Class Project: Free Wiki Textbook

I've decided to conduct a rather risky experiment in my Computers and English course this semester: A semester-long class project whose goal is to create a free wikitext for use as a first-year composition textbook. The course is cross-listed, with about 13 seniors and juniors and 2 (maybe 3) English graduate students with teaching experience at the college and high school level. Some of the students are English majors, but others have mass comm and IT backgrounds. In other words, this is in many ways my ideal mix for a project like this. I started working on the Rhetoric and Composition Wikitext nearly a year ago, but development has been slow. The project is hosted at wikibooks, a project specifically devoted to the purpose of creating and distributing free educational materials. I think this is a valuable service learning project that will help the class reach several of its goals--gain experience with writing technologies, develop good collaboration skills, and learn about writing and writing instruction all at the same time. I think it's going to be a fun project, and so far the class morale is extremely high. Everyone is excited about the project, especially me!

I've been steadily developing my Project Description. I'd really hope that some of my friends and colleagues here would take a look at it and offer some suggestions here. What I'm really trying to do is find ways for everyone to add maximum value to the project, be that in the form of adding or editing text, working on layouts, or even making graphics. I'm also hoping that once development gets underway, I'll be able to ask some of my colleagues to take a look at it and offer some commentary or even a review (or perhaps even join in the effort!)

Any thoughts? Suggestions?


Great idea. The readings from Wikibooks are essential. Good pick. While Wikibooks is different than Wikipedia, the following link might be helpful in forming your project. It at least gives some ideas how others have used wikis to varying degrees of success or failure.

Great idea for a project! And I think your assigment description is looking great. What might be missing, though, is a description about what the Project (long term) is all about. In other words, an about page on the textbook wiki that describes the purpose, contribution suggestions, etc. I mentioned this because as a student, I might not understand from your assigment description how this works in terms of other people also being able to revise the text and that students from future classes might continue to work on it. Not only that, but you probably want an about page with the textbook so that other people that stumble upon it can see what is going on.

Does this make sense?

That makes a lot of sense, Charlie. Actually, I'm having a "D'OH" moment right now. Why not invite other professors to use the project in their courses? Perhaps I could do a "linked class" as they call them, so that we're working with other departments (perhaps mass comm or the like). Just imagine students and teachers from all over the world working on this project. It wouldn't be half as much fun if my students were the only people working on it.

The very nature of wikibooks--I was comparing it to wikipedia--made me assume that this was your intent.

However, I might treat this as a pilot. Let your current class get some content started. Develop your assignment materials, calendar for the project, and an about page on the site. Then in addition to the about page, create your "invitation" as part of the about page and include a sample of assignments and calendar to assist other teachers for joining in the project. As we know, open source projects tend to gather members once the project is more than vaporware.

Matt and all:

Great Idea! I did something similar in my Visual Rhetoric class last spring, albeit on a smaller scale. Basically, the "Introduction to Visual Rhetoric" book project was the final assignment of the semester, after I felt (the students felt that, too) they had become experts on the subject with someting to tell the world. I can tell that they enjoyed the experience and that I am planning to have my current visual rhetoric class add to the initial text. The results from last semester can be viewed here:

If anyone is interested in some kind of "cross class" collaboration on similar projects or has comments on suggestions, both are welcome.

Of course, the best thing was that less than a week after the project was completed, a couple of other sites were linking to it. That really tickled my students.


Once there's sufficient material, consider the Free Curricula Center as an additional repository for your text. Our mission is to do for textbooks what the open source movement has done for software -- develop free quality alternatives to commercial products.