UCF student starts organization to end the need to purchase textbooks

View original article on NSM Today: http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/life/ucf-student-starts-organization-to-end-the-need-to-purchase/article_8919e8ec-ff97-11e9-8efe-af8652b3a268.html

Vice President of student organization WikiKnights, Darby Goodwin (left) and founding member Ian Thomas (right) looking at WikiKnights memes. WikiKnights is a student organization run by junior political science pre-law major, John Martinous, that is working to create open source (free) textbooks for UCF students.
Image by Desrae Grant

A UCF student is working alongside UCF faculty to jumpstart a new student organization called “WikiKnights” with the goal of eliminating the need for UCF students to purchase textbooks. 

Founder of the project John Martinous, junior political science major on the pre-law track, defines it as a student organization that aims to create a free public textbook option for all the classes on campus. It also aims to create a community of moderators for Wikipedia and people to donate to the creative commons. 

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that works to increase the amount of content available for free to the public by providing free, easy-to-use legal tools to help creators modify the restraints of their copyright terms from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” This allows for the free sharing of content for educational purposes. 

UCF student and WikiKnights founding member Sam Baker, sophomore economics major, created a list of the most popular books in each of UCF’s library categories, reporting that the average price of the textbooks on that list was $137.

Baker then organized them by which majors those books were applicable to, ensuring they are focusing on the books that affect the most people. 

Martinous then plans to create teams of club members dedicated to re-creating those expensive textbooks from that list, with information already in the public domain that covers those textbooks’ overall content. 

Those teams will also be dedicated to working with faculty members at UCF to help advocate for the usage of the free textbooks created ⁠— and those that already exist in the public domain ⁠— that professors and department heads may not be aware of. 

“The goal is to make this as convenient as possible for them to switch to,” Martinous said. 

Martinous partnered with James Paradiso, UCF’s Affordable Instructional Materials Program Coordinator at UCF, to sponsor the WikiKnights project.

According to Martinous, Paradiso has passed down his knowledge on a variety of easy-to-use computer programs, such as Pressbooks and Obojobo, to help WikiKnights efficiently reach its goal of both creating free textbooks and making that transition as simple as possible for the professors. 

Martinous has reportedly “hated textbooks since the dawn of time” according to Baker, a longtime friend of Martinous. 

The collective feeling of anger Martinous reports feeling in the air during the process of standing in line, waiting to spend typically over $100 on a textbook, for a class that he often ends up having to refer to open source websites such as Quizlet or Khan Academy in order to pass, frustrated him to the point of action.

“The ultimate mission of this club at the end of the day is to save the student body as much money as possible,” Martinous said. 

WikiKnights is looking for people with a passion for writing, editing, marketing, reading, meme creating and/or simply a passion for the club’s goal to join. Martinous said “there’s something for everybody.” 

Martinous and Baker also added that working with WikiKnights can help those with an interest in photography get their pictures noticed and used in others bodies of work with credit to their name.

Baker went on to explain how being in the club provides excellent practice for those interested in pursuing a career in academia by allowing them to practice how to source information and how to write with an impartial tone.

“If you’re a student that’s frustrated whenever you’re standing in line to buy a textbook and you want the next generation of students to never have to experience that, this is the first step to making that happen,” Martinous said.

Martinous and Baker went on to describe their passion for the organization and its purpose, saying they see WikiKnights as the beginning of a movement focused on helping people.

“A thousand moles can make a mountain,” Baker said.