Guest Post: Beyond My Classroom

Lina Gomaa, a Senior Arabic Instructor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures, authored the open access textbook From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic in PDXScholar. We asked her to write about her experiences writing and using an open textbook.

Beyond My Classroom

Lina Gomaa
Department of World Languages and Literatures

“Open in order to increase the impact of my scholarship and to provide a facilitating role that gives the students a lead in their learning process without the hurdles of cost or lack of resource availability.”

The idea of having open access to textbooks in undergraduate settings seems unreal. It is no news that textbook costs have exhausted university students financially and added an unnecessary obstacle for their access to learning. I know, as an instructor of Arabic at a public university, I have a role to play in lowering the costs for my students, even as small as requesting reference books in the library for students to borrow, choosing more affordable textbook options, referring to online resources, and creating handouts. All help in lowering some of the costs, but taking it a step further, I got the chance through the PDXOpen textbook grant, a Portland State University Library funded program, to write an open textbook for learning colloquial Arabic.

PDXOpen encourages faculty to publish high-quality textbooks designed specifically for their courses, that are free to students at our university and to anyone throughout the world. I took the plunge and in April 2015 applied for a grant to write my first book. I went from initial idea to final publication of the book in 9 months. While this a short period of time, providing quick access of my book to my students was very important to me. Throughout the publishing process, I worked closely with my colleagues in the Department of World Languages and Literatures, the Arabic section, to ensure that I was producing a high-quality book.

With the encouragement and support from the Library, the project allowed me to tailor a book for the very specific needs of my PSU students of Arabic. Speaking colloquial Arabic is no easy task, and this book utilizes what PSU students know from studying Modern Standard Arabic to speak colloquial Arabic. Little did I know that the book I wrote will be used globally by various individuals and institutions to help satisfy some of their language needs. The book has been downloaded since its publishing online in over 30 countries over 690 times till the publishing of this article. In fact, I was in a state of disbelief when my Italian colleague said that in Italy some of the faculty at the Inistero Della Pubblica Instruzione, Universita ‘E Ricera are using the book to help in their work with the Arab speaking refugees. At that moment, I realized that with an e-book, the world is the audience, and what it can do is limitless.