If anything seems an underlying techno theme of 2005, for me it is a subtle, unlabeled series of tools, services, that are breaking content apart, and re-assembling it into new. Rather than coining a jargon, it seems to becoming more of a broader mindset of looking at information differently.

I’ve enough suggested this under the RipMixLearn nom de plume. But it’s nice to see things appear that actually manifest itself, as mine was totaly made up.

Ironically, I found about RenaissanceU from one of those almost spam like emails I get asking me to put links on our web site. But what it does sounds interesting:

RenaissanceU, an organization dedicated to uniting technology and education to offer increasingly effective learning at a lower cost, announces the release of its customized textbook product line.

The product, made possible by an exclusive partnership between RenaissanceU and SafariU, allows an educator to select chapters from best of breed books from O’Reilly, Addison Wesley, Pearson Education, and other leading publishers, combine those chapters in the way that best reflects the subject area being taught, and incorporate the educator’s original content. The final custom textbook is then printed and shipped or accessed by students as an online syllabus.

We understand that no textbook can perfectly reflect an educator’s philosophy or a classroom syllabus. By allowing an educator to pick and choose just the right content, add their own original material, and arrange the content in any way they see fit, we’re enabling a true custom learning experience. At the same time, these textbooks usually cost less than a traditional textbook.

Apparently teachers can create accounts at no charge, rip and mix text book chapters, and then make it available to students as either a printed custom textbook or an online textbook. It means breaking up the monolithic textbook into smaller units, and then making something new. If I did not know better, I might be talking about stuff that sounds like the never truly realized Theory of Learning Objects.

I’ve yet to actually poke around, and one thing the site sorely lacks is a set of examples. but I like the concept, though I am not sure how different authors mixed together would create a “whole”. But then again, like the concept behind MIT’s OpenCourseWare, the textbook is not the course, nor the educational experience.

So I’d be curious if others have looked more deeply at RenaissanceU.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Yes, Tim, I’ve zoomed past it– and actually SafariU is a major partner/provider in the RenaissanceU package.

    The only thing is these efforts are mainly for books in the IT area, it would be nice to see it go farther.

  2. Tim and Alan,

    I’m glad there are some flexible text solutions, but like Alan,
    I’d like the availability to go farther.

    Text is only one element I’d like to be able to chose from.
    To this point, publishers have been separating text and graphic from their other elements like flash interactivities and other web-based assests.

  3. I have been searching in vain for a text to teach web design the Web Standards way for my Art of Web Design class. So far all the books are either table-based layout using a WYSIWYG editor, or are meant to teach those who already know that method to use the new XHTML + CSS techniques. There isn’t much of anything that teaches “just” the Web Standards way. I am beginning to see a need to write my own book.

    Trying to avoid that, I checked out SafariU. I need to teach a little XHTML, a little JavaScript, a little CSS, and image creation and optimization using Photoshop. My art department says I must teach using Dreamweaver in the belief that it is the industry standard (as if an industry that changes as rapidly as the web has an unchanging standard).

    I found it a bit tedious to search through all the content, but promising.

    The drawback for me is that you can only use the service for free if you can produce a certain amount of dollars in sales to your students. How am I going to get Maricopa to order anything from such a new service? Don’t they have to be on an approved vendor list or something? My bookstore staff were at a loss as to how I should proceed.

    Looks like I may have to write that book after all.

  4. Cheryl,

    Sorry for the apparent obstacles– not dealing with these issues, I do not have any direct answers. Getting SafariU as a vendor should be trivial; the questions of their licensing terms needs to go to the purchasing folks. I would suggest funneling the question upward to Paul G, your top tech person at Phoenix College, who can then get it reviewed by the District Purchasing office which deals with vendor relations.

    If its numbers that are needed, the route that may work is promoting some conversation via the appropriate instructional councils that would include disciplines that might use SafariU as a service- not just the web design, but CIS, etc.

  5. Sorry for the apparent obstacles– not dealing with these issues, I do not have any direct answers.

    Oops. I did not mean for you to even try to answer my questions. Just tossing them out as feedback. Our enrollment is so low I cannot make the numbers. My class only runs once a year, and I’m lucky if I get six students per class. It’s only allowed to run with such low enrollment because it’s required for a couple of our degrees. So I don’t think SafariU is going to be viable for my particular situation, but it’s very promising.

    As a side note, your blog is on the SafariU radar. Within a week of my post they contacted me and offered a hands-on tutorial by phone. They also let me know that several Maricopans have accounts and are working on projects. Their level of service seems wonderful.

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