If we have Internet, mostly I guess broadband Internet, why should we ridiculously spend hundreds of dollar on paper textbooks? How about establish a ‘virtual university’ for Open Educational Resource? Here, the ‘virtual university’ is not the same as online university for distant education to meet the demands of students who are not able to physically go to lectures or tutorials on campus. The ‘Virtual University’ is for Open Textbook – global-based educational resource station. In this international platform, university students learning the same or similar courses can join together to share and discuss their required textbooks and learning materials. Who will make these required textbooks accessible without students’ great amount of expenditure? The university, the government support, private law firms, philanthropist… Yes! We need their support! Is that possible? Let’s have a look at a possibly VirtualUniversity-to-be Model– iTunesU. (Maybe some of you or most of you have already experienced it).
iTunes U is basically more like a showroom for actual courses running at universities worldwide. It is indeed free of charge, allowing open subscription and review forum for anyone in the world. Though it’s still a bit far from ‘Virtual University’ in the perspective of Open Textbook, however, it’s much easier to achieve the goal of Open Textbook via building on iTunes U.
What I think is that each university that already existed in iTunes U publishes their Textbook lists according to requirements of different faculties. The access of Open Textbooks in iTunes U is controlled and limited by students’ ID (i.e. student number or Uni-pass). It means only students who have enrolled in the programs within universities can access the Textbooks Resource.
If ‘iTunes U-Global Textbook Station’ is able to be successfully established, it will dramatically increase the variety and accessibility of textbooks and learning materials which cannot be found or accessed in our own university. It will possibly leads a global study forum with professionals, educators and students to discuss and tackle the problems that experience during reading and studying the textbooks. As a result, it tends to give the editors and authors of the textbooks a much clearer and more reasonable direction of what should be improved and changed for ‘new editions’ rather than unnecessary minor changes for profit intentions.