The mission of Runestone Academy is to democratize textbooks for the 21st century. To accomplish that mission we make high quality interactive textbooks available for free to all students. In the 21st century it is silly to think of textbooks statically, so we make great interactive textbooks that actively engage students in their learning. It would also be silly to ignore the rich data that an online textbook can provide to students, teachers, authors and researchers. To support these different stakeholders we have created a Learning Engineering and Analytics Portal (LEAP). That is quite a lot to digest so let us unpack that to see what it means in practical terms.

  • Learning Engineering is the systematic application of evidence-based principles and methods from educational technology and the learning sciences to create engaging and effective learning experiences, support the difficulties and challenges of learners as they learn, and come to better understand learners and learning. Everything we do on Runestone Academy takes this engineering approach to continuous improvement.

  • Analytics As an instructor understaning your students, which of them are struggling, which of them are working hard, which of them are successful or not is key. Runestone lets you quickly look at a dashboard of student progress to help you decide how to spend your classroom time most effectively. As a researcher or author you want to know what parts of your book are read the most, which questions are effective and which are duds that should be replaced or fixed to make them better.

  • Portal: Runestone Academy is a portal for online textbooks, students can interact with our books on any device for free. Runestone Academy is a portal for teachers who want to create a course, grade their students work, and monitor their progress all in one place. Runestone Acaademy is a portal for authors and researchers who want to invent new pedagogical strategies and try them out on lots of students while gaining access to anonymous information to help them better understand how students learn.

We have partnered with the PreTeXt project to provide an outstanding authoring tool to create interactive textbooks. And not only interactive textbooks in HTML but highly accessible textbooks in many formats including ePub, PDF, and braille.

The Team

There have been many contributors to Runestone over the years including the following long time regular contributors:

  • Brad Miller, Founder Runestone Interactive, Professor Emeritus, Luther College

  • David Ranum, IBM Watson, Professor Emeritus, Luther College

  • Paul Resnick, Professor, University of Michigan

  • Barbara Erickson, Associate Professor, University of Michigan

  • Bryan Jones, Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University

  • Mark Guzdial, Professor University of Michigan

  • Alex Jordan, Instructor Portland Community College

  • Andrew Scholer, Instructor Chemeketa Community College

  • Beryl Hoffman, Professor Elms College

  • Jan Pearce, Professor Berea College

  • Rob Beezer, Professor Emeritus University of Puget Sound

  • David Farmer, American Institute of Mathematics

Many others have contributed by writing books, reporting bugs and submitting PRs to fix typos or bugs.

Students (and former students)

  • Vipul Thakur, Masters - Georgia Tech

  • Isaac Dontje-Lindell - Luther College

  • Isaiah Meyerchak - Luther College

  • Kirby Olson - Luther College

  • Kyle Miller - Luther College

  • Devin Hanggi - Luther College

  • Tyler Conzett - Luther College

  • Hillary Gardner - Luther College

  • Iman Yeckehzaare - PhD Student, University of Michigan

  • Vincent Qiu - University of Michigan

  • Zihan Wu - University of Michigan

Berea Summer Interns

Summer of 2021

  • Ethan Campbell

  • Alejandro Ramos

  • Moise Dete-Kpinssounon

  • Kristiana Nakaj

Summer of 2022

  • Bryar Frank

  • Micho Constantino

  • Diamon Yucas

  • Ala Qasem

I would also like to thank the entire classes of students at Berea who adopted Runestone for their course in Open Source Software.

The History

Runestone Interactive was created in 2011 during Brad’s sabbatical. I should have been working on a new edition for two paper textbooks, but I had the worst kind of writers block. I just couldn’t stand the idea of a paper textbook for computer science in 2011. Textbooks should let you run the examples! Even better textbooks should encourage you to edit the examples and play around with them. When a google search for python in the browser turned up the skulpt project I knew I was onto something.

After spending a couple of months building a turtle graphics module, I realized that nobody would write a book if they had to do a ton of javascript programming for every example. So I started to look around and found Sphinx and docutils. Although markdown is probably more popular, Sphinx/docutils is so much more extensible. So I set out about writing some extensions to Sphinx, and the rest is history. Now adding an example to the textbook is just as easy as copy/pasting the code into the plain text document!

We first used Runestone in the classroom in 2012 for 60 students at Luther College. From 2012 to now Runestone has grown to serving 25,000 students a day around the world at something like 800 institutions. The real surprise came when I discovered that many of them were high schools. This made me very happy !

Our library now lists 18 books! But there are probably at least another 18 that I don’t know about. The number of translations of Runestone books that I have randomly discovered is amazing. That makes me very happy also.

The tagline “democratizing textbooks for the 21st century”, is really inspired by a class visit with Guy Kawasaki in a class I taught during January Term when I would take 12 students to Silicon Valley to visit with entrepreneurs, at all kinds of companies. It is, in Guy’s terms, a mantra. It means that textbooks should be free! They should not cost $200. If Runestone can play a role in disrupting textbook publishing that would be awesome. I’m hoping that Runestone can serve 2 million students a day in my lifetime!

What the Heck is a Runestone

A Runestone is a thing I learned about early in life. Every summer I would spend a week with each of my grandmothers, both of whom were teachers. They both would take me on various excursions to interesting places near where they lived. My grandma Miller lived near Alexandria Minnesota and so took me to see the Kensington Runestone museum in Alexandria. The Runestone may be a stone with Viking runes one it, evidence that the Vikings were in Minnesota long before Columbus discovered America. These days the Runestone is mostly believed to be a hoax, but I don’t care. My inner child still believes, and in any case the name Runestone Interactive is named in honor of my grandmothers who instilled in me a love of reading and learning that has stayed with me my entire life.