By Makenzie Winkler
Eastern Kentucky University is a School of Opportunity with an aligned vision to remove barriers prohibiting student success. Through the EKU Board of Regents Innovation Grant funding, faculty from EKU’s English department partnered with EKU Libraries to publish “The Commons: Tools for Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric,” an open education resource (OER) for first-year students in English 101 courses. This free textbook was created with EKU students specifically in mind and with careful consideration to their needs, interests and classroom experiences.
EKU Libraries has partnered with other campus departments previously to create other OERs, including “Slavery to Liberation: The African American Experience”—the first OER at EKU, as well as the first open access textbook in the field of African American studies.
“The Commons: Tools for Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric” incorporates 26 common texts, including contemporary pieces, poetry, non-fiction, traditional prose and various multimedia, as well as newly created content. The book is completely free for EKU students, faculty and the general public. It’s not bound by strict copyright limitations, making it easy to use and adapt as needed.
Editors for the book include EKU faculty members Dr. Dominic Ashby and Dr. Jill Parrott and editorial assistant Jonathon Collins.
“While there are a few open access writing textbooks out there, we are most excited about choosing content that we think EKU students will be excited about and will challenge them—and nobody knows our students better than us,” Parrott said. “I am also excited knowing that the instructors in the program were able to provide input on what goes in the textbooks. When they're excited and feel comfortable, students are as well.”
The book promotes affordability, as well as equity and access for all EKU students. If students used the traditional textbook for English 101 rather than the OER, the cost would be $99 for a new textbook. In the Fall 2022 semester, more than 1,900 students were enrolled in all versions of English 101. Because all undergraduates receive textbooks at no cost to them through the EKU BookSmart program, the OER textbook represents a savings of more than $188,000 for the university and the BookSmart program during one semester for just one course.
“Equally as important as the savings, it gives the faculty teaching this course great content to teach with flexibility, and it gives students day one access that will continue after the class is over and even after they graduate,” said EKU Librarian Kelly Smith. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the vision and dedication of Jill and Dom and the two years of work they put into it, alongside Jonathon.”
The textbook was officially launched at an event in the John Crabbe Grant Main Library in October as part of Open Access Week.