By Karen Kelly
Photos by Bryan Gagnon

The economic burden of expensive textbooks on students has always concerned Prof. Irena Knezevic. That’s one reason she and her colleagues published a free open access textbook last year in her field of food studies.

“This is the first introductory textbook in food studies in Canada, which we produced with the help of an e-learning grant from the Government of Ontario,” says Knezevic, a professor of Communication and Media Studies.

Knezevic says the book went through the complete scholarly publishing process including peer review. And yet she finds many academics are still reluctant to create and use “open access” textbooks and other materials.

“We realized that there’s still a lot of hesitation around it because basically people wonder, ‘How good is it if it’s available for free?’ My hope is to alleviate those hesitations.”

Encouraging the use of open access learning materials is one of Knezevic’s goals as the new Carleton University Chair of Teaching Innovation. Her proposal for the three-year term is to “explore the reasons for educators’ lingering resistance to digital technologies, focusing on open-access educational resources and multimedia formats” and to create “practical tools and curated collection of resources” that will be shared with colleagues across the campus.

Irena Knezevic

In collaboration with her colleague Vincent Andrisani, an instructor in Communication and Media Studies who specializes in multimedia production and sound studies, Knezevic is reaching out to colleagues across the university who would be interested in creating learning modules as part of a pilot project to create more open access materials.

“We plan to do a survey in the first year and assess some of the skepticism that is still lingering among our colleagues in relation to open access in pedagogy,” explains Knezevic. “From there, we will work with instructors across Carleton to create maybe three weeks of a course that would solely rely on open access materials. Then we’re hoping that at least some of these instructors would be willing to try these modules out in their teaching and provide us with some feedback.”

The open access project reflects Knezevic’s comfort with experimenting in the classroom.

“I think what makes a good teacher is somebody who is responsive and who can establish relationships with students but doesn’t have it all figured out,” she says.  “I think we have to humanize the teaching part, be honest with students, and listen to their feedback.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in ,
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