At Yale, Online Lectures Become Lively Books

Jennifer Howard looks at how Yale has decided to released materials from its online course programs in paperbook and ebook formats.

“It may seem counterintuitive for a digital project to move into books and e-books, because these are a much more conventional way of publishing,” she says. But the Open Yale Courses are about “reaching out in every way that we could.” That includes posting audio and video versions online (via Yale’s Web site, YouTube, and iTunes), and providing transcripts and now book versions of the lectures.

Having transcripts of their lectures to work with gives faculty authors a jump-start. “It was incomparably the easiest book I have ever written,” says Shelly Kagan, a Yale professor of philosophy whose lecture course on death has become one of the Open Yale program’s most popular offerings.

The lecturers involved noted how the publishing timescales moved from several years to a few months, noting how interesting it has been to interact with learners around the world through the online courses.

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