Germany’s Springer Nature Activates a MOOC & BOOK Textbook

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The revived world of ‘massive open online courses’ has prompted Springer Nature to work with Italian universities on new textbooks for MOOCs.

Giulio Magli of Politecnico di Milano introduces the ‘Science of Stars and Stones’ MOOC for which his new textbook is the key content from Springer Nature. Image: Polimi Open Knowledge

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Course: ‘The Science of Stars and Stones’
In a statement from its Heidelberg offices, Springer Nature has announced the publication of its first textbook as part of its caps-heavy MOOC & BOOK product line.

The book, Archaeoastronomy: Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones, is by the Italian astrophysicist and archaeoastronomer Giulio Magli, and is connected to a MOOC hosted on the platform of the Politecnico di Milano, Polimi Open Knowledge (POK).

The book reportedly includes direct links to augmented reality material, and a MOOC, as  you may know, is a massive open online course.

The MOOC in question is titled The Science of Stars and Stones and is available free of charge on the Politecnico’s course platform, allowing what’s described as unlimited participation online.

Students who buy both the print and the ebook editions of the new textbook, Springer Media’s messaging tells us, “can easily access the content and benefit from the numerous exercises with solutions, in addition to those offered in the MOOC.”

The textbook itself features multimedia content including videos and its augmented reality elements, accessible by mobile devices as well as on desktops.

In a prepared statement, Francesca Bonadei, Springer’s executive editor of the MOOC & BOOK division, is quoted, saying, “Multimedia distance learning plays an important role in providing access to education for people” in many parts of the world, “regardless of personal or external conditions.

“Springer Nature’s MOOC & BOOK product line not only represents a valuable resource for the dissemination of knowledge” during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, “but also empowers researchers, students, teachers and professionals to advance discovery.”

Archaeoastronomy: Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones, according to its promotional material, “provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the discipline of archaeoastronomy and enables readers to virtually experience many astronomically-related archaeological sites through augmented reality potentialities.”

The book lists for €37.44 (US$44.37) in ebook, and for €49.79 (US$59.01) in paperback.

An exceedingly short sample on the Springer site includes one graphic, a planetarium simulation of the Heliacal rising of Sirius at Cairo in 2700 BC. One has to hope that the AR involved makes this a far more interesting site than it is on the sales page.

The Return of the MOOCs

If in the back of your mind you’re recalling a time when the going wisdom about MOOCs was that they were driving over a cliff, you’re not alone.

In late May, as much of the world was staggering through pandemic lockdowns, Steve Lohr was writing at The New York Times that although the MOOC concept had been all but written off at one point—and “the sites even became a punchline among academics: ‘Remember the MOOCs?’—they were, in fact, getting a new chance.

“The online ventures,” Lohr wrote, “adapted through trial and error, gathering lessons that could provide a road map for schools districts and universities pushed online. The instructional ingredients of success, the sites found, include short videos of six minutes or less, interspersed with interactive drills and tests; online forums where students share problems and suggestions; and online mentoring and tutoring.”

Springer clearly has heard the call and “is pleased to support MOOC instructors, books authors, registered MOOC students, academies and societies providing MOOCs by offering a dedicated approach,” according to its dedicated “iversity” pitch.

And it’s not hard to see how many universities like Milan’s Politecnico may be happier than in the past to reach for the lift of such programming, as efforts to reopen campuses fall repeatedly prey to coronavirus outbreaks almost as “massive” as these courses.

Reports this week say that American colleges and universities alone have surpassed 8,700 cases of the virus, in 36 of 50 states. And even as Janet Lorin writes at Bloomberg today (August 4) that the outbreaks are sending students home, public health officials are heatedly arguing for keeping quarantined students on campus, rather than sending them home as virus-delivery systems to their families and communities.

MOOCs have the advantage of relatively low overhead for educational instruction that serves many students. Specialists in parts of the industry are advising the development of campus-specialized approaches of this kind to keep overhead low in the flight to online instruction. According to a report from Bulletin Line, MOOCs could register a compound growth rate of 29 percent between 2020 and 2024, banking on their size and international reach.

Springer Nature, meanwhile, says that its next contributions to the MOOC library of the world will arrive in spring 2021: four titles are in the works on robotics. They’re edited by Bruno Siciliano, and hosted by Federica Web Learning, the university platform owned by the University of Naples Federico II.

And here’s the image-rich video with which Politecnico di Milano is wooing students to its free MOOC on The Science of Stars and Stones.


More from us on Springer Nature is here, more on scholarly publishing is here, and more on open access is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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