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CITL awards competitive eText@Illinois grants

May 27, 2021, 17:18 PM

The Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning is pleased to announce the recipients of its first round of competitive eText@Illinois grants.

They are:

“Congratulations to the award recipients,” said Milind Basole, Principal eLearning Specialist at CITL and one of the developers of the award-winning eText@Illinois platform. “We’re looking forward to working with you.”

This summer, the awardees will have their locally-produced textbook and other materials turned into a fully accessible, interactive eText, which students can access on their favorite electronic device.

Basole said a cross-functional team comprising of members from CITL’s eText, Instructional Design, Instructional Media Resources, Instructional Spaces and Technologies, and Project Management teams will work with awarded faculty to create online eTexts.

“They will be in the students’ hands this fall as viable alternatives to mainstream published textbooks,” he said.

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Created at and for the University of Illinois, eText@Illinois is an interactive, browser-based multimedia-capable platform for delivering original, instructor-developed course content in a cost-efficient manner. Students usually save been 50 to 75 percent over the cost of mainstream published textbooks (even over electronic rentals).

For the ACE 240 course, which has 1,300 students each academic year, students shelled out $129 for the traditional textbook. Basole said they will pay about $65 for the eText—a total savings of $83,317 a year. 

While eTexts cover the course content, they often contain embedded multimedia assets and additional features. For example, they allow for two-way communication between students and instructors, typed and freehand note-taking, as well as embedded assessments and practice problems linked from learning management systems (LMS) on campus.

The electronic platform enables students with myriad visual, mobility, language, and learning abilities to learn and interact with their course content, instructor, and peers in ways that best meet their learning strategies, putting them on equal footing with other students.

The electronic texts can be tailored specifically to a given course as it is taught on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Extraneous topics can be omitted and content supplemented with important background information and scaffolding as needed.

And while providing a cost savings to students, Basole said eTexts can create a “robust” income stream for the department. For example, if the ACE 240 course enrolls 1,300 students a year, the Department of Ag and Consumer Economics would bring in $55,000 in eText revenue.

“That could be very helpful to departments … particularly when there’s a very high (course) enrollment. The eText revenue can then be utilized to enhance teaching and learning experience.”

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CITL has awarded eText@Illinois grants before, but not on a competitive basis.

“This was the first time we put out a request for proposals,” said Basole, who was pleased to receive a number of very competitive applications.

The $8,000 eText@Illinois grants were offered to Illinois faculty and instructors in recognition of the amount of work involved in developing course content. While all instructor-authors were eligible, those interested in creating required resources for large undergraduate enrollment classes (greater than 300 seats annually) were particularly encouraged to apply and will be in the future.

“We’re intending to do this three times a year,” Basole said, adding the next round of RFPs will be announced in early fall.

Currently, eText at Illinois hosts more than 70 eTexts (required textbooks for courses) and has served more than 70,000 textbooks to Illinois students since 2010. Fall 2020 saw the largest use, topping more than 16,000 student eTexts.

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Here’s a look at the new courses that will be coming online this fall:

ACE 240: Personal Financial Planning examines the principles of financial planning applied to individuals and households with attention to organizing and analyzing financial information, budgeting, acquiring financial assets, managing credit, planning for taxes, investments, risk management, retirement, and estate planning. 

SPED 117: The Culture of Disability explores the impact of disabilities on an individual across the lifespan and the unique culture that is created by having a disability. The course will address the historical basis for the disability movement and special education, including legislation and litigation that has had a significant impact on the field. Students also will learn about the characteristics of individuals with diverse abilities as well as current trends in educational services. Currently, the course has 1,400 students each year.

ANTH 180: The Archeology of Death is a cross-cultural introduction to the celebration of death across time and space. The course examines the anthropological and archaeological literature on death, particularly in terms of death rituals and burial practices. Students study popular films on death in different cultures. Currently, the course has 300 students a year.

Learn more about how the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning can help you turn your locally produced course textbook and materials into an award-winning eText@Illinois.

For demo access to textbooks on the eText@Illinois platform, please email Milind Basole at basole@illinois.edu.