The Textbook of the Future
Prof. T. Grandon Gill (MIS) teaches two courses based entirely on his online textbook, Introduction to Object Oriented Programming Using Visual C#: Express Edition. The textbook, available at no cost from Orange Grove Press (theorangegrove.org), is not an ordinary textbook; it’s more like the textbook of the future. Embedded in the text are videos that supplement the course content. Just a click, and students may listen to Prof. Gill explain and watch as he draws illustrations to more fully emphasize concepts. The text also contains materials students need to complete all of the course assignments and practice tests to help students prepare for the real thing. As a result, the book is larger than one gigabyte and has been broken down into segments for downloading.
Prof. Gill is no stranger to non-traditional textbooks. Before e-textbooks, he created course packs containing all of his notes and assignments for students and had them duplicated at ProCopy. But as the price rose, it became a less effective way to bring the information to students. And, he wanted to embed additional content, something he could not do in a hard copy. He created a website for his courses made up of text and videos. Then, in the summer of 2010 he received a grant from the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence to write an e-textbook. It is completely open access and absolutely free to everyone.
According to Prof. Gill, e-textbooks have capabilities far beyond traditional paper textbooks—his embedded video is one example. Another advantage of the e-text is that it reflects the instructor’s individual personality and teaching style. And having the e-textbook allows class time to be completely interactive, like a three-hour group office hour.
More faculty members need to start writing their own e-textbooks; all they need is some incentive, says Prof. Gill, who spent about 400 hours writing this e-textbook. Some possible incentives he suggested are:
- Offer faculty a free proofreading service. Self-proofing takes a long time and a second set of eyes is never a bad idea;
- Create a mechanism to recognize people who write their own e-texts, as faculty need to know that they are valued;
- Tenure committees look at textbooks published by major publishing companies; they should start considering open-access e-textbook publications on tenure applications;
- Offer a course release in exchange for writing an open access textbook;
- E-textbook fees could be added to any course for which a professor uses his or her own e-textbook and the fees would pay for the course releases and proofing services.
Prof. Gill has been recognized for being an excellent teacher; in 2007 he won the Decision Sciences Institute Innovative Instruction Award, an international competition. Thank you Prof. T. Grandon Gill for your contribution to textbook affordability!