UCT Open Textbook Conversation 2023

14 Mar 2023
Participants at the 2023 UCT Open Textbook Conversation event (photo: Sukaina Walji)
14 Mar 2023

Members of the UCT open textbook community gathered for the 2023 UCT Open Textbook Conversation event in the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library on Monday 6 March to exchange ideas and experiences related to collaborative content creation processes that address multilingualism, localisation of content and curriculum change through including voices of colleagues and students in open textbook creation.

The event was attended by 22 staff and students from UCT Libraries, the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, Computer Science, Architecture, the Health Sciences Education Development Unit, the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Including Disability in Education in Africa unit, and Sociology.

Proceedings were opened by DOT4D Principal Investigator Dr Glenda Cox, who provided an overview of the role of open textbooks and other open educational resources in addressing social (in)justice in the classroom through collaboration and student co-creation. Highlighting Bovill’s (2020) terms of inclusion and models of open textbook creation at UCT, she drew attention to issues relating to student voice and the power shifts involved in disrupting traditional academic hierarchies. Referencing DOT4D research, she shared data from interviews with open textbook creators at UCT, one of whom stated: “[The students] are actually mentoring me a lot more than I am mentoring them. They are so inspiring to me because they are on a completely different frequency.”

Glenda’s opening presentation was followed by inputs from two UCT open textbook initiatives with a strong student collaboration focus.

Mohammed Kajee, a PhD student in the Faculty of Science and Co-Editor in the ‘Science is Tough but So Are You!’ initiative, outlined the textbook’s purpose in serving as an orientation guide on ‘how to learn science’ and handle the culture shock of being a first-year BSc student at UCT. Playing a central role in both the content scoping, authorship and publishing processes, Mohammed shared his insights as a student and Co-Editor of the textbook, highlighting the eagerness of students to contribute to educational resource creation.

The other input was by Dr Lehlohonolo Ntlatlapo, Co-Editor of Paeds in a Pinch: A Practical Guide For Students, By Students, With Specialist Review. A co-winner of the 2022 UCT Open Textbook Award, this resource comprises 17 chapters written by 32 students and 16 paediatricians, supplementing the already existing content used in the curriculum. Lehlohonolo outlined the approach adopted in terms of letting students take the lead in a textbook development process, stressing the importance of never giving up on your ‘simple’ or ‘crazy’ textbook idea, paying attention to time management and flexibility, and amplifying your supporters’ voices in your head.

The event concluded with a discussion on different ways of working with students (whole class versus selected/paid groups), the issue of appropriate recognition for student authors, levels of agency and power dynamics. Open textbook creators in the room also drew attention to the importance of trusting and respecting students and their contributions in order for true agency to be achieved. Jill Claassen from UCT Libraries provided an overview of publishing platforms and services, including options for print-on-demand, in UCT Libraries.

The UCT Open Textbook Conversation event has been hosted annually by the DOT4D initiative since 2019. It provides a valuable opportunity for the UCT open education community to connect and share experiences. This year, the event formed part of Open Education Week proceedings taking place around the world.