Open Textbooks

Mini Grants Awarded










Castillo. Michaelson/Williams












Cruz, LLewellyn, Hudak





Evaluation of Student Experience after Adoption of Open Source Material in Two Sections of College Writing II ESL During the Spring 2016 Semester*

Like many other faculty, I applied for the mini-grant in the hope of helping mu students lower their educational expenses. Yet, I was understandably apprehensive because I was going to use open source material to replace a textbook (a rhetoric-cum-reader) that contained carefully selected readings and a strong skills section. My plan was to use articles available online through the websites of The Atlantic and The New York Times as well as blog entries and other pieces freely available on the Internet and to supplement with original handouts, when needed. (Please note that there is another required text in the course, the UML custom edition of Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, which is adopted by the First Year Writing Program as a whole, and thus mandatory for use in all sections of College Writing I and II). However, the transition to using open source text was really successful, both pedagogically and financially speaking. My students repeatedly reported satisfaction with the open source material, which was easily and always available at no cost to them on our course’s Blackboard website. This meant that some students, who would have been unable to afford the book previously assigned in the class, were now able to use the open source materials and keep up with the work. Not purchasing the textbook and falling behind on the work assigned had been a huge problem in my writing and reading intensive classes -- the ESL designated sections of College Writing -- because many students are recent immigrants who come from financially strained backgrounds. Financial benefits aside, my students, who are true digital citizens, also appreciated the easy availability * Originally, I had included in the proposal the creation of two packets – one for CW I ESL and one for CW II ESL. However, my teaching assignment changed in the beginning of January 2016. I was assigned another course (CW A ESL) and my CW I ESL was cancelled. As a result, the semester proved to be too busy – with the newly assigned course, which was a different preparation – for me to carve out the time to create the two packets. Thus, this deliverable only concerns the creation and use of one packet, for CW II ESL. I discussed the problem with Vice Provost Mandell, and she thought that submitting the deliverables for just one course packet is acceptable for the terms of the mini-grant and the awarded amount of 350 dollars. I do plan on creating the other packet as soon as my schedule allows it. and portability of the readings: they could take them anywhere. And while reading complex essays on a smartphone is not something I would recommend, they have told me that it has helped with completing the homework assignments on time and keeping up with the work assigned. In terms of pedagogy, not relying on a textbook has helped my keep closer attention to what my students really need and has allowed me to use the writing handbook (Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, which is mandatory in all College Writing courses at UML) a lot more productively. Students were able to read and annotate a number of the relevant sections in that book, which I had never assigned as homework prior to the adoption of the open source materials. As a result, they have mastered a number of revision and proofreading and editing skills covered in Hacker that I had not emphasized to the same degree before. In terms teaching rhetoric (audience, purpose, engaging the ideas of others, etc.), I did not miss the previously assigned textbook either. I was able to draw on my almost twenty year long expertise in teaching academic writing and mobilize it to deliver several mini-lectures that covered the core skills in the course. After those, I would ask the students to engage in some sort of application (whether through peer review, group work, or structured paper-based exercises) and was surprised that formally presented material in a textbook was really not needed to teach composition. The ability to choose my own background readings for the assignments has been liberating as well. I had noticed that for many of my students, the topics of the readings in the various composition textbooks are so steeped in American popular and political culture that the students had to first master a topic and then write on it. This is a very difficult, not to say impossible, task to accomplish in an ESL composition course. When I opted out of using a textbook, I decided to choose topics that ESL students can relate to more easily. So, instead of assigning essays on racial profiling or the use of religious symbols in winter holiday decorations in public spaces, I now assign topics like social networking and personal relationships or gender socialization and the media. My students were able to write more engaged and engaging essays as a result. More importantly, rather than use a lot of precious class time to explain various cultural and social underpinnings to the issues in question, I was able to use class time to focus on composition and mechanics work – which are the two areas my students need to improve the most. My experience as an instructor, which ahs been overwhelmingly positive, and the results I saw in my students work and overall performance in the class, make me really positive that transitioning to open source materials can be feasible and beneficial in the other course I often teach, College Writing I. My next step will be to create an open source packet for that course as well.



Kiaoxia Newton


Enclosed are our deliverables (option B). These deliverables consist of the following materials: 0. Our cover letter and summary assessment of student learning (files prefixed with 0.0 to 0.1)

1. Copy of course materials
- Course syllabus (file prefixed with 1.1)
- Three sets of inquiry project descriptions (each has a detailed description of what students were expected to do and produce along with the rubrics for assessing the quality of students’ work) (files prefixed with 2.1 to 2.3)

Handouts we created to guide class activities (files prefixed with 3.1 to 3.24) Supplementary reading materials (files prefixed with 4.1 to 4.5)

2. Evaluation of anticipated impact on learning and student experience
Sample student work (files prefixed with 5.1 to 5.12)
Our summary assessment of the impact of the course on student learning. We grounded our

assessment based on the following types of evidence: (a) a preliminary comparative analysis of the pre- and end-of course survey; (b) the quality of students’ work products on three inquiry projects, in particular, paying attention to how the quality of their work changed as they progressed through the course; and (c) summary of students’ responses to the course evaluation form (both in terms of students’ ratings of the course and themes emerged from their written comments where applicable) (file prefixed with 6.0)
- Instruments we used to collect data (files prefixed with 7.1 to 7.2)

Kenneth LeVasseur


Since January 1, I’ve made significant progress on converting Applied Discrete Structures to the MathBook XML (MBX) format. The MBX source code can be converted to several formats. The two I’ve concentrated on are html and latex (which can, in turn, be converted to pdf).

Applied Discrete Structures contains 16 chapters and 2 appendices. As of now, 5 chaptersand 1 expanded appendix have been converted. They are now available in the two formats: html:

The source code is at

The conversion process involves editing latex versions of original Mathematica notebooks. By editing early chapters by hand, I’ve developed a collection of replacement rules using regular expressions. With my budget, I’ve hired a CS graduate student, Sri VenkataNaga <>, who has xml expertise. She is developing a script based on these rules that should make conversion of the remaining chapters much more efficient.

Some features of the new versions of the book:
In both html and pdf: Automatically generated, hyperlinked table of contents, lists of notation and index (index isn’t ready to implement yet).
In html: active sage cells, such as combinations-and-the-binomial-theorem.html#sage-bridge-hands, and a format that is readable across platforms from desktop to smartphone.
The text is listed on several open-source text sites, most notably textbooks/approved-textbooks/. The new format should make the text even more appealing to potential users. It will benefit many students at UML and elsewhere. Most students will have access to multiple formats at no cost. A low-cost hard copy for those of us who prefer non-electronic texts will still be available for around $30 (about the same
costas commercially printing the free pdf).

Thanks for the support on this project!
Ken Levasseur