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Open Educational Resources

Knewton To Offer Adaptive Versions of OpenStax OER

Knewton has signed a deal with open educational resource (OER) provider OpenStax that enables the education technology company to use the organization's open educational resources as part of a new digital product line. OpenStax titles will be bundled with additional Knewton-selected OER and possibly content from commercial publishers alongside the Knewton adaptive learning engine. The OpenStax catalog offers digital textbooks for 17 of the most-attended college courses.

According to Jason Jordan, Knewton's VP of institutional markets, the goal is to make "OER a lot easier to use by the faculty. They don't have to go out there and assemble it themselves, which I think is going to be helpful."

The Knewton "engine" is technology used by a number of publishing companies in the higher education space that enables those content providers to personalize their products. Each student is guided to the specific lessons, units, videos or other content that will help them learn the material in the most suitable way for their learning styles, preferences and comprehension levels.

According to Jordan, Knewton has "educational research" showing how the application of its technology "helps students learn the material more effectively." Now, he added, "We think that we can produce better learning gains than just plain OER, which is why we're excited to bring it to the market."

The company is still testing pricing, though Jordan said he expects it will be "somewhere between $35 and $50, certainly a lot cheaper than many of the competitors' offerings out there."

Jordan added that OpenStax will continue offering its content without the Knewton capability. "It's not an exclusive relationship by any means," he said.

Jordan said the company has been tagging content to enable it to be served to students in a personalized way based on individual needs. The company has also begun testing its offerings that integrate OpenStax with instructors who are using the materials in their courses. Although he declined to name which institutions those instructors are in, he emphasized that "they're giving us feedback. We're making changes at a very quick rate. We're changing the product about every two weeks based on the feedback."

The company expects to begin a pilot program by August, which will enable schools to buy the Knewton offerings at a discount in exchange for giving the company feedback through the rest of the year.

The first three offerings that integrate OpenStax content will be general chemistry, college algebra and introduction to economics. Knewton anticipates releasing additional courses by December. "We're still determining the course cadence there," Jordan explained.

In a statement on the deal, OpenStax Founder and Director Richard Baraniuk, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, noted that improving access to higher ed for all was the core of the organization's mission. Under the new agreement, "Knewton provides yet another way to make our materials as effective as possible for each individual student."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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