Basically everything that applies to the blogs section also applies here, but university lecture notes are so important to us that they deserve a bit more talk.
It is arguable that this is currently the best way to learn any university subject, and that it can already be used to learn any subject.
We basically just want to make the process more efficient and enjoyable, by making it easier:
- to find what you want based on an initial subject hit across the best version of any author
- and to publish your own stuff with one click, and get feedback if people like it or not, and improvement suggestions like you do you GitHub
One major problem with lecture notes is that, as the name suggests, they are merely a complement to the lecture, and don't contain enough detail for you to really learn solely from them without watching the lecture.
The only texts that generally teach in enough depth are actual books, which are almost always commercial.
So in a sense, this project can be seen as a path to upgrade free lecture notes into full blown free books, from which you can learn from scratch without any external material.
And a major way in which we believe this can be done is through the reuse of sections of lecture notes by from other universities, which greatly reduces the useless effort of writing things from scratch.
The intended mental picture is clear: the topics feature docs.ourbigbook.com/#ourbigbook-web-topics will is intended to act as the missing horizontal topic integration across lecture notes of specific universities, e.g:
MIT calculus course UCLA calculus course * Calculus <---> * Calculus * Limit <---> * Limit * Limit of a function * Limit of a series <---> * Limit of a series * Derivative <---> * Derivative * L'Hôpital's rule * Integral <---> * Integral
One important advantage of lecture notes is that since they are written by the teacher, they should match exactly what "students are supposed to learn to get good grades", which unfortunately is a major motivation for student's learning weather we want it or not.
One big open question for this project is to what extent notes written for lectures at one university will be relevant to the lectures at another university?
Is it possible to write notes in a way that they are naturally reusable?
It is our gut feeling that this is possible. But it almost certainly requires an small intentional effort on the part of authors.
The question then becomes whether the "become famous by getting your content viewed in other universities" factor is strong enough to attract users.
And we believe that it might, it just might be.
A major difficulty of getting such this to work is that may university teachers want to retain closed copyright of their work because they:
- want to publish a book later and get paid. Yes, the root problem is that teachers get paid way too little and have way too little job security for the incredibly important and difficult extremely difficult job they are doing, and we have to vote to change that
- are afraid that if amazing material is made freely available, then they would not be needed and lose their jobs. Once again, job security issue.
- believe that if anyone were allowed to touch their precious content, those people would just "screw it up" and make it worse
- don't even want to publish their notes online because "someone will copy it and take their credit". What a mentality! In order to prevent a theft, you are basically guaranteeing that your work will be completely forgotten!
- don't want students to read the notes and skip class, because spoken word has magic properties and imparts knowledge that cannot otherwise conveyed by a book
- are afraid that mistakes will be found in their material. Reputation is of course everything in academia, since there is no money.So it's less risky to have closed, more buggy notes, than open, more correct ones.This can be seen clearly for example on Physics Stack Exchange, and most notably in particle physics (well, which is basically the only subject that really gets asked, since anything more experimental is going to be blocked off by patents/interlab competition), where a large proportion incredibly amazing users have anonymous profiles.They prefer to get no reputation gains from their amazing contributions, due to the fear that a single mistake will ruin their career.This is in stark contrast for example to Stack Overflow, where almost all top users are not anonymous:List of top users: physics.stackexchange.com/users?tab=Reputation&filter=all and some notable anonymous ones:
Therefore the only way is to find teachers who are:
The forced option therefore seems like a more bulk efficient starting point for searches.
- enlightened to use such licenses
- forced by their organizations to use such licenses
No matter how much effort a single person puts into writing perfect tutorials, they will never beat 1000x people + an algorithm.
It is not simply a matter of how much time you have. The fundamental reason is that each person has a different background and different skills. Notably the young students have radically different understanding than that of the experienced teacher.
Therefore, those that refuse to contribute to such platforms, or at least license their content with open licenses, will inevitably have their work forgotten in favor of those that have contributed to the more open platform, which will eventually dominate everything.
Perhaps OurBigBook.com is not he killer platform that will make this happen. Perhaps the world is not yet ready for it. But Ciro believes that this will happen, sooner or later, inevitable, and he wants to give it a shot.
Also worth checking:
- jornal.usp.br/universidade/usp-de-sao-carlos-oferece-aulas-de-graduacao-em-matematica-e-estatistica-abertas-ao-publico/ "Open Classroom" program from the University of São Paulo. We should Google for "Open Classroom" a bit more actually.
- open.ed.ac.uk/about/: talk only