Textbook costs have long been a concern for students, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated that problem. U.S. PIRG found that 65% of students skipped buying a required textbook due to cost. A survey conducted by Temple Student Government in 2020 showed that in order to afford a textbook, 41% have worked extra hours at their job, and 14% have skipped meals.
Tell us your textbook affordability story for a chance to win a personal study room for a whole day during final exams! Submit a true story about the most money you spent on textbooks in one semester. In a paragraph, audio/video clip, graphic design, or some photos, briefly share how this expense impacted you and what that money would have gone towards if you didn’t have to pay for textbooks.
Five winners will be randomly selected from all entries. Winners may select their date and library location (Charles Library or Ginsburg Library). The study room must be used M–F, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, May 2–May 5 or on May 8.
Happy Open Education Week! During this week, we celebrate and advocate for open educational resources. Open educational resources (also called OER) are defined by SPARC as “teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, which also carry legal permission for open use.” These are teaching and learning materials — like videos, slide decks, podcasts, worksheets, and textbooks — that are free to access, use, share, and modify in the digital environment without copyright concerns because their creators have given others permission to do so.
Why are open educational resources so important? For students, their biggest appeal is they are zero or low cost. Open textbooks can save students hundreds of dollars each semester. For faculty, OER offer an opportunity to craft course materials that are highly relevant, current, and meaningful for their discipline. In addition to remixing and modifying existing materials, faculty can create new materials or textbooks.
To learn more about why Temple faculty are driven to author an open textbook, we spoke with Dr. Carmelo A. Galati, Associate Professor of Instruction and the Co-Director of the Italian Studies Program at Temple University. Dr. Galati is the author a new open textbook, Gratis!: A Flipped-Classroom and Active Learning Approach to Italian, which is currently under review with North Broad Press. This textbook is intended for students with no previous knowledge of Italian.
Why did you choose to write Gratis!: A Flipped-Classroom and Active Learning Approach to Italian as an open textbook?
While leading a session on active learning for teachers of Italian at a professional workshop under the jurisdiction of the General Consulate of Italy in Philadelphia and the Italian Ministry of Education (October 2019), my colleague, Dr. Cristina Gragnani, and I discovered university students are not the only ones affected by the high and growing cost of language textbooks. High school programs are also facing issues and are unable to provide students with affordable educational tools to promote the Italian language and culture. Temple University’s Italian Studies program’s work within the Philadelphia community to disseminate Italian culture dates to the early 20th century. In support of that pioneering work educating students and promoting Italian culture, we created an open-access, introductory-level Italian textbook for Temple University students, as well as high school students in the greater Philadelphia area and beyond. Doing so makes foreign language study accessible to all and places Temple University at the forefront of internationalization at the secondary education and university levels.
Tell us about the process of publishing this textbook with North Broad Press, the joint open access imprint of the Libraries and Temple University Press.
Prior to Gratis! I did not have experience in textbook publications, as most of my writing projects dealt with peer-reviewed academic journals and edited volumes. Thanks to the guidance of Annie Johnson (former Assistant Director for Open Publishing Initiatives and Scholarly Communications), Mary Rose Muccie (Director, Temple University Press), and Alicia Pucci (Scholarly Communications Associate), the process has been a positive and rewarding experience. From the very first day of being contracted to author Gratis! everyone at North Broad Press has been very supportive and has shown great enthusiasm for the project. Whenever questions arose regarding copyright, formatting, use of videos, or anything in between, they were quick to respond by email and to schedule video conferences with me should I need further clarification.
You chose a Creative Commons license for your textbook. Were you familiar with Creative Commons prior to this project?
I was not familiar with Creative Commons (CC) prior to the project. As a language textbook, Gratis! is filled with lots of images to introduce, reinforce understanding of, and assess vocabulary knowledge of each lesson and unit. Creative Commons has made the inclusion of images much less stressful since I did not need to purchase individual licenses for the book’s photographs. Furthermore, in choosing a CC license for Gratis!, instructors who wish to adopt it are free to add more material. This may include new integrated grammar or vocabulary exercises that align with the context of each chapter. The CC license allows instructors to choose cultural reading materials to assess reading comprehension as well, since educators can write and add additional reading content to the book.
You received an OER Development Grant from the PA GOAL program. Did this impact how you envision faculty and students using this textbook?
The OER Development Grant supported the development of videos, images, and interactive H5P exercises that serve as ancillary materials and provide students with instant feedback. The grant provided funding for four undergraduate Italian majors (Aidan Giordano, Andrew Raker, Julia Rudy and Eileen Scanlan), studying at our Temple University Rome campus, working with two Italian faculty members and the Director of Student Activities (Daniela Curioso, Bruno Montefusco, and Gianni Marangio, respectively), to create original video content for each of the textbook’s chapters. The students’ contributions allow language learners to experience studying abroad virtually through videos that document their travels around Rome, provide a virtual campus tour of Villa Caproni (the building which houses the Temple Rome campus along the banks of the Tiber River), and record interviews with local Italian university students discussing differences between the American and Italian Educational system.
