A&S Faculty Members Receive Alternative Textbook Grants

By Adrian Ho and Richard LeComte

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 30, 2020) — Six College of Arts & Sciences faculty members received Alternative Book Grants from the University of Kentucky Libraries.

These faculty members plan to replace traditional commercial textbooks with open educational resourceslibrary-licensed materials or original content created by the faculty themselves.

Held annually since 2016, the Alternative Textbook Grant Program has helped UK instructors customize their courses by switching to materials that are more affordable and readily available to students. Thirty-nine grants were awarded from 2016 to 2019. 

Among the A&S recipients is Molly Blasing, assistant professor of Russian studies in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures. She said her grant will support the development of RUS 410G: Russian for STEM, a new upper-level Russian language course for Fall 2020. 

“The premise of my ‘Russian for STEM’ project is to prepare our students for careers as global language professionals — translators, business leaders, diplomats and journalists — who possess a solid foundation in the lexical, conceptual and communicative strategies that are employed in the fields of science and technology,” she said. “I am using the grant to develop open-access educational resources for the course, which will include units on environmental and climate science, aerospace engineering, epidemiology and the oil and gas industry. Modules will incorporate field-specific lexical development, advanced work with numbers, and the language of experimental design and data analysis.”

The alternative textbook grant gave me the resources I needed to concentrate on the textbook this Summer and develop a complete version of it.  More important, I used to deliver the existing portions of my book over Canvas, the online learning environment, but students did not appreciate the limitations of that simple format.  The text was not attractive, and fewer students seemed willing to sit at a computer to complete their assigned reading than had been doing so when assigned a printed book.  I've been trying to find something new, a way to link the affordability of my textbook to an attractive delivery format.  My solution will be to piggyback on UK's iPad initiative, which delivers iPad's to all starting students.  Almost all of the students in my introductory course will have joined UK after the iPad initiative began, so the vast majority of them should own iPads.  My free textbook will be integrated into Apple's bookshelf application, so that it will be much more attractive to students and give them greater control over how they study and take notes.  And the textbook will be especially portable, because students will be able to read it right off of their iPads.  By integrating my free textbook into UK's iPad initiative, I hope to deliver students a set of reading materials that are affordable, attractive, and easy to use in a sophisticated way.

D. Steven Voss, associate professor of political science, is developing a complete version of a textbook for his students he started writing earlier. He plans to integrate the textbook into an iPad-friendly setup. 

"I've been trying to find something new, a way to link the affordability of my textbook to an attractive delivery format," he said. "My solution will be to piggyback on UK's iPad initiative, which delivers iPads to all starting students. Almost all of the students in my introductory course will have joined UK after the iPad initiative began, so the vast majority of them should own iPads.  My free textbook will be integrated into Apple's bookshelf application so that it will be much more attractive to students and give them greater control over how they study and take notes. By integrating my free textbook into UK's iPad initiative, I hope to deliver students a set of reading materials that are affordable, attractive and easy to use in a sophisticated way."

Other A&S recipients are:

  • Andrew Byrd and Brenna Byrd, Department of Linguistics and Department of Modern and Classical Languages.
  • Emily Croteau, Department of Biology. 
  • Stephen Davis, Department of History.

Croteau is using available documents and webpages that coincide with her courses' learning objectives.  

"I’m using a variety of different open resources but a lot of my info comes from Scitable and Understanding Evolution," she said. "I also use open access journal articles available from Google Scholar or our library databases."

Faculty interested in finding alternative textbooks for their courses are encouraged to contact the academic liaisons for their departments or Adrian Ho, UK Libraries director of Digital Scholarship, for more information. An online guide is also available for consultation anytime.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.

 


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