakthrough, a compelling business case study, developments in contemporary politics or world events, you don’t need to wait three years. You can, from one semester to another, update content.”

. . . .

“We are finding that even though undergraduates prefer to read digitally, these preferences aren’t actually showing positive or even equalness in terms of effect on comprehension,” says Lauren Singer Trakhman, who studies reading comprehension at the University of Maryland’s Disciplined and Learning Research Laboratory. “When it comes to things like pulling details, key facts, numbers, and figures, participants are doing a lot better after reading in print.”

Not only do students retain less when reading digitally, Trakhman says, they’re more likely to overestimate how well they comprehended the material. And that’s before you take into account that students reading a textbook on a device do so amid a barrage of notifications that pull them away from the material. Even without those additional distractions, which Trakhman rules out in her research, students read more quickly and less deeply. They reread sentences less. And even when an ebook layout mimics that of a physical textbook, they move around the page less, potentially missing important diagrams, sidebars, or other supporting materials.

“Digital text, digital work, is often engaged with at a lower level of attention. By moving everything online, it’s going to become even more decontextualized. Overall, I think there’s going to be less deeper learning going on,” Trakhman says. “I believe there’s a time and a place for digital, but educators need to be mindful of the time and place for using these resources. Rolling out these digital suites is not really the best for student learning.”

. . . .

Just as traditional software has a thriving open source community, textbooks have Open Educational Resources, complete textbooks that typically come free of charge digitally, or for a small fee—enough to cover the printing—in hard copy. And while it’s not an entirely new concept, OER has gained momentum in recent years, particularly as support has picked up at an institutional level, rather than on a course by course basis. According to a 2018 Babson College survey, faculty awareness of OER jumped from 34 percent to 46 percent since 2015.

One of OER’s leading proponents is OpenStax, a nonprofit based out of Rice University that offers a few dozen free textbooks, covering everything from AP Biology to Principles of Accounting. In the 2019–2020 academic year, 2.7 million students across 6,600 institutions used an OpenStax product instead of a for-profit equivalent.

. . . .

Harris also argues that while OpenStax updates materials annually as needed, it doesn’t do full revisions just for the sake of it. “Our physics book, which we published in 2012, we haven’t done a revision yet, and we don’t want to,” he says. “The laws of physics haven’t changed for the last eight years, I can guarantee you that.”

. . . .

OpenStax alone counts around 50 ecosystem partners to provide homework and testing support. Faculty can choose the one that best suits their needs, versus being locked into Pearson’s platform when you buy a Pearson textbook.

“You pick what’s best for your course,” says Harris. “We have open license content that you can adapt, and then you can pick and choose from five or six online homework platforms that better meet your curricular needs. That’s getting more flexibility, more innovation, at a much lower price.”

Link to the rest at Wired

Pearson Hackers Access Thousands of Student Accounts

5 August 2019

From Inside Higher Ed:

The personal information of approximately 13,000 school and university students was exposed as the result of a cyberattack, publisher Pearson confirmed July 31.

In a statement, the company said the exposed data was limited to first name, last name and, in some instances, date of birth and/or email address.

Pearson said the vulnerability has been found and fixed. “We have no evidence that this information has been misused, we have notified the affected customers as a precaution,” the statement said.

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Pearson provides a lot of e-textbooks to students in the US.

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