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Global educator Chris Tisdell: Why free textbooks and videos are the key to future learning

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Chris Tisdell, author of the free textbook
Chris Tisdell, author of the free textbook “Engineering Mathematics: YouTube Workbook”


1. Chris, as a little introduction for our readers, could you tell us what and where you teach? Also, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I describe myself as an aspiring “global educator”, as I teach mathematics to hundreds of thousands of students all around the world. A small, select cohort are taught face-to-face via my classes at UNSW, Sydney, where I am a mathematician. The vast majority engage with my free, online educational resources, such as my YouTube mathematics videos and my Bookboon eBook “Engineering Mathematics: YouTube Workbook“.

Enabling the role of “global educator” are the current world trends of free and open educational resources (OER), including very popular online learning platforms such as: YouTube EDU; MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses); Academic Earth and A driver of these trends for educators/creators is a moral and social responsibility to freely share knowledge with the world.
Before coming to academia I was in the music industry. I was a reasonably successful DJ for 10 years, performing alongside well-known acts like Fatboy Slim, Tiesto and Chicane. I also ran a small record store for five years.


2. Your free textbook “Engineering Mathematics: YouTube Workbook” was the most downloaded student piece in 2012. More than 300.000 users downloaded your book from How do you explain the popularity of your eBook?

My eBook blends written lessons with online, interactive YouTube videos. My aim was to give the reader a flexible, multi-levelled and interactive educational experience, when compared with a traditional book. The popularity of my eBook indicates a desire in audiences for these kinds of holistic, value-adding and flexible approaches to learning.


3. The combination of a textbook and an accompanying YouTube video seems highly popular amongst students. Could this be the future of learning?

Media-rich resources, like online video, will play an enormous role in the future of education over the next 5-10 years. It is important to support and enhance these kinds of forward-looking technologies with resources that offer additional educational value and engagement. For example, my eBook blends each YouTube video with a structured, written lesson outline. This is designed to ensure learners are not just passively watching videos, rather they are engaging with them.


4. In your time as a student, did you know of any source which offered free textbooks? How much do you estimate you spent on textbooks?

No, unfortunately Bookboon didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate – I wish it did! My parents probably spent over $1000AUD on new textbooks during my studies. To save money, I’d try to source used textbooks, but this option still wasn’t cheap. Occasionally, my university library would sell their books that had not been borrowed in a very long time – and you could pick up a bargain – but you’d literally have to fight the other students to get to the books on sale day because it was so popular!


5. Why did you choose as the publisher of your eBook?

Bookboon’s mission to publish free quality eBooks for university students is an inspirational concept that resonated with me. Given my interest in Open Educational Resources, the choice of Bookboon for my publisher was a natural one.


6. How does the concept of free textbooks make teachers’ and professors’ lives easier?

The notion of free, quality textbooks gives educators the option to eliminate the burden of cost of textbooks for their students. If a free textbook is at least as good in quality and educational value as a non-free one, then the choice is easy.


7. What do your students think of the Bookboon concept?

They love it. Who wouldn’t like free educational eBooks written by outstanding university educators?
These attitudes are reflected both at my home university and around the globe. For example, in a recent survey at UNSW, 97% of responding students in the course “Engineering Mathematics” agreed with the statement “I found the (Engineering Mathematics) YouTube Workbook to be a valuable learning resource”. In addition, I regularly receive emails, comments and reviews from learners all over the world, giving positive and constructive feedback on my Bookboon eBook.


8. Are you planning on publishing more math textbooks in the future?

Definitely! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more information – it’s free!


You can also download Tisdell’s free eBook “Engineering Mathematics: YouTube Workbook“.