Dr. Michael Markham, is the Case-Hooper Assistant Professor of Neurobiology in the University of Oklahoma Department of He has created a set of open materials for his students in his Introduction to Neurobiology course.
- Course: BIOL 3833
- Previous Textbook: Different options over the years
- Alternative Textbook: a set of content and resources available on the course website.
The following is a brief conversation about adopting an alternative textbook for teaching.
Stacy Zemke: What areas do you teach in and in what course are you using an open textbook?
Michael Markham: I teach primarily neurobiology courses. For Introduction to Neurobiology (BIOL3833), I use a combination of open textbooks, downloadable texts that I have prepared for the class, open access software, and other no-cost materials.
SZ: Why did you decide to switch to or try out an open textbook solution for your course?
MM: The main reason was because of the skyrocketing costs that students have to pay for traditional textbooks. I wanted to reduce the financial burden associated with college coursework.
SZ: What is the open textbook source or sources you are using for your class and what book/books did you replace?
MM: The open-source readings and software for the class are found
and here: http://biol3833.net/resources.html
SZ: How many students of yours have used this open solution (total across semesters).
MM: I have taught this class three times now, reaching just over 100 students.
SZ: What was your process for selecting/creating this open book?
MM: I selected the online text that I use after surveying several other open-access texts. The one I selected is produced by a team of well-respected neurobiologists at a prominent medical school. The texts I have produced for the class focus on the core concepts that I consider most important in the class.
SZ: What are/were the challenges in changing to the open textbook – is it similar to adopting a new “traditional’ textbook for a course – or are there other challenges?
MM: There were practically no challenges involved in switching to this open textbook. All I had to do was provide links to the appropriate chapters on my class web page (www.BIOL3833.net). This was actually far easier than managing adoption of a traditional textbook.
SZ: How have your students responded to this open textbook?
MM: Students’ responses have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. While several have mentioned that they prefer traditional textbooks, even in those cases the students said that the cost savings far outweighed their preference for a printed text.
SZ: Will you continue to use this current open solution?
SZ: Would you consider using an open source for other courses that you teach?
MM: Definitely – I already have.
SZ: What advice do you have for other faculty who are considering using alternative textbooks?
MM: I would certainly encourage other faculty to consider adopting open texts for their classes wherever possible as a service to our students. In some cases, obviously, this is not possible because no acceptable open alternative exists, or the class plan depends on a traditional text. However, in many disciplines and specialties, high-quality open access texts are available. Where they are, please consider that one week of full-time work at minimum wage does not even begin to cover the cost of textbooks for one semester. Many of our students are working full- or part-time to support their education.
Image source – http://www.michaelmarkham.net