Month: December 2016

Office Hours Recap & MOU Feedback

Last Wednesday, we met for our monthly Office Hours session to discuss MOUs between institutions and faculty undertaking open textbook projects, and to begin the process of creating a new template MOU that can be used by open textbook creators across the globe.

Out of the discussion came several key areas that an MOU must address:

  • Intellectual property rights
  • Remuneration
  • Liability
  • Timetables (with flexibility built-in)
  • Multi-university collaborations

With these general requirements in mind, we will be drafting a new MOU template that can be used and adapted by open textbook practitioners globally. But first, we are seeking feedback on some existing MOU examples that Amanda Coolidge of BCcampus and Billy Meinke of University of Hawaii kindly shared. As the first step toward the template, we invite you to read through their example MOUs and leave comments on the elements you find especially useful (or not).

We have also included a link to the recently launched Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship. This model is intended mainly for other forms of digital scholarship (monographs etc.) and to govern publisher/author relationships, but let us know in the document linked above if you think there’s anything worth adapting for a textbook-specific MOU. (Thanks to Anita Walz for bringing this one to our attention!)

Finally, we realised that broaching the issue of student involvement in open textbook projects raised more questions than it answered, and as a result, have decided to dedicate January’s Office Hours to discussing student involvement in open textbook projects. We have invited Open pedagogy superstar Robin deRosa, as well as several others who have worked with students on open textbooks, to join us and talk about best practices, student rights and agreements. We hope you can join us. That session will take place Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. EST and you can RSVP here.

A huge thanks to everyone who attended the initial meeting and we look forward to keeping the conversation going!


Zoe + the Rebus Team

A Rebus Community Philosophy of Open Textbooks

I wrote the following as part of an answer to one of our Intro to Philosophy Open Textbook project team members, who wanted a clearer scope for that project (which by the way, is still looking for collaborators — can you help?).

While everything we are doing at the Rebus Community is evolving as we get to work with real practitioners in creating Open Textbooks, we have some important fundamental principles that underpin our understanding of what an Open Textbook is or should be. So, here is:

A Rebus Community Philosophy of Open Textbooks

At Rebus, we believe in the value of books, of textbooks and especially of Open Textbooks. However, we do not consider Open Textbooks as static, finished things. Things that just get read for free.

Rather we see Open Textbooks as building blocks for further intellectual explorations — and the “Open” part makes that building much, much more interesting.

In particular, we