The online education content community should be taking notes from the book publishing industry. It’s an adapt-or-perish world in which those who embrace technology such as tablet computers and apps are able to thrive, while those who stick to the same old packaging are doomed to die off.
Metatextuality is key here. If your content has it, you are entering the world of the average internet-user: a world that’s dynamic and constantly in dialogue with other sources.
The death of textbooks
With more and more students getting their degrees online, education technology is wildly expanding. Not only online education students are finding textbooks irrelevant, but those who attend brick-and-mortar schools are increasingly opting out of buying the course textbooks.
In many subjects, textbooks are going the way of the dinosaurs. While textbooks like language, philosophy, and other humanities remain necessary, many other course textbooks such as biology and math are becoming obsolete as students use Google to find the answers they’re looking for.
All the information is out there, and students no longer depend on textbooks to find it in a consolidated format.
The transformation of one publishing house
In a recent Reuters article, Mark Egan profiles the innovative New York publisher Nicholas Callaway, who saw wild success with the publishing of the children’s app book “Miss Spider’s Tea Party” on Apple’s iOS platform. His company began publishing regular paper books in the 1980’s but now concentrates its energy exclusively on iOS app versions.
With an openness to more dynamic story-telling methods, Callaway’s company transformed from a traditional publishing house to a technologically innovative one.
From stories to learning Content: the transformation of your learning system
Just as you can tell a story in a number of ways, you can teach in a number of ways, in an endless number of formats and media. The way we interact with stories, news, educational content, and all kinds of information online offers a range of possibilities for online education systems.
I also loved the concept of another successful publishing company described in Egan’s article is DMC Worldwide, whose most recent venture is Copia Interactive: social e-reading.
“We think there is space around the book for community to grow,” said Seth Kaufman, Copia’s vice president of marketing and merchandising.
Copia Interactive, still in beta, allows users to not only buy books, but also inteact with one another. They can annotate books, publishing their comments and reactions.
When Kaufman explains Copia to publishers, he likes to tell them, “There are many friends I have who would never buy a Sarah Palin book, but if Jon Stewart annotated Sarah Palin’s book, they might buy that book.”
As online education content developers, how might we tap into the potential of metatextuality?
How to make your online learning content metatextual
If it’s online, information has the potential to be interactive and metatextual. Meaning, it can refer to information outside the text, like linking pages in a blog. It can create and be part of a vast network of information-there’s no limit to its scope.
Education, with or without professors and textbook companies who stubbornly stick to traditional methods, is moving in that direction.