Our Publishing Philosophy

Active Learning Publishers is the first publisher to see the value in a new generation of books emerging from the recent revolution in online education.  Our publishing philosophy is to work with the authors of popular online courses to transform their content into bestselling books promoting active learning.

Why “Active Learning”?

In 1984, Benjamin Bloom published a landmark paper demonstrating that students who attend a standard 30-to-1 classroom lecture in a technical discipline are outperformed by two standard deviations when comparable students receive individual instruction. Yet most classes still operate on the lecture model, in which students have limited opportunities to interrupt and many opportunities to lose the thread. Textbooks reflect a similar format, with identical text presented to a reader who has no opportunity to interrupt the text at a critical point in their learning and either ask a clarifying question or test their understanding with an exercise.

A simple method of improving our classrooms and textbooks is to incorporate elements of active learning, in which instructors facilitate an environment in which students are guided to effectively teach some material to themselves.  Recently, Freeman et al. showed that lectures incorporating active learning can offer a half a standard deviation improvement in student performance compared to the standard lecture.

Our publishing ideal therefore strives toward a model in which textbooks must incorporate elements of active learning, including but not limited to:

  • “just in time” exercises that are integrated directly within the text instead of being lumped at the end of a chapter and that facilitate the student’s understanding;
  • remedial lessons provided to address frequent student misconceptions about ideas presented in the text; and
  •  “FAQs” that are asked repeatedly by real learners reading the text.

MOOCs Provide a Natural Source of Bestsellers

How can we possibly predict a bestseller before a textbook is published if the vast majority of textbooks are commercial failures?  Because our books originate from “bestselling” MOOCs (massive open online courses) that already have the stamp of approval from hundreds of thousands of learners and that have taken thousands of hours to develop.

It is our belief that every popular MOOC should produce a print companion, which offers students a portable offline vehicle for learning the material presented in an online course.

From MOOCs Toward MAITs

We are just at the beginning of what is possible in online education.  As popular MOOCs continue to grow, there is an enormous opportunity for them to be transformed into Massive Adaptive Interactive Texts (MAITs), immersive texts based on intelligent tutoring systems that move beyond active learning and actually start replicating the experience of having an instructor teach a student individually.

Below is a representation of a learning web illustrating just-in-time exercises, remedial modules, and FAQs for the content of our bestselling textbook in computational biology.  This learning web represents the same amount of content as 20 minutes of a traditional lecture. By constantly testing students, we are able to present each student with their own individualized learning path through the material that best suits their individual needs.