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Open-source history textbook can save students money

A new, open-source electronic history textbook published by the University Press of North Georgia with the University System of Georgia (USG) can save students nearly $100 each without sacrificing rich and fully sourced content.

"History in the Making: A History of the People of the United States of America to 1877" is a downloadable, free-to-use open-access textbook, meaning it is available to teachers, students, and the general public under a Creative Commons license.

Christy Talley Smith, director of curriculum and instruction for USG's e-Core project, said some students withdraw from a course because of not being able to afford the textbook.

"We have students who simply can't afford the textbooks on top of tuition," Smith said. "One of the things we are taking a look at now is the cost savings per course. For the fall and the spring, we'll save students more than $25,000 with this open textbook. That's approximately $96 per student."

Sarah K. Mergel, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at Dalton State College and one of the textbook's authors, agrees that textbook cost is a problem for many students.

"We've gone to brief textbooks for affordability, so we lose out on some of the content," Mergel said. "This book, 'History in the Making,' is full of content and it has everything. There's cultural history, political history, military history, social history. There are so many different themes running through this book that students will benefit from having that comprehensive take on it. … The more I've worked on this project, the more I've come to appreciate the benefits of an open access textbook. It's a quality book at an affordable price."

"History in the Making," intended for most university entry-level U.S. History I classes, examines U.S. history from before European contact through Reconstruction, while focusing on the people and their history. The textbook underwent a rigorous double-blind peer review before publication to ensure its high-quality scholarship and writing.

In addition to Mergel, textbook authors include Catherine Locks, professor of colonial American history at Fort Valley State University; Pamela Thomas Roseman, Ph.D., professor of history at Georgia Perimeter College; and Tamara Spike, Ph.D., professor of history, anthropology, and philosophy at the University of North Georgia.

The book provides a strong emphasis on critical thinking about U.S. history by including several key features in each chapter. Learning objectives at the beginning of each chapter help students to understand what they will learn in each chapter.  "Before You Move On" sections at the end of each main section are designed to encourage students to reflect on important concepts and test their knowledge as they read. In addition, each chapter includes critical thinking exercises that ask the student to deeply explore chapter content, key terms, and a chronology of events.    

"One thing that's really nice about the textbook is that it's based so much on primary sources," Roseman said. "We use primary sources for character development so that you really get a feel for the personality of the characters involved. We include a lot of information that's not usually covered in American history textbooks, and deal a lot with modern historiography theories that have surfaced in the last few years."

"History in the Making" is available at the University Press of North Georgia website: http://upnorthgeorgia.org/?page_id=2181 and from online open textbook sites such as www.merlot.org and www.collegeopentextbooks.com.

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