Once upon a time, in schools everywhere, the textbook was the whole course. That’s no longer the case, noted Bruce M. Spatz, Vice President of Strategic Development, Global Education at John Wiley and Sons, for an audience of textbook authors attending the recent annual conference for the Textbook & Academic Authors Association.
The change has come because textbooks have changed, he admitted, but that’s not the only reason. “Students today come to class with different levels of abilities,” Spatz explained later for CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “In addition, the pressure is on institutions, and on instructors, to be more productive – let alone the scrutiny on reporting and outcomes that’s now asked for.”
The need to question assumptions about publishing and education can lead to an uncertainty about what authors, publishers, and educators should do next. For example, says Spatz, the book as a format may ironically hold back the mission of education in 2013.
“Our view at Wiley has been that we’re building workflow solutions. We call it the teaching and learning activity cycle, of which the book and the content in the book plays a core part, but there’s a greater contribution to be made. Publishers can’t do that on their own, and part of my remarks [for the TAA conference] were to encourage authors to think about how they can approach their next writing project in a different way. What we need to do in publishing, and in education generally, is make content and information and learning tools in a more easily configurable, customizable way, so that learning can be individual and personal. Books can only go a certain part of the way to do that.”
At Wiley, Bruce Spatz is responsible for global digital product strategy, including eBook formats, custom publishing and other product models. He led the development and growth of WileyPLUS, an online teaching and learning environment that integrates text, media and assessment, now used in 26 countries.