Archive for November 25, 2011
I’m surprised that this is controversial: A for-profit university, that provides e-textbooks for free to its students, is going to start producing its books in-house. The professors are concerned that they might not be fairly compensated, or that the quality won’t be high. Both of those are factors that can be easily controlled — and this isn’t even a novel practice. The Open University in the UK has been doing this for decades. It was (at one time) the fourth largest publishing house in the UK (says Gordon Davies, past CS Chair at Open U. UK). This is their common practice. Why is it uncomfortable for American faculty?
APUS occupies a relatively comfortable niche among for-profit colleges, and one that’s earned them praise, even from some of the industry’s critics. Part of the reason is the university system’s relatively cheap tuition: three-credit undergraduate courses cost $750, an amount that hasn’t changed in a decade.
Affordability is a draw for its 84,000 students, about 85 percent of whom are affiliated with the military. So is flexibility, given service members’ unpredictable schedules and frequent moves. As a result, all courses offered by the university are fully online.
The university assigns e-textbooks as the default for most courses. It also offers an unusual perk to students by not charging for those texts, which are included in tuition.
Since the university itself pays for digital texts, it stands to reap substantial savings by producing course materials internally.