Electromagnetics open textbook reduces college costs for undergraduate engineering students

Electromagnetics

Steven Ellingson

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech and the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering partnered to publish Electromagnetics Vol. 1, the first in a planned series of freely downloadable textbooks on electromagnetics.

The 225-page peer-reviewed textbook, authored by Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Steven Ellingson, is currently being used in Ellingson’s ECE3105 Electromagnetic Fields course. Students are no longer required to obtain a textbook, which costs $200 new, thanks to Ellingson’s efforts to create and publish this textbook openly.

The project was funded by the University Libraries Open Education Initiative Faculty Grant program.

“My children are recent public college graduates, so I have first-hand knowledge of the unnecessary financial burden that commercial textbooks impose on students and parents,” said Ellingson. “It is rewarding to do something that reduces this burden. I also like the idea that anyone anywhere — high school students, interested laymen, and instructors and aspiring students in developing countries — can easily get a copy. So I view this as supporting outreach as well.”

Since August, Electromagnetics Vol. 1 has been downloaded over 2,000 times and viewed by readers in more than 40 countries. Ellingson’s beta version of the book, which was available from January 2018 through August 2018, was downloaded almost 10,000 times.

This textbook is an open textbook published under a Creative Commons license, which means that the book is free to modify and share with attribution.

“The book can be modified to serve local requirements, including new, non-traditional, and multi-disciplinary curricula,” said Ellingson. “I think students benefit when instructors have unimpeded freedom to do this.”

Anita Walz, open education, copyright, and scholarly communication librarian at the University Libraries and her library colleagues are advocates for creating open educational resources, like Electromagnetics Vol. 1.

“My passion is empowering faculty to share their expertise with their students by creating open learning materials and adapting these open learning materials to fit their individual teaching needs at Virginia Tech and beyond,” Walz said. “When faculty create open learning materials, they make a valuable contribution to courses and help all students, especially those who may not be able to afford traditional textbooks.”

“Working with the Anita and VT Publishing in the University Libraries was a genuine pleasure. We worked collaboratively on all phases of the project from early planning through post-release publicity,” said Ellingson. “Being able to walk across campus to discuss the project with your editor and the production team makes a big difference.”

“Nobody will argue that free-of-charge and free-to-modify are better than the alternatives. What is different now is that the University Libraries is making it possible to have these things in a highly-polished book with the same production expertise and ancillary support that would be provided by a commercial publisher,” said Ellingson. “For faculty who have the urge to write a textbook that is not simply ‘yet another textbook’ on a particular topic, there is no better way to make a unique and welcome contribution than to openly-license and publicly share your work.”

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