Creating High-Quality, Affordable, and Sustainable Learning Content

Posted by Rob Reynolds on Jan 11, 2018 8:00:00 AM
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TEL Library’s mission is to deliver affordable learning to everyone, everywhere. To support this mission, we focus on product models and development processes that lead to affordable, sustainable product solutions.

As an example of these efforts, we’ve designed our products to be high-quality, competitive replacements for traditional textbooks, as well as effective frameworks for online and hybrid teaching. These products feature engaging media, rich interactivity, and learner-driven explorations.Each mediabook comes with digital/print options and provides support for accessibility.

TEL Library editorial and production processes combine traditional editorial workflows with the now familiar practices of agile software development.

How Much Should a Textbook Cost?

At the outset of our mediabook product design, we asked ourselves “What is the lowest possible price we can charge for these high-quality products while ensuring the stability and sustainability of our efforts to make education affordable?”

Our answer is that a good textbook should cost less than $20.

At a global scale, it should cost between $10-$15.

This means that, in coming years, students will pay the same price for textbooks that they would for popular fiction titles.

Because our products are created for learning, they should also remain part of a student’s learning library for life. Learners should retain their notes, journal explorations, and also receive any product updates so that they can continue learning.

Designing, Delivering, and Refining High-Quality Mediabooks for $19

How can we create robust, high-quality learning products and offer them at such low prices and still be able to sustain and scale a traditional company?

It’s all about design and process.

Design Phase

TEL Library product development begins with a rigorous design phase focused on product flexibility, quality, and efficacy. This phase ensures that we have a clear product purpose and integrated product framework in place before we begin building our mediabooks.

Learning Design: This phase begins with the creation of a learning environment model or template that will move learners from contextualization to agency and mastery. Our learning environment is also designed to support TEL Library’s Stackable Lessons™ model, which means creating each lesson as a stand-alone, self-contained learning experience.

Curriculum and Information Design: We create each mediabook as part of a larger curriculum rather than as a siloed, disconnected product. This entails identifying concepts across a curriculum area, analyzing concept relatedness within that area, and ensuring that we are maximizing potential connectedness of our content across the entire curriculum. This process involves the build out of concept taxonomies and rules for our concepts, as well as the ongoing evaluation of concept usage by instructors and learners.

Platform Design: In our platform design work, we ask how technology can be utilized to reinforce the effectiveness of our content and learning design. How does it support ownership of the learning process? How can it promote individual exploration and application of information? How does it deliver flexible ease of use? How do we deliver digital and print formats, allow learners to work online or offline? How do we ensure that our media books are accessible to everyone? These questions guide the development of our technology solutions as well as our broader thinking about content delivery and access.

Product Design: The core TEL Library content product is a Stackable LessonTM. This is a self-contained learning experience designed to guide students toward ownership and mastery of a specific topic or concept. Our unique design makes it easy to reuse or recombine lessons from the same curriculum area, as well as build collections across curriculum areas, without having to rewrite or customize individual lessons. This innovative approach to content creation also affords TEL Library significant time and cost efficiencies with regards to product development.

Process Design: The design phase also includes extensive process design, which allows our teams to coordinate efforts and maximize efficiencies. This results in tighter integration between content creation, editing, and production, as well as strong quality assurance and shorter development timelines overall.

Production and Implementation Phase

After completing the design phase, we begin the actual product construction process.

Content Curation and Authoring: This phase begins, naturally, with content.TEL Library works with internal and external subject matter experts to author original content and curate open materials. Authors work within the learning design parameters of our Stackable Lessons™ model, which requires all content to be authored or adjusted to meet the requirements of our learning environment design. TEL Library’s use of a consistent content authoring model, along with its combination of internal and external content contributors, allows the company to produce draft lessons quickly and efficiently.

Editorial and Quality Assurance: Our editorial team takes a layered approach to the editing and development of lesson content. This begins with initial copyediting and product checks for length, voice, and general consistency. Next, developmental editors complete a thorough review and development pass. This includes fact-checking and term normalization, work on content consistency and flow, and ensuring that a lesson adheres to core learning design principles and outcomes.

Media Design and Production: As soon as content is submitted to editorial, we begin simultaneous activity related to media development and media curation.TEL Library creates unique learning video for each lesson. In addition, our media and production teams begin curating and creating images or other media assets while editorial works through its content development process.

Final Production and Implementation: Our Stackable Lessons™ model allows us to produce individual lessons immediately as they are released by the editorial team. Moreover, since each lesson is its own independent learning container, the production team can work on lessons in any sequence, always looking for maximum efficiency. This flexibility also extends to the production of specific product components, such as printable versions of each lesson.

Iteration and Improvement Phase

Our library model, with lessons released initially as free public reference resources affords us the freedom to employ a product development model based on the principle of initial release and continual improvement.

User Feedback and Iteration:TEL Library allows every user to provide feedback on specific content or features at the point of use. In addition, we evaluate anonymous, aggregated usage data to validate internal assumptions about content and features. As feedback is received, product and editorial teams meet and work to make updates. In addition, the TEL Library editorial team conducts ongoing content reviews to look for areas of improvement or expansion. Our product model and technology platform allow such changes to be implemented quickly and continually.

Market Research: TEL Library is also committed to working with advisory teams — instructors, teachers, and curriculum developers — from each curriculum area to address the question, “How can we improve teaching and learning in our mediabooks?” Our goal is to engage in frequent, ongoing dialogues to help us work diligently to provide products that improve constantly.

Tags: Affordable Learning

TEL Library Vision

Our vision is a world where cost will no longer be a barrier to quality college education for any student, anywhere, anytime. Learn more about our activities by following our blog posts.

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