education's digital future

Venture Capital and the Future of Open Education: FWK and MOOCs

News broke on Friday (via The Chronicle of Higher Education, reporting on a blurb from the National Association of College Stores’s newsletter) that the open textbook publisher Flat World Knowledge would be ending access to free versions of its textbook as of the new year.

The publishing company was founded in 2007 as the first commercial provider of open textbooks. These textbooks were available — for a fee — in print, digital (ePUB and PDF), and audio formats. But (up ’til now) students could always access the entire Flat World Knowledge catalog for free via the Web. According to figures cited by David Wiley at SXSWedu last year, about 35% of Flat World Knowledge’s users did opt to buy a printed version. But CEO and co-founder Jeff Shelstad told Inside Higher Ed that ““we don’t convert [from free to paid] as much as we used to.”

It’s not surprising that there’s already been a lot of ink spilled (tweets tweeted, what have you) since this story broke. (See: David Wiley, Stephen Downes, Geoff Cain, Pando Daily.) Flat World Knowledge has long been hailed as a darling in open education and in ed-tech circles by taking on the powerful incumbants of the textbook industry with a new licensing and new business model....