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A growing movement toward creating open textbooks could decrease the size of the stack students carry to the front of the bookstore.

How six faculty members are creating textbooks without price tags

October 29, 2019 | Campus Life
Six faculty members from across MacEwan University are reimagining the way they use textbooks with help from a new internal Open Textbook Fellowship Grant.

The pilot project connects faculty with resources across the university to create openly licenced textbooks that provide students at MacEwan – and potentially other institutions – with access to no-cost or low-cost learning materials.

Some of the five projects augment and enhance resources that are already in place, like Dr. Wanhua Su’s project to create an open textbook for her Statistics 151 course. The associate professor is adapting her existing class notes, teaching videos, question banks and lab materials to create an online open-source textbook to replace the $200-plus one students currently use.

Other projects, like Dr. Leslie Dawson’s open textbook designed for profs across all disciplines who want to introduce Indigenous ways of knowing and being to their courses, require a completely different take on textbooks.

Because anthropology texts have historically described, and at times objectified, Indigenous Peoples, says Leslie, it is critical to take a holistic approach instead, honouring Indigenous voices, lived experiences and histories, and moving away from the linear approach textbooks typically take. It’s why she says her role feels more like organizer than author. Over the next several months, Leslie plans to work alongside Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, artists and videographers, creating learning objects (videos, audio and artwork) that centre on Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Contributors will own the pieces they create for the open textbook, and can determine how those resources are shared.

“I’m starting to think of it as a living textbook,” Leslie says. “One that will grow and evolve to include new perspectives and content over time.”

“The projects are all ambitious – and exciting,” says Alison Foster, who is leading the Open Textbook Fellowship Grant project alongside her fellow librarian Robyn Hall. Bringing them to life, she adds, requires an incredible amount of collaboration.

The five pilot fellowship grants of up to $5,000 each were created with the support of the Library, the Office of the Provost, the Students’ Association of MacEwan University, the Office of Teaching and Learning Services and the School of Continuing Education.

Recipients will spend a total of 19 months creating content, coming together periodically to share their experiences and perspectives. They’ll also work with librarians, copyright specialists, and teaching and learning experts from across the university who will offer support throughout the digital publishing process.

Watch for more information on all five open textbook projects as they are developed. 

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