Monday, September 25, 2017

The MAA session "The Advancement of Open Educational Resources" at the Joint Meetings in San Diego needs some more submissions.

The title says it all. From Kent Morrison:

The deadline to submit an abstract is Sep 26 (tomorrow!). Submit an abstract at

Description:  This session will showcase the increasing popularity of open educational resources (OER) in mathematics and statistics. Examples may include, but are not limited to, the development or adoption of open source or open access course texts and related materials, the creation and/or implementation of course technological enhancements, such as instructional apps and video tutorials, and experiences with the inclusion of low or no-cost homework platforms or mathematics software systems in a particular course. Presenters should attempt to address the effectiveness (formally or informally assessed) of the adoption of such resources in their courses. Preference will be awarded to presentations from community college and four-year undergraduate institutions.

Organizer: Benjamin Atchinson, Framingham State University

Regards,Kent Morrison |

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Use a Google form to encourage reading before class.

It's not exactly about open source texts, but yesterday I did an on-campus talk at our center for teaching and learning on the subject of "Getting Students to Do the Reading." I shared my solution that involves a relatively simple use of Google forms to get students to read and respond before coming to class. I think it's slightly relevant here because it's free, and the form I use can certainly be modified and redistributed.

If you're interested, I put together a brief video showing how to use a Google form for this purpose:

If any of you have any useful supplementary, open source techniques that you use in your classrooms and would like to share them here, please let me know and I'll post them here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

DMCA Takedown Request of Open Source Calculus Book, ha!

Many of you may know that I work at Whitman College and David Guichard, author of the widely used open-source calculus textbook aptly named "Single Variable Calculus", is in my department (in the office right next door).

Not surprisingly, many of us in the dept here use this textbook. Hence, a pdf copy of the textbook sits on one of our dept webservers ( 

A couple of days ago Whitman's tech support folks received a DMCA takedown request from Cengage (a commercial textbook operation) for this pdf file. Lest there be any doubt, Cengage does not own the rights to this text. Indeed, on page 2 of the pdf one can view clearly the creative commons license governing the use of this text. Fortunately, our tech services folks have a good sense of humor and told Cengage to "eff off!"

I'd love to post the actual takedown notice, but (surprise!) the fine print at the bottom of the notice prohibits that. It's too bad that these copyright trolling outfits aren't liable for the time and energy consumed by false claims of infringement.

I'd be interested in knowing if other authors of open-source texts have run into this issue.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Open Source Texts at the JMM Atlanta 2017

Here's a note from Kent Morrison of the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) that nicely synopsizes AIM's open source text activities at the recent Joint Mathematics Meeting in Atlanta earlier this month. It's a message to the authors that participated, but contains information to users of open source texts as well. Thanks Kent!
Thanks to all of you we had an incredible display of 20 different titles at the AIM booth last week in Atlanta. After the books were gone we realized we didn’t have a photo of the display—we’ll get one next year. But if you weren’t there you can be assured that it was pretty impressive. We also had almost constant traffic from attendees who wanted to know more or to tell us about the books they had used. A number of students stopped by to say that they used some of the books and liked them—not just for the price.

We managed to give all of the books away by the end of the meeting. Those taking the books were typically very grateful. We asked them to give the books serious consideration for course adoption and to pass them on to colleagues teaching the appropriate courses. One of the books is now in Rwanda, where the person who took it is teaching a short course this month in a place with almost no library. She plans to leave the book behind when she returns home.

During the meeting there was a lot more going on with open textbooks and more generally with open educational resources. The AIM textbook initiative was mentioned frequently. We have just begun work on a second NSF grant for the UTMOST project, and there is a closely related project with AIM involvement under the name “Curated Courses.” I invite you to look at the websites and to see what we are up to.

Let me know when there are changes to the data about your book so that I can keep the web pages up to date.

We’ll be in San Diego next January. Hope to see you and your books there.

Best wishes,

Kent Morrison
American Institute of Mathematics

Monday, October 24, 2016

Open Source Differential Equations and Calculus Textbooks

Here's a note from Charles Bergeron, a co-author of the open source text "Differential Equations" with Jiri Lebl:

After my first offering of Differential Equations using my book, there were of course plenty of corrections and additions I wanted to make. I thought I'd draw your attention to it.

. . . The biggest change is that the book integrates both Maxima and SageMath, and the reader can use either one.

In other news, Bergeron notes:

I've also created a Calc II book that is a mash of Guichard and Mooculus. . . . I'm just about ready to go public with it. By the time I teach Calc II next Spring, I'm hoping to augment this book to provide Maxima and SageMath integration in a manner similar to the DiffEq book.

According to Bergeron, of particular interest to potential adopters is the fact that "there is a tiny bit of Linear Algebra in my Calculus II course, because my college doesn't have a Linear Algebra course and I'm trying to make my Differential Equations course a little more interesting by splitting the prerequisite LinAlg content between Calc II and DiffEq."  That's certainly a departure from traditional second term calculus content.  I'd be interested in hearing from folks that have tried that.

Many of us are considering adoptions for spring classes right now.  Take a look at these.  I'm definitely going to take a close look at the differential equations text the next time I teach that class.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lawsuit against FedEx, Fascinating Challenge to CC-NC clause.

According to an article at edweek, "Fedex Targeted in Open Educational Resources Lawsuit" by Sean Cavanagh, a lawsuit brought against FedEx photocopying service by OER creator Great Minds raises some interesting challenges to the "print on demand" model so often employed by many of us here.  Great Minds produces OER under a Creative Commons license with a non-commercial clause (CC-NC).  While it is perfectly legal for educators to download and reproduce the materials for their students on their own, Great Minds asserts that downloading OERs and taking them to FedEx (a for-profit commercial enterprise) for printing is prohibited by the CC-NC clause.

A few wrinkles to consider, also from the article: 
  • Great Minds offers print on demand services for their materials, but, presumably because they are a non-profit corporation, they may do so at slightly above cost and keep the revenue to support their own operations.
  • Officials at Creative Commons have taken FedEx's position and, according to this blog, are against the lawsuit.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the authors here offer their texts at print on demand sites like Lulu or Amazon.  These sites are also for-profit.  A win for Great Minds would force some alterations in the use of these services.  Does this lawsuit require a re-write of the NC clause?  Should we just not use the NC clause?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Open Logic Project

It's not quite a math book, but Richard Zach in the Dept of Philosophy at the University of Calgary wrote to let me know of the Open Logic Project.  The project is a collection of open educational resources (OER) aimed at teaching advanced logic courses typically found in philosophy curricula.

I looked over the web site and they appear to be adhering to the spirit of OER.  The materials, including a pair of logic textbooks, have source available and are hosted on GitHub.

Of course, one of the major challenges of OER adoption is simply awareness.  Please share this with your colleagues in the philosophy department.