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5 Requirements for Digital Coursepack Providers
August 29, 2010 - 9:30pm

Requirement 1 - Copyright Clearance: The ability to clear copyrights and gain permissions for all course readings submitted to the provider. Content may include book chapters, journal articles, case studies, magazine and newspaper articles, and textbook chapters.

Requirement 2 - Platform Flexibility: The created digital coursepack is optimized to work across environments. The coursepack needs to be viewable on an iPad, a Kindle, or a PC. An option to printout out the coursepack must be available, either locally or printed, bound and shipped to the student. I think a single PDF file of all the materials would work fine. It would be okay to have the file set-up so that it cannot be e-mailed.

Requirement 3 - Dynamic Pricing: Copyright clearance is accomplished dynamically through a Web interface, using a search box. Pricing for the cleared materials is transparent, with the ability to pass costs along to the student or to the program/school/library/institution.

Requirement 4 - Integrate with Existing Campus Subscriptions: Somehow the digital coursepack service needs to integrate with existing digital database subscription services to minimize double-paying. I'm not sure how this could or should work, but it seems as if some of the existing licenses that the campus library negotiates with content aggregators, journals, and databases allow utilization of these materials in digital coursepacks.

Requirement 5 - A Universal Library: The digital coursepack model will break down if the content available for copyright/device clearance is incomplete. The digital coursepack needs to be as content complete as a traditional paper coursepack. We need to avoid the digital availability of curriculum driving what is assigned, as faculty will quickly abandon any such service.

Some things that would be great to have but are not absolute essentials:

Annotation: I actually don't think the ability to annotate the materials is critical. If students want to write on the articles/chapters/cases etc. they can choose to print it out (or buy the paper version.

iPad App: I'm not sure if a fancy iPad app is necessary for each course reader version. Wouldn't a simple PDF file work out pretty well?

Disaggregated Content: On this one I"m more torn. It would be better if the professor or learning designer could break-apart the articles and chapters, placing the reading in the appropriate module in the LMS. I'm not sure if it is "good enough" to tell the student to go to the particular curricular piece in the larger coursepack, rather than provide a direct link.

Social Elements: Should students be able to collaborate and add value to the articles and materials? Should a social networking element be built in the digital coursepack platform? I'm thinking that this is not a core requirement, and that investments and energy should be put into meeting the 5 requirements listed above.

The companies that I know in this space include: http://xanedu.com/, http://www.symtext.com/, and http://sharedbook.com/.

Does anyone have any experience with these providers? Am I missing any digital coursepack companies that I should know about?

 

 

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