SMSU English Faculty Publish a Free Online Textbook (VIDEO)

As textbook costs continue to rise for college students, Southwest Minnesota State (SMSU) English faculty have recently published a free, online, open educational resource, titled Why Writing Works: Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts, to assist students taking English 251: Writing in Professions.  Because the sophomore-level composition class focuses on how students write in their respective disciplines, the free resource (found at is an interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty across SMSU’s campus.

The project was initially funded by a grant from the Minnesota State Open Textbook Initiative to create open access educational materials. To view a video on the project, go to

According to Dr. Amanda Bemer, Associate Professor of English and co-editor of the resource, “the open texbook site is designed to help students learn about writing, reading, research, and documentation in their specific disciplines.” The resource includes articles, videos featuring faculty and students, and interactive annotated samples of writing across the disciplines. “Its purpose is to better engage students with the course material and to be more accessible to more students due to its online and open (free) aspect.” In addition to Dr. Bemer, co-editors of the project are Dr. Lori Baker, Professor Lisa Lucas, and Dr. Neil Smith in the English program.

The resource currently contains material from eleven academic programs across SMSU, from exercise science to nursing to marketing, and the editors continue to seek more contributions. “It is our desire to have all disciplines at SMSU represented, and to get contributions from other universities in the Minnesota State system and eventually from across the country and world in order to meet students’ needs,” says Bemer.

The editors are excited by the positive reception from students and hope to continue to have the support of the university in this endeavor.