Open eTextbooks for access to music education
The OER Service and the Reid School of Music are delighted to have received a Student Experience Grant in order to undertake a research and development project to explore the creation of an open etextbook using existing content from the Reid School of Music’s Fundamentals of Music Theory course.
This course covers the fundamentals of Western music theory, from absolute basics to more advanced concepts, and provides learners with the skills needed to read and write Western music notation, as well as to understand, analyse, and listen informedly. The course uses content originally created for a successful Coursera MOOC, in addition to new materials more recently developed for an on campus blended learning course, addressing global decolonisation issues around music theory and music education.
Undergraduate and postgraduate student interns from the Reid School of Music will work with Senior Lecturer in Music Dr Nikki Moran and the OER Service to scope open textbook platforms and convert the existing course content into open etextbook format so it can be used by staff and students both within and beyond the University in a convenient and reusable open format.
This project is particularly timely as the University is facing rapidly increasing etextbook costs as it moves away from print materials in response to the COVID pandemic and longer-term trends in academic publishing. The project will enable colleagues in ISG, LTW and the OER Service to gain valuable experience in the process of creating open etextbooks, which we hope can be applied to future projects including creating open alternatives for undergraduate course textbooks, and making online course content available in multiple formats.
Although open textbooks are the predominant form of OER in North America and are used extensively across all levels of education in both the US and Canada, they have not been widely adopted in the UK. Colleagues around the University have recently started creating open textbooks on Github, including R @ R(D)SVS, Online Experiments for Language Scientists, and Univariate Statistics & Methodology in R (USMR). The prototype Music Theory open textbook will help us to explore and evaluate different open textbook platforms, learn about the logistics and practical process of creating open textbooks from existing content, and whether it will be feasible to extend this to further open textbook projects.
Another innovative aspect of this project is the reuse of existing educational multimedia content that the University has already invested in. The Fundamentals of Music Theory resources were originally created for a Coursera course six years ago, with input from the University’s Learning Design Service, they have since been redeveloped as the basis of a 20 credit, Level 7 on-campus blended learning course of study, with the addition of new content and learning outcomes to support students’ critical and contextual awareness of the course content. These high-quality resources are ideally suited for further repurposing to create an open textbook, increasing the use of this tried-and-tested content, and making it available to teachers and learners in an accessible format ideally suited to hybrid and online learning.
Working with colleagues from OER Service, our student partners will have an opportunity to develop valuable digital and copyright literacy skills including an understanding of open educational resources, open licenses and open etextbooks, familiarity with current etextbook applications, and experience of working with existing digital content and educational resources across a range of platforms. A dedicated project blog will be set up where all project partners, staff and students, will be able to blog about their experience of working on the project.
We hope this project will be a valuable first step in enabling the University to shift towards the use of open textbooks across a number of undergraduate courses, benefiting the University by reducing textbook costs, benefiting staff by providing access to easily customisable open textbooks, and benefit students by providing free, high quality digital learning materials.