Online text­books

CNM in­struc­tors cre­ate free online text­book in grow­ing trend


Jennifer Schaller’s writ­ing stu­dents don’t need to go to a book­store to get the course text­book. They can go online.

They won’t have to en­ter a credit card num­ber ei­ther. The book is free.

Schaller, fel­low Cen­tral New Mex­ico Com­mu­nity Col­lege in­struc­tor Tammy Wolf, and a host of other CNM col­lab­o­ra­tors teamed to cre­ate a new text for the en­try-level English writ­ing classes that most CNM stu­dents take.

But theirs is more than just a free dig­i­tal text — it’s part of a larger ef­fort at CNM to use “open ed­u­ca­tional re­sources.” OERs are web-based learn­ing ma­te­ri­als that oth­ers can use for free, share and some­times even al­ter to suit their own needs.

OERs dif­fer from copy­righted ma­te­ri­als be­cause they “have been au­thored or cre­ated by an in­di­vid­ual or or­ga­ni­za­tion that chooses to re­tain few, if any, own­er­ship rights,” ac­cord­ing to the web­site for OER Com­mons, a dig­i­tal li­brary.

Many in­struc­tors al­ready use OERs at CNM, which has had an open ed­u­ca­tional re­source ini­tia­tive since 2015.

“None of my classes

use books from pub­lish­ers any­more,” says fac­ulty mem­ber Kat Flies, whose teach­ing reper­toire in­cludes anatomy, phys­i­ol­ogy and bi­ol­ogy.

Flies be­gan pro­mot­ing wider OER adop­tion at the state’s largest com­mu­nity col­lege while serv­ing as a CNM pres­i­den­tial fel­low dur­ing the 2014-15 school year. She says the world­wide move­ment to­ward OERs makes learn­ing more mo­bile and af­ford­able. Tra­di­tional text­books av­er­age about $100, Flies says, but an anatomy book might cost closer to $300 when in­clud­ing soft­ware.

Flies, like many in­struc­tors, turns to ex­ist­ing OER li­braries like the Rice Univer­sity-op­er­ated OpenS­tax. OpenS­tax re­ported to Flies that 33 CNM in­struc­tors used its peer-re­viewed books in the last aca­demic year, which trans­lated to an es­ti­mated $400,000 in pos­si­ble sav­ings for 4,200 stu­dents.

“If we can get … free books to our stu­dents, we can re­ally save them a sub­stan­tial amount of money they can then use for tu­ition in­stead — or just to sur­vive,” Flies says.

She says OERs “keep pop­ping up left and right,” and cover an in­creas­ingly wide range of sub­ject mat­ter.

But Schaller and Wolf in­stead de­cided to cre­ate their own, some­thing to suit the stu­dents in CNM’s English 1101 (col­lege writ­ing) and English 1102 (an­a­lytic writ­ing) cour­ses.

They spent about 1½ years on the project.

“There was a huge learn­ing curve,” Schaller says. “If I had known what I was get­ting my­self into, I might not have said ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’”

Wolf says hav­ing a part­ner like Schaller was key.

“I’m not sure I would’ve tack­led this beast on my own,” she says.

The duo started by scour­ing for the right ma­te­rial. They ul­ti­mately tapped seven other ex­ist­ing OERs, pluck­ing the most rel­e­vant parts and weav­ing them to­gether like quilt-mak­ers. They also wrote a few chap­ters of their own and in­cor­po­rated in­put and edit­ing help from other English depart­ment fac­ulty.

“It’s a re­ally col­lab­o­ra­tive process. Even though (Wolf) and I are the ones who did this (project) it’s not like it came out of nowhere,” Schaller says. “It grew out of our de­sire as a depart­ment to meet the needs of our stu­dents.”

Af­ter build­ing the text-dense doc­u­ment with 39 chap­ters on sub­jects like the­sis de­vel­op­ment and per­sua­sive writ­ing, the pair turned it over to staff at CNM’s Dis­tance Learn­ing depart­ment. They coaxed it into a more at­trac­tive dig­i­tal pack­age, adding pic­tures, color­ful charts and even videos.

The fi­nal re­sult would span 498 pages if printed.

Wolf says at least 13 CNM in­struc­tors are us­ing it this fall. And the pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists that in­struc­tors in, say, Min­nesota or South Carolina could one day use it, too.

The text ref­er­ences sev­eral CNM-spe­cific re­sources — like the cam­pus tu­tor­ing cen­ter and li­braries — and the duo say they cre­ated the book for the CNM com­mu­nity. How­ever, they have li­censed it with “Cre­ative Com­mons” marks, en­abling oth­ers to “remix, tweak and build upon” the work as long as they pro­vide proper credit and, when us­ing the parts ac­tu­ally writ­ten by Schaller and Wolf, li­cense their own work un­der the same terms.

Wolf says much of the con­tent would work else­where.

“I don’t think that was our pri­mary in­ten­tion, but I ab­so­lutely think it will be a great re­source for in­struc­tors teach­ing in­tro­duc­tory (cour­ses) any­where,” she says.

To ac­cess the new book, go online to and scroll down to the mid­dle of the page.


Cen­tral New Mex­ico Com­mu­nity Col­lege English in­struc­tors Tammy Wolf, left, and Jennifer Schaller, right, re­cently part­nered to cre­ate a new “open ed­u­ca­tional re­source” text­book for the school’s English 1101 and 1102 writ­ing cour­ses.


This free, online text­book re­cently pro­duced by two fac­ulty mem­bers can be used by in­struc­tors teach­ing col­lege and an­a­lytic writ­ing cour­ses at Cen­tral New Mex­ico Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

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