H20: Adaptable digital textbooks

Awardees: Jonathan Zittrain (HLS), Urs Gasser (HLS), Suzanne Wones (HLS)

Summary: Awardees plan to develop further their online H20 platform for digital textbook design and distribution.

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society, in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Library, developed a suite of online classroom tools that enable professors and students to create, edit, organize, consume, and share course materials that are open and free to access and iterate. The platform increases engagement with materials through this functionality, and also annotation tools that other students (and professor) can see and use to discuss ideas and ask questions.

The collection of online content can be arranged into “intellectual playlists” that can be used as course syllabi. Users can build playlists from scratch or copy and modify existing playlists. The aim of promoting collaboration is to increase the diversity and quality of teaching materials. Zittrain and team are able to gather data through H2O on how students interpret cases, which cases promote greater engagement, and whether the most commonly used cases are actually the most beneficial to student learning.

The ultimate goal for the platform is to scale to courses beyond law. Awardees envision this tool being used at other schools and plan to measure the success of this platform with how many classrooms adopt the platform. As of academic year 2015-2016, 25 members of the HLS faculty, and nearly 20 professors from universities across the country – including Stanford, NYU, Boston College, and Maryland – had developed materials for use on H2O.

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