WMU Libraries publishes two new open textbooks

Contact: Sara Volmering

Kalamazoo, Mich.—Western Michigan University Libraries is thrilled to announce the publication of two new open textbooks by Western faculty funded by Open Educational Resources Creation Grants.

Western students and learners worldwide now have free online access to “Leadership Communication: Principles and Practice by Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges and Dr. Annette Hamel and “Vida y cultura de España by Dr. Mariola Pérez de la Cruz.

These new open textbooks are free to use for Western students and learners everywhere.

These titles were created with support from the Libraries’ Open Educational Resources (OER) Grants program, which supports the adoption and creation of OER that are free for instructors and students to use, adapt and remix.

Although all three authors have previously published books through traditional publishers, these titles are their first published open textbooks.

After learning about the OER grants from colleagues, Pérez de la Cruz, master faculty specialist in the Department of Spanish, submitted a proposal for an OER creation grant to turn educational content she had already created into a published open textbook.

Dr. Mariola Pérez de la Cruz

I started writing the content 10 years ago. So, when I started developing the material thinking about its publication in OER almost two years ago, the most important aspect was already done,” says Pérez de la Cruz.

Turning that content into an interactive, freely accessible online textbook will help learners around the globe learn about life and culture in Spain, she adds.

Omilion-Hodges and Hamel, professors in the School of Communication, collaborated to co-author an open textbook on leadership communication.  

“The creation of ‘Leadership Communication: Principles and Practices’ will ease the financial burden for several hundred students annually, and that is at WMU alone,” says Omilion-Hodges.

Omilion-Hodges has used existing OER in several undergraduate courses to give students access to free course materials and reduce textbook costs.

“I have had many conversations with students who need to make the difficult decision to purchase a textbook or pay bills,” adds Omilion-Hodges. “I believe that everyone should have access to high quality content, without it being cost prohibitive. Writing an open textbook allowed me to co-author a textbook that I am proud of and that will allow all students to have access to relevant, data-driven information.”

Making their textbook easy to access online also helps students who are learning off campus.

A sizeable contingent of our Leadership students are distance learners, and the OER will be more easily available for them than a traditional textbook,” adds Hamel.

Dr. Annette Hamel (left) and Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges (right)

The Libraries has a long track record of supporting OER on campus, offering grants to adopt existing OER and, more recently, grants to support OER creation like these textbooks. These titles are the first textbooks finished from the OER creation grants. The Libraries has awarded nine OER creation grants since 2022 and anticipates that additional titles will be published in 2024 and 2025.

“With publication of these first two books we are really bringing our program to the next level to contribute to the collection of free, high-quality digital textbooks that can be adopted by instructors and students across the globe,” says Michele Behr, scholarly communications and OER librarian.

With funding and publishing support from the University Libraries and technical expertise provided by WMUx, grant-funded authors will have the resources needed to create high-quality, interactive open textbooks that support learning everywhere.

"Moving into a role as publisher is a very logical move for libraries,” says Paul Gallagher, associate dean for resources and digital strategies. “We are uniquely suited to help save our students money on curricular materials, but more importantly this advances our efforts to make information more open and free to use.”

"Our students save money and can be more engaged scholars, and our faculty can share their expertise well beyond WMU. It is a powerful new way that we can contribute back to our core mission of supporting teaching, learning and research."

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