Thanks to the OER Development Grant, Gratis! emulates the leading publishers in providing students with competencies that they will acquire by the completion of each chapter. Units include specific vocabulary that integrates grammar and culture lessons, while online ancillary materials provide students with additional support and instant feedback.
What advice would you offer faculty who might be considering authoring an open textbook?
If you are looking for a way to provide affordable educational tools for students and the opportunity to continuously reflect on and update best practices and initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, then authoring an open textbook is the way to go! Most Italian language textbooks contain microaggressions that endorse heteronormative culture and behaviors, promote traditional family planning, and ultimately present a false picture of the world in which we live. In writing Gratis! I have been able to represent diverse realities for Italian-language learners and to make the learning process inclusive to all! Gratis! does not promote stereotypes of traditionally conservative Italians. Instead, it teaches inclusive vocabulary regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. It presents students with language regarding places of worship for all faiths, not just Roman Catholicism. In its goal to represent Italy’s diverse realities, Gratis! depicts Italians of all cultures, races, and religions.
Temple University Libraries is celebrating Open Education Week from February 27 to March 3, 2023. Open Education Week is an annual celebration designed to raise awareness about open educational resources and practices.
What are Open Educational Resources and Practices?
Open educational resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are free to read and reuse. Examples of OER include videos, images, lab activities, homework assignments, and textbooks. Open educational practices — also known as open pedagogy — use OER to support learning and invite students to be active participants in the teaching and learning environment, engaging in knowledge creation and sharing.
Faculty who use OER instead of a commercial textbook can help save students hundreds of dollars a semester. Faculty who use OER can revise, remix, and build upon the content created by others, customizing the material to meet the needs of their particular class. This can aid in bringing about a more culturally responsive teaching and learning experience.
Open Education Week Events & Activities
To mark Open Education Week, Temple University Libraries will be offering the following events and activities:
Contest for Students
Tell Us Your Textbook Affordability Story Submit a true story about the most money you spent on textbooks in one semester. In a paragraph, audio/video clip, graphic design, or some photos, briefly share how this expense impacted you and what that money would have gone towards if you didn’t have to pay for textbooks.
You can win a day’s reservation to a study room in Charles Library or Ginsburg Library during final exams! Five winners will be randomly selected from all entries. Deadline to submit: March 17, 2023.
Event for Faculty
Waffle OPEN House Our featured faculty event is a tasty one! You’ve heard of Waffle House. Join us on Wednesday, March 1 at Charles Library for Waffle OPEN House.
Come to Suite 375 in Charles Library between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm for waffles, pancakes, coffee, and more – along with informal discussions with our librarians about open education practices and how to incorporate them into your instructional practice.
Textbook Affordability Project Application Information Session Monday, February 27, 2023 | 12 pm |Register Join us as we discuss the TAP grant award opportunities, application process, requirements, and answer any of your application questions.
Using Open Educational Resources in the Classroom Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | 12 pm | Register In this workshop aimed at faculty and teaching graduate students, we will provide an introduction to the world of open educational resources. We’ll discuss how to find high quality OER in your discipline and show you how these materials can be customized to suit the needs of your particular class and improve student success.
Copyright and Creative Commons Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | 1 pm | Register Join us as we cover the basics of Creative Commons licenses—what they are, how to find CC-licensed material, and how to license your own work.
Sharing Your Teaching and Learning Materials with TUScholarShare Wednesday, March 1, 2023 | 1 pm |Register Temple’s institutional repository, TUScholarShare, provides free online access to textbooks, syllabi, slide decks, tutorials, videos and more created by faculty and staff. In this workshop, you will learn about the benefits of sharing your materials and how to make them open and freely available online to teachers and learners beyond Temple.
How to Promote Your Open Scholarship Thursday, March 2, 2023 | 12 pm | Register This workshop will cover strategies how faculty can promote for promoting their open scholarship. This will cover building a scholarly profile, where to store your work, how to showcase your work on social media, and how to express this hard work in the promotion and tenure process.
Accepting Applications for the Textbook Affordability Project Grant!
Open Education Week is also a great time to learn more about Temple University Libraries’ Textbook Affordability Project, which provides grants ranging from $500 to $1,500 to faculty who adopt, adapt, or create free alternatives to commercial educational resources. Engaging in open educational practices, like replacing a traditional assignment with a renewable assignment, is also an option. Applications are being accepted until April 7, 2023.
We hope you will join us for our Open Education Week events!