Open Access Week 2018

October 24, 2018, by Julie Baldwin

Open Access Week 2018: Co-Authoring an Open Access Textbook

In today’s post, guest blogger Chris Woodard from the Department of Philosophy, describes his experience of producing an open access textbook.

In February 2014 my colleague Neil Sinclair approached me and another colleague, Isabel Gois, proposing that we collaborate in writing an electronic textbook on ethics. He had himself been approached by some members of the School of Education who were planning to apply to JISC for some funding to support writing a number of such textbooks.

It was clear that this project would involve significant additional work, so we discussed carefully the reasons we might have for participating. We identified two such reasons: producing a useful teaching resource, and gaining expertise in the department of Philosophy in the production of electronic and reusable teaching materials.

We planned to use the resulting textbook to support teaching in the level 1 optional philosophy module Applied Ethics. This was a 10-credit, single-semester module, which was optional for philosophy students and also quite popular with subsidiary students. Because the students taking the module had quite different academic backgrounds, use of a textbook was quite important for this module. But existing published textbooks in applied ethics tended to be large and expensive, and to cover very many more topics than we would cover in our relatively short module.

Thus it seemed a promising idea to prepare a custom-designed textbook, which could be tailored to the specific demands of this module, which could be distributed freely to students, and which might include some interactive elements such as quizzes and embedded videos.

We set about writing the textbook later that year. I had already written lecture notes on the five topics covered in the module previously. Isabel used these to write drafts of five chapters on those topics, and she wrote a sixth chapter from scratch. We then collaborated on revising these drafts, and Neil oversaw the process and provided a Glossary. Thus most of the additional work involved in producing the book was done by Isabel. Steve Stapleton from Learning Technology oversaw the technical aspects of producing the textbook.

The result was Applied Ethics: the Philosophy of Right and Wrong, published in open access format as an ePub, Mobi (Kindle), and pdf document. Though I was no longer involved in teaching the module for which this book was written (and the module has now been retired), the book served its purpose of supporting that module, and gave us within the department valuable experience of producing reusable electronic teaching materials.

This blog is one of a series we’re running during Open Access Week 2018, you’ll find more blogs on other open access topics here

Posted in AcademicsGuest BlogResearch SupportTeaching and Learning