Sunday, March 3, 2013

Online Textbooks Open A New Chapter In Learning

SUNY project has faculty members write material, cutting costs

Amy Guptill, associate professor of sociology at The College at Brockport, center, meets with freshmen students Kaethe Leonard, a biochemistry major from Syracuse, left, and Alyssa Button, a psychology major from Buffalo, at Aerie Café at the college. The students were giving Guptill feedback for the online textbook she is working on.
When Natalie Sarrazin teaches her course about music and the child at The College at Brockport in the fall, she plans to save her students some money by using an online textbook she is now writing.

Sarrazin, who is an associate professor of music, is one of the faculty members at State University of New York colleges who are participating in the Open SUNY Textbook project — an initiative to have faculty members write 15 online textbooks, which students or anyone else can use free of charge.

\In Sarrazin’s case, she expects her textbook to be used for her course instead of a hardcover one that sells for $220.

She is convinced that the textbook will better be able to address the needs of her students.

“It will be more topical,” said Sarrazin, whose course shows how music can be used in elementary school to teach such other subjects as science by, for example, playing different kinds of music to help explain the different states of water.

The Open SUNY Textbook initiative was organized by Cyril Oberlander, who is the library director at the State University College at Geneseo, and is part of a nationwide movement by various educators and consumer advocates to create online textbooks. “Everybody recognizes the potential to use digital technology to reduce the costs of textbooks,” said Nicole Allen, an expert on textbooks for U.S. PIRG, which is the umbrella group for various public interest research groups.


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