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KSU Professor Creates Flexbook

Kansas State University (KSU) students taking human nutrition this semester will be using a new online, digital textbook for the course.

The flexbook, created by KSU professor Brian Lindshield, is an "open, collaborative platform for open course materials," according to a statement released today by the institution. Designed to be used online, the flexbook includes more visuals and figures than text, as well as links to videos, animations, news, and other relevant Web materials. Students may use "Kansas State University Human Nutrition (HN 400) Flexbook," at no charge.

Lindshield developed the flexbook after his first semester teaching the nutrition course in 2009. Feedback from his students, about the wiki he had used in the course, led him to create the flexbook in Google Docs.

Students can access the flexbook through Google Docs, a URL, by downloading the PDF file posted on K-State Online, or by printing a copy. Many students use a combination of these methods to access the textbook, according to Lindshield. The hard copy version, he said, is the least used method.

Lindshield's flexbook has become a canvas for collaboration for his students. The students add comments—called "flexnotes"—from the class to the flexbook. The nutritional sciences professor uses these notes to update the text and clarify theories for his students.

"There are times students have told me they didn't understand a certain concept in the flexbook," Lindshield said in the prepared statement. "I have been able to make changes and get their feedback so that it's clear to them and future students. As an instructor, making and updating the flexbook continues to make me reflect on everything that I include in the course."

Instructors at other institutions are catching on to the flexbook idea, Lindshield said. A professor at Massachusetts' Merrimack College has replaced his standard course textbook with Lindshield's flexbook and additional Web resources.

"Instructors can customize flexbooks to match what they teach," Lindshield explained. "The collaborative nature of flexbooks means that instructors of similar courses or members of professional societies can work together to make a base flexbook, then each instructor can make a customized flexbook off of that for their course."

Lindshield surveys his on-campus and online students to get their feedback on the textbook. According to the prepared statement, a number of the respondents reported that they prefer the flexbook over a traditional textbook for its "affordability, flexibility and features." The survey also showed a higher rate of use among the distance learners. These students also employed the book's online components, including videos and animations, more than their on-campus counterparts.

Lindshield's flexbook is up for Education-Portal.com People's Choice Award for "Most Open Resource." The digital textbook is available to view online.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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