I recently generated a post on the changing nature of newspapers. This post on newspapers was motivated by recent accounts of papers going out of business or attempting to make the change from a paper to a web format. In reading material associated with changes in this industry, concerns with the economics of primary source content providers (reporters) caught my attention. The issues raised seemed similar to concerns associated with commercial academic content. My personal experience is with academic textbooks, but I work in an Instructional Design and Technology graduate program and some students assume their skills will be in demand by companies offering other forms of instructional content. So, issues of whether there is a future for commercial content and what a paid professional can offer that others cannot are interesting to consider.
First, I do think there are many examples of quality content generated as contributions by unpaid professionals. By unpaid, I mean not compensated by those who seek access to the resource. I do not know whether these works were supported through summer professorships or some other form of institutional support. Within the past week, I encountered the following:
Handbook of Collective Intelligence – launched by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. This resource is already very well developed, but additional contributions are welcomed.
Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning (George Siemens & Peter Tittenberger) – University of Manitoba. This resource is also complete and also available as a pdf. As far as I can tell, this resource is not open to public modification. While open to any educator, the resource is associated with a Certificate in Emerging Technologies for Learning offered by the University of Manitoba (see preface for details).
I hope it is fair to include my wife and my effort within this group. Meaningful Learning and the Participatory Web – this is a resource for pre-service and practicing teachers and others interested in educational applications of the participatory web.
I keep asking myself if by the ability to generate this list (without searching) I have answered some question concerning whether commercial content generation is still necessary. The newspaper professionals don’t think so and in my gut I guess I do not either. The three extended resources I have listed are provided by folks with professional interests in the topic, BUT who are also interested in social and technological topics in sharing this information. Your average chemistry or history prof. or middle school math teacher is probably less likely to share this passion. I do think that access to some such resources will challenge the traditional commercial publishing model and expand the variety of formats in which learners access content. Competition is good. There is also value in editorial supervision, professional review, attention to content standards, and other factors that one may ignore when working without compensation. Curriculum committees selecting content may think some of these expectations are important. We do live in interesting times.