Third in our ongoing series on Camosun’s Open Sustainability Project, and sadly delayed for an inexcusable number of months (apologies for this), is Stephanie Ingraham.  Stephanie teaches physics, and specifically for this project, she has been working on developing an open textbook for the Physics of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy course in the Medical Radiography (MRT) program.

This course is unique, she says, telling me that it “covers some introductory physics topics like electromagnetic radiation, the structure of matter, electricity and magnetism, but then goes into topics that are specific to medical imaging. For example, X-ray production, the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter, radiographic and nuclear imaging, the biological effects of radiation, and the physics behind radiation therapy, sonography, and MRI. So though it’s designed for students in the MRT program, it covers the physics of other imaging topics too.”  And like many of the courses taught by our Open Sustainability grant holders, there isn’t a textbook out there currently covering all these topics.

Stephanie’s hope is to include not only text-based content, but also images, examples, practice problems, and homework for students in her textbook, with the idea that it could be used by courses similar to her own course, but also by courses that cover one or more of the individual topics included in her textbook – and this being an open textbook means pieces can be taken and adapted as needed.

Aside from creating a needed resource to support the course Stephanie teaches, one of the inspirations behind wanting to create an open textbook is providing access to materials for students.  “I think we’re moving as a society towards free education and more freely available information. I also know that costs are a barrier for students, so helping to reduce those costs is very important to me.”

Stephanie has faced a few challenges after embarking on this project.  “First was COVID, because that delayed everything and changed my work pattern. In the end, it wasn’t possible to take release time to work on the project when I had originally planned.” But at the same time, Stephanie sees the pivot to online learning due to COVID as also a positive, because now she has been immersed in online teaching and has a better idea how an online resource could support her students.  “The other challenges I have mainly involve designing or finding images and data tables that are exactly what I want – but that’s manageable and kind of fun.”

Stephanie tells me that while working on this project, she’s learned “the value of being organized and planning everything. Keeping lists of the open resources used, making to-do lists and schedules, all help me to stay on track.”  She also has learned the value of having a team to support the project.  “I had already started working on materials before the grant opportunity came up and working on my own was very daunting.  In the terms when I didn’t have a lot of designated time to work on the project, it has been helpful to have some regular check-ins, to hear what the other grant recipients are working on, and to learn about different tools (like H5P and Pressbooks) because that has made me more excited about the project.”

Some advice Stephanie would have for anyone wanting to start this kind of project is, “you should definitely go for it. We’re moving towards sharing knowledge for free and creating digital resources that are accessible, for example including text-to-speech options and high contrast images. There are so many great benefits in creating these open resources.”  But she also cautions to take some time to search for what is already available out there.  “See if there’s something you can start with or get ideas from to take back to your own projects.”  And ask for help.   “Maybe someone else is wondering the same thing as you, or reach out just to get some feedback on what you’re working on.”  And finally, “it’ll take longer than you think!”

What does the future look like for Stephanie in terms of open?  “To start with, this open textbook that I’m working on will ideally be used in May of 2022 when this course runs next. But that is just the beginning. I imagine revising and adding things to the textbook in the future, and there are other open resources for Physics that my department has been considering adopting. Depending on what is available, we may decide to develop more of our own open online resources in the future.”