Another Hackathon – But This One’s for Textbooks

If you thought hackathons were just for coders, you thought wrong. Last week, edtech startup Boundless, whom we profiled back in September, hosted a hackathon — but for writing textbooks instead of code.

The company, who works to provide free, online textbooks to students, hosted nearly two dozen physicists from MIT, Harvard, Boston University, Brandies, and several other local schools and companies in their office for a three-day long content hackathon. Within the three days, the hackers curated open educational resources to create a free, open physics textbook tailored to introductory college-level or AP Physics classes, and finished a third of the textbook in a weekend — quite a bit faster than the typically lengthy, two-year-long process it normally takes authors to complete a textbook.

Boundless’ commitment to making education affordable and educational resources more open is certainly admirable, and the idea of a hackathon to create free textbooks is a pretty innovative concept, considering students are paying anywhere from $200-500 for textbooks in a typical semester. However, I’d be interested to see the finished product, and if the quality of a textbook created in a week comes close to that of one produced after years of research. While writing a textbook in a week certainly sounds like a more efficient and cost-effective process than paying researchers and editors for two years, if the quality’s not there, the savings don’t matter.

But either way, it’s a step in the right direction toward taking quality open educational resources and making them more accessible and easy to use for students. Providing free, quality content is crucial now, because the current textbook system, as is, is broken past repair. Trying new tactics and experimenting with digital open content is more important now than ever, and we applaud Boundless for their bold move. We’ll certainly keep our eye on the progress they make moving forward.

Check out Boundless’ video on the hackathon below:

What do you think of this new idea of fast-forwarding the textbook writing process? Is quality sacrificed for speed, or is this the direction educational resources are headed? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet your thoughts @Technapex or @ce_doyle.

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.