Logistical Q and A, Part II

salvēte amīcī, and welcome back on this first day of 2010. Despite all the “new decade” hype, many of us are probably waiting until 2011 to acknowledge the “real” new decade! 🙂

More questions and answers today, mostly on the subject of money.  Tomorrow we’ll focus on the question of English (and other native languages) in learning Latin, and we’ll aim for a “third alternative” solution.

Q: Will Tres Columnae be free for participants? Or will it cost something?

A: As we said so often yesterday :-), “it depends.” Our goal is to have a lot of content freely available to everyone, such as final versions of stories. If you want to track your progress, you’ll need a free (or perhaps “almost free,” like $5 or $10 per year at most) subscription to access things like

  • the comprehension questions for the stories (since you’ll probably want to keep a record of your progress)
  • the self-correcting exercises (for the same reason)
  • the right to comment on stories (since we want to avoid spam comments as much as possible)

We’re hoping for free rather than almost-free here, but that will depend on hosting, site design, and similar costs. We might even do what our friends at OpenOffice.org do: free, but with the opportunity to make a donation or “pay what you think it’s worth.” What do you think, dear readers?

For content that requires editing by someone with knowledge of Latin, though, we’ll probably require a paid monthly subscription to cover the cost of editors’ time – or perhaps a small payment for each piece of content you submit. Or maybe a blended model (like cell-phone service) where the base rate includes a certain amount of free content creation, but you pay more if you exceed your free minutes or megabytes! 🙂 This would apply to things like

  • creating new stories
  • creating audio
  • creating illustrations
  • creating videos
  • (perhaps) participating in the Continuing Virtual Seminar, if we find that these require a lot of expert monitoring and comments

Q: How does the cost of a paid subscription compare to the cost of a textbook?

A: We think you’ll get a much better value, and probably a lower price.

  • A quick check online reveals that a complete package (book, teacher’s manual, workbooks, teacher’s edition of workbook if available) for the first-year “Big Three” reading-method texts ranges from about $169 (OLC softcover) to $310 (CLC hardcover), purchased new at Amazon, without shipping. For 12 months, that gives a monthly ownership cost of $14-$25; for a 10-month school year, $17-$31.
  • For two of the “big three,” there’s an additional cost for interactive online exercises.
  • Access to the Tres Columnae stories, by contrast, is free. Access to interactive exercises (with recorded scores) will be $10 per year or less.
  • Even a full-access, content-creation subscription to Tres Columnae will be about $20-$25 per month, with various discounts possible.
  • You can do the math for yourself!

Q: How does the cost for a paid subscription for Tres Columnae compare to other online learning providers?

A: We aim to give better quality for a lower price. A quick comparison of online learning providers revealed that many charge $40 to $80 per month for a “teacher-supported” online “course.”   But the only elements of Tres Columnae that need “teacher” attention are

  • original stories submitted by participants (which need to be reviewed for vocabulary, grammatical accuracy, cultural authenticity, and relevance to the Metastory);
  • original audio submitted by participants (which needs to be reviewed for accuracy);
  • original illustrations submitted by participants (which need to be reviewed for overall quality and for copyright issues); and
  • original video from participants (which needs to be screened like illustrations).

That’s why we only plan to charge for access to these features!

Q: Why would someone want to pay for a Tres Columnae subscription?

A: Again, “it depends.”

  • If you just want to read the stories, there’s no need to pay for anything!
  • If you want to keep track of your progress, that will either be free or “nearly free” – like $5 or $10 a year per user at most.
  • Only if you want to contribute would you need to pay for a subscription.

Q: Why would you need to pay to contribute? After all, blogging, Flickr, and YouTube are free!

A: Yes, it’s true, blogging, Flickr, and YouTube are free. And the quality varies widely. Some is great, some is not-so-great, and you have to sort it out for yourself!    That’s the good-and-bad side of free, open content creation. Check out the Latin language Tar Heel Readers if you wonder whether this principle also applies to Latin.

But our goal at Tres Columnae is to have consistently high-quality stories, illustrations, audio, and video. To ensure quality, somebody has to read the stories, look at the illustrations, listen to the audio, and watch the video. If there are problems, somebody either has to fix the problems or (our approach) give the creators some feedback so they can fix the problems. Either way, we think somebody is putting in significant time and should get reasonable compensation.  Dear readers, can you think of a better way?

Q: As a homeschooler or independent adult learner, why would I choose Tres Columnae over a traditional textbook?

A: We think we can give you a better learning experience, easier access, and better value for the money.

  • Textbooks, by their nature, are static, and they can’t give you feedback about your work. With Tres Columnae, you get a dynamic, multimedia experience, and the self-correcting exercises give you immediate feedback about both right and wrong answers.
  • Textbooks, by their nature, are linear. There’s only one path through a textbook, and that path is usually designed for one type of learner. But Tres Columnae offers multiple pathways or itinera for different types of learners. Even within an iter, you have a choice of exercises, and you only do as much – or as little – as necessary to become proficient.
  • Textbooks, by their nature, are heavy and hard to carry. But Tres Columnae is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. In fact, we’ll make sure you can at least view stories and illustrations from any Internet-capable mobile phone.
  • Textbooks, by their nature, are expensive – especially if you’re an independent learner or homeschooler. Not only do you need the book itself, but you probably need to buy a teacher’s edition or answer key – and, understandably, some publishers restrict access to these. But Tres Columnae is always accessible  on the Internet, most of the content is free, and the exercises are self-correcting.
  • What do you do with a textbook when you’re finished? Do you sell it, or do you keep it for reference? If you keep a book, you can’t recover any of the money you spent; if you sell it, you can’t use it later. Tres Columnae helps you avoid this dilemma!
    • If you’re a free subscriber, you haven’t spent any money.  But you have access to the free content for as long as you’d like.
    • If you’re a paid subscriber, you’ll spend less than a dollar per day, but you’ll create stories, illustrations, audio, and video that will help thousands of other learners over many years. Plus, you’ll have ownership rights to what  you create!

Q: As a teacher, how could I use Tres Columnae? Could it be used to supplement a traditional textbook?

A: You could certainly use it that way, though the order of introduction for some concepts is a bit different. You might even use it to replace a traditional textbook.

  • If you have an interactive whiteboard or even an LCD projector, you could project the Tres Columnae stories and exercises and use them with a whole class.
  • You could encourage your students to subscribe, read the stories, and do the exercises at home. If there’s sufficient interest, we’ll provide a way for teachers to “link” to their students’ statistics.
  • We would love for you – and your students – to become contributors! We’ll offer subscription discounts if you recruit others to join us, or if your contributions are particularly outstanding!

More about that in future posts! For now, warmest New Year Wishes to all! Tune in tomorrow for more about the vexed question of “L1 and L2” – and an attempt at a third-alternative solution.  More about subscription discounts later!

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Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] learning system. We looked at some implications, and some logistical issues, in this post , this one and this […]


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