What if textbooks were free? 

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It’s not a fantasy. No-cost textbooks are becoming a reality at Medicine Hat College (MHC) thanks to the efforts of some intrepid instructors to develop Open Educational Resources (OER). 

What are OER, you ask? According to UNESCO, Open Educational Resources are: 

teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost, and without  needing to ask permission. […] OER have been authored or created by an individual or  organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. (OER Commons,  2021) 

Depending on licensing, materials may be downloaded and shared in their original form, or edited and disseminated in revised versions. 

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One MHC instructor has been particularly committed to developing free resources for his classes. Clinton Lawrence teaches history and art history in the School of Arts, Science & Education. For his classes in World Art Before 1300 CE and World Art Since 1300 CE, he created open access textbooks. With the help of design student Mel Davison, as well library staff like Copyright and OER Specialist Laura Gunn and the library assistant I team, Clint assembled thirty-two chapters in two books that provide all course content, from discussions of prehistoric cave paintings to analyses of the post-impressionists’ commitment to contemporary subject matter. Clint has drawn all materials from open, peer-reviewed sources like Smart History. Check out his textbooks!

Why is Clint so committed to developing OER? He states, “With the increasing costs of education, I felt that I had a duty to find and adopt, whenever possible, robust, high quality OER to lighten students’ financial burden. In addition, there is a great deal of effective material publicly available and these sources give me flexibility to curate course content to support course objectives.” 

Furthermore, he sees serious benefits to increasing the institution’s use of OER:   

“There are several advantages to adopting OER. On Day One of the course, students have access to every resource that they need. Students can customize the sources: download an electronic copy or print the entire work or just print certain parts. The sources are flexible so that I can easily add or exclude content. As the instructor I can use the parts I like from different sources, without incurring extra costs.” 

Sounds like a win for students, instructors, and colleges. 

Learn more about International Open Access Week: Open Access Week – October 25 -31, 2021 | Everywhere 

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Clint Lawrence is an instructor in history and art history, School of Arts, Science, and Education at Medicine Hat College. He completed his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Lethbridge (2011) and his MA (2013) in history. He is currently a PhD student in the war studies program at the Royal Military College of Canada. Clint joined the School of Arts, Science, and Education and art and design program at Medicine Hat College in 2015. His thesis “Charles I and Anthony van Dyck: Images of Authority and Masculinity” focused on Charles I of England’s projection of kingship through van Dyck’s portraits during his personal rule. His current research interests include Indigenous participation in the Second World War, the relationship between the state and Indigenous service members, the post-war treatment of Indigenous veterans, and how post-colonial states craft national memories and memorialize Indigenous war service.

Published by

Sarah G.

Sarah is Instruction & Research Librarian at Medicine Hat College. She owns many, many books on George Orwell.

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