Open Textbooks Advocate Circles Back To Tech - InformationWeek
01:02 AM
Connect Directly
Moving UEBA Beyond the Ground Floor
Sep 20, 2017
This webinar will provide the details you need about UEBA so you can make the decisions on how bes ...Read More>>

Open Textbooks Advocate Circles Back To Tech

Rice University electrical and computer engineering professor Richard Baraniuk helped create OpenStax online series to solve a practical need for a good textbook.

His research team calls its methodology SPARFA, short for Sparse Factor Analysis, a technique that can be applied to learning and content analytics. You can see a video lecture in which he explains it in detail, from the Personalized Learning Workshop held in April at Rice.

Using SPARFA, OpenStax Tutor is able to translate a bunch of student scores into what's known as a knowledge network -- which can be graphed as clusters of connected network nodes -- showing the gaps in a student's knowledge. In most adaptive software produced to date, these knowledge networks are created manually by teams of experts, but OpenStax Tutor automates the process.

In its current beta form, OpenStax Tutor is being tested as an online homework system in courses offered at Rice, Georgia Tech and the University of Texas El Paso, with smaller tests at Duke University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill that are starting to ramp up. The project incorporates cognitive science research from Duke on productive patterns of learning, and Duke is also working to measure results from the project.

"We're able to get anywhere from one half to one letter grade improvement in outcomes," Baraniuk said, and it's an approach that can be applied to any course where students do homework or practice skills in a form that can be assessed online. The current software is not fully personalized to allow each student to follow an individual learning path, but that will be part of the next phase of research, he said.

Rice offers OpenStax Tutor for free, while reserving the right to charge for it as a cloud service if institutions adopt it at scale. Baraniuk said he is not sure whether the service will endure as a distinct product, even though one potential use would be to serve as the online homework system to accompany OpenStax textbooks, making them more competitive with commercial textbooks that come bundled with online tools. OpenStax Tutor could wind up being more significant as a research project that will inform the development of commercial adaptive learning software and homework systems, he said.

If the impact on the quality of education is positive, Baraniuk will be happy. While his formal training was an engineer, not an educator, he takes his teaching responsibilities seriously. He is pleased to see these two parts of his life coming together.

"I love teaching, and I just kind of fell into some kind of perfect career," he said.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+, along with @IWKEducation.

2 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
8/23/2013 | 2:11:47 PM
re: Open Textbooks Advocate Circles Back To Tech
David, why is 'analyzing student responses to
tests and assessments and from that data inferring the concepts students
are having trouble understanding' seen as such a complex problem? Isn't this done routinely with SAT/ACT and state-level standardized tests? Is it a matter of data volume?
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/27/2013 | 4:06:53 PM
re: Open Textbooks Advocate Circles Back To Tech
I'm going to try to get a better answer for you, but I think the distinction is between inferring related concepts from ANY series of questions and student responses, vs in the standardized test case having a manually designed model designed to assess certain skills.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
IT Strategies to Conquer the Cloud
Chances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll