University of Texas at Austin creates free online textbook
Aug. 18, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas—About 5,000 undergraduates at The University of Texas at Austin who each year are required by state mandate to take an introductory course on U.S. and Texas politics can save roughly $60 each, or a total of $300,000, by using Texas Politics, a new online textbook developed through the College of Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services (LAITS).
“Texas Politics online was developed to enrich the learning experience of undergraduates,” said Dr. James Henson, executive producer of Texas Politics. “It allows students to access originally produced multimedia, including video segments and interactive features, in addition to all the content normally found in a textbook.”
Unlike online textbooks marketed by book publishers, Texas Politics can be accessed an unlimited number of times via the World Wide Web from any computer at any time. Portions of the site have been tested in introductory government classes during the past two years and 90 percent of students responded favorably to the online content. Because the project lives on the World Wide Web, it can be updated frequently to reflect the rapid changes in the world of politics.
“The Web enables Texas Politics to work as a living document that keeps pace with the changes generated by political events like elections and legislative action,” said Dr. Brian Roberts, professor of government and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
“We tried to infuse the traditional text-based approach to class materials with media resources that enrich the subject, making information about Texas politics and government more dynamic and interesting for students,” said Joseph Tenbarge, director of LAITS, which oversaw the production of Texas Politics content by faculty members and postdoctoral researchers. “The site includes video interviews with Texas politicians past and present, congressional staffers, lobbyists and students who have interned at the Texas state capitol. These first-hand accounts really bring the subject to life.”
“Texas Politics is a free resource for anyone interested in learning more about the subject,” said Henson. “One of our goals for the site is to provide a public resource for citizens who need explanatory information about the political system, as well as information about how to participate in politics more effectively.”
The university is encouraging faculty at other higher education institutions to use Texas Politics in their own classrooms and instructors at Austin Community College and Concordia University already have taken advantage of the resource. Future content will be developed on public interest topics such as school finance and Texas political culture. Plans also are underway to develop and include content on Texas Politics that will be user friendly for elementary and secondary school teachers.
The Texas Politics project follows in the path of other successes by LAITS and Liberal Arts faculty, such as Français Interactif, an award-winning French language instruction site used internationally.
For more information contact: James Henson, 512-471-0090 or 512-468-4113.