Panel Presentation on Open Textbooks: Siyaphumelela Conference 2022

Tony Lelliott
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Open textbooks are an important phenomenon in the global higher education landscape with compelling affordances around cost savings and content development approaches that have the potential to address localisation and decolonisation of the curriculum. The four panel presentations at the 2022 Siyaphumelela Conference, also highlighted collaborative approaches to open textbook production that support innovative pedagogical practice and open new pathways for student co-creation.

The session commenced with a short video from BCcampus that explained the concept of Open Textbooks. Then moving onto four short presentations, Gino Fransman from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) discussed OpenEdInfluencers (OEIs) at NMU. OEIs are ambassadors that promote awareness of Open Educational Resources and Open Education Practices. To become an OEI, people enrol on a 6-module Becoming an Open Education Influencer course. Gino reported on a survey of students administered at NMU, highlighting the alarming finding that one third of students do not purchase textbooks at all, citing cost as the main limiting factor. To address this barrier to learning, the OEI programme has initiated an Open Textbook Fellowship to develop open textbooks, collaborating with the NMU library, curating resource-scarce modules and establishing an open content repository of resources.

Richard Sebastian from Achieving the Dream (ATD), an organisation focusing on transformation of the community college network across the USA, spoke about the OER degree and research initiative. ADT have found that enrolments on OER degree courses can lead to higher accumulation of credits, benefit students equally across race and socioeconomic status, and encourage collaboration across the institutions. ATD has also researched the nexus of Open Educational Practices and Culturally Responsive Education in eight colleges. The findings led to the development of a framework for Enacting Open & Culturally Responsive Practices consisting of five dimensions and five aspects of course presentation, thus: