I'm building the groundwork for a project that will do something about this, at least in the area of biological anthropology. I've been following stories like this for years. Developing the MOOC, I have the tremendous opportunity to make connections with people all over the world. Most of the people signed up are nowhere near the traditional U.S. college textbook market (MOOC international enrollment numbers). I face a problem that can't be solved by textbooks today, and limited-use "rental" text that will go away at the end of the course is not a valid solution.This is refreshingly honest. Of the many claims about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), the only one that makes sense to me is to use them as a possible replacement for textbooks. They can be used as a supplemental resources in a student-centered classroom.
So I'm doing something about it. The idea has many moving parts, but at its base is the need to supply quality educational content cheaply, with a way to get articles freely outside the usual college system. I'm going to be calling for help, so keep watching this space.
MOOCs are good at delivering information—the sort of information you can get from a textbook.
Now I'm waiting to see if anyone creates a MOOC that comes close to the depth and quality of university science textbooks. I imagine that it can be done but it ain't going to be cheap.
John Hawks is an expert on anthropology but I find it difficult to imagine that he's going to be able to create drawings and figures of textbook quality for no cost. I don't see how he's going to ensure high quality editing and reviewing for free. I can't imagine how he's going to mount his course on servers and provide easy access for thousands of students without incurring some costs. He's going to have to pay for permissions to use photos and figures just like the textbooks do. Maybe he'll do all the administrative work himself or maybe somebody will work for him for no salary.
It's possible to overcome all these difficulties and provide free high quality MOOCs that will replace textbooks. So far, nobody has come close in any of the subjects that I'm interested in. Most existing biochemistry MOOCs are horrible.
Holding my breath ....