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Washington State University Office of the Provost

Faculty make the most of Affordable Learning Grants

When hours got long and logistics were tricky, Christine Curtis focused on what developing a free, user-friendly online textbook would mean for her students.

Theresa Jordan
Theresa Jordan
Christine Curtis
Christine Curtis

“They’re excited to not pay for the software, or a textbook,” Curtis says. “But we’re also able to be more interactive and the students really like that. It’s compatible with Blackboard, which they’re already familiar with, and the content is really good.”

Curtis, a senior instructor in the Murrow College of Communication, put in significant time last summer exploring different open educational resources. Once she selected a source, she uploaded it to Perusall and, with help from Academic Outreach and Innovation staff, developed material to supplement the source textbook.

Funded by an Affordable Learning Grant, Curtis’ investment is paying off for students in her Global Campus “Public Speaking in the Digital Age” course. They had been paying $100 or more for access to Top Hat, a platform that wasn’t compatible with Blackboard. Now the students have engaging material and an excellent platform to share questions and insights.

Curtis is now preparing to adapt online educational resources (OER) for her “Communication in Global Contexts” course. She’s tackling the ambitious

project in the middle of the semester during her precious spare time, but she’s committed.

“I think to go this route you definitely have to be student-centered to be successful,” Curtis says. “I do it because I recognize the financial hardships of my students. I really like working with them and if I can make that process a little bit easier, then I’ve been successful.”

Theresa Jordan is challenging students in her Social Studies Methods courses to not only read and comprehend their open-source textbooks, but also to consider how they might shape them to fit their own curricula in the future. The majority of her students are aiming at teaching careers.

Jordan, clinical associate professor in the Department of History, adopted an open textbook for three courses this fall after receiving an Affordable Learning Grant last spring. While the material isn’t flawless, it’s providing opportunities for important discussions for many future teachers.

“It’s a philosophical change, but I’ve told them the text is open for edits and correction,” Jordan says. “I think it can be a tremendous asset for them going forward and it’s been a great pedagogical practice to look at the book through that lens.”

Faculty interested in exploring OER can email to oer@wsu.edu, or get more information from WSU Libraries.

Another way to help students save money on classroom materials, is by submitting textbook orders as early as possible. Textbook orders for the spring 2020 semester should be submitted to The Bookie by October 31. Timely orders allow The Bookie to provide the best prices for students by stocking used editions and negotiating the best deals with publishers. Faculty should order their classroom materials through Faculty Enlight, emailing to TM050@bncollege.com, or calling 509-335-2537, ext. 122.

Washington State University