Thursday, August 2, 2012

University of Minnesota Creates E-Book in 10 Weeks

The University of Minnesota launched its online open-text catalog at the end of April in an effort to give students access to textbooks online for free, or printed for a small fee. Now, university faculty and staff have created a 317-page e-book in 10 weeks.

Cultivating Change in the Academy: 50+ Stories from the Digital Frontlines at the University of Minnesota in 2012 is a compilation of contributions from 57 faculty members, 51 staffers, 17 graduate students, and five undergrads, all of whom volunteered their work so there would be no cost to producing the title, according to Ann Hill Duin, professor of writing studies at the Twin Cities campus.

The book was released July 9 to the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy, which serves the online open-access repository. The conservancy also provided a permanent web address for the book.

“We really want to maintain access just like we do with our print,” said Lisa Johnston, research services librarian at the Twin Cities campus and co-director of the conservancy. She contributed to a chapter on the conservancy’s role in curating digital research. “We are a service that makes information available to the public via the web.”

The book focuses on “ideas for transforming teaching methods, solutions to specific classroom problems, examples of campus leaders providing direction and support for these efforts, and ways the university is spreading innovation off campus,” according to a report in Inside Higher Education.

“The e-book is far greater than the sum of the parts,” said Duin. “It’s connecting people with the innovative, imaginative, creative, collaborative dynamic work under way.”

The book is already attracting a following. Abram Anders, assistant professor of business communications at UM-Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics, reports more than 4,000 views so far of the chapter he wrote about his work with Google Apps script.

“I can see that we’re getting some people coming to our site from the press release that the school put out, some people coming from e-mail links, some people coming from Facebook,” he said, adding that people are also finding the site through Twitter posts.

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