March 31, 2010

A Look at OpenCourseWare [7:50 am]

As Colleges Make Courses Available Free Online, Others Cash In [pdf]

Indeed, that raises a key question: how can professors and universities afford to give away the course materials that are their very livelihood?

The answer, says James D. Yager, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, lies in why students pay to attend university in the first place. What OpenCourseWare offers, he notes, is not the full university experience: “We don’t offer the course for free, we offer the content for free,” Mr. Yager said by telephone in February. “Students take courses because they want interaction with faculty, they want interaction with one another. Those things are not available on O.C.W.

“O.C.W. is just the publishing of the content,” he said.

Moreover, O.C.W. offers no accreditation and no degree, although that may soon change. Before Utah State ran short of funds, Mr. Jensen worked on a project to certify students who passed examinations after completing O.C.W. courses.

If just 1 percent of the 50,000 unique monthly visitors to the Utah State OpenCourseWare site had paid a $50 exam fee, the OpenCourseWare program could have been sustainable, he said.

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Figuring Out The eBook [7:47 am]

A long way to go: In E-Book Era, You Can’t Even Judge a Cover [pdf]

[...] With a growing number of people turning to Kindles and other electronic readers, and with the Apple iPad arriving on Saturday, it is not always possible to see what others are reading or to project your own literary tastes.

You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.

“There’s something about having a beautiful book that looks intellectually weighty and yummy,” said Ms. Wiles, who recalled that when she was rereading “Anna Karenina” recently, she liked that people could see the cover on the subway. “You feel kind of proud to be reading it.” With a Kindle or Nook, she said, “people would never know.”

Among other changes heralded by the e-book era, digital editions are bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach. That is a loss for publishers and authors, who enjoy some free advertising for their books in printed form: if you notice the jackets on the books people are reading on a plane or in the park, you might decide to check out “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “The Help,” too.

“So often when you’re thinking of a book, you remember its cover,” said Jeffrey C. Alexander, professor of cultural sociology at Yale. “It’s a way of drawing people through the visual into reading.”

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And You Thought This Meant We Were Done With SCO’s Madness [7:44 am]

Nope — hope springs eternal in the heart of an IP litigant, even when rationality has long fled.

Utah Jury Decides Unix Battle in Favor of Novell [pdf]

Novell Inc. never sold ownership rights to Unix computer software code when it allowed another company to take over the servicing of the venerable server operating system used by large corporations, a jury in Utah decided Tuesday.

The verdict was a setback for The SCO Group of Lindon, Utah, which hoped a victory would help lift it out of bankruptcy and strengthen a separate case alleging IBM Corp. misappropriated Unix code for improvements that made the open-source Linux operating system run better.

Some former Novell executives testified that they intended to sell the copyrights along with the Unix operating system, and SCO Group offered an amendment written a year after the 1995 sale that it said transferred the rights.

”Obviously, we’re disappointed in the jury’s decision,” said SCO trial lawyer Stuart H. Singer. ”We were confident in the case, but there’s some important claims remaining to be decided by a judge.”

SCO will ask U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to award the copyrights to SCO ”even if we didn’t have them before,” he said. ”It’s a setback, but it’s not over.”

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