The Cyberschool Challenge
Companies outside the textbook publishing industry are also getting in on the act. Statistical database software vendor SAS Institute Inc., in Cary, N.C., is offering SAS in School, which provides a number of products for curriculum development. One such product is Curriculum Pathways, a Web-based curriculum planning program for teachers; and interactive software for teaching science, math, language, and history.
But if these publishers are getting the cyberschool religion, they're not yet true believers. Virtually all of these are designed more for teachers and administrators. When it comes to textbooks, e-books, CD-ROMs, or other electronic courseware for cyberschools, the textbook publishing establishment simply isn't in the game.
PARTNERING IN CYBERSPACE
Class.com's Endacott hopes her organization and other electronic courseware providers will build bridges with traditional publishers to combine their core expertise for the benefit of cyberschools and cyberstudents.
"What we see long term is a collaboration between groups like ours and any number of [textbook] publishers," Endacott says. "What we do is different in how we serve customers [than traditional publishers]. The success of companies like ours will point the way for [traditional publishers]."
Lentz would like to see publishers make the books they've written and published over the years be made available electronically as well as in print.
"They can make their textbook material available as an online subscription," she says. "We'd be willing to pay for that, because we pay for online subscriptions to some parts of a book. But we wouldn't pay for the entire book, because we wouldn't use a textbook in its entirety; only parts of it."
The message from cyberschools and cyber-educators is clear: they have a different way of thinking, working, and teaching—one that requires a completely different type of educational material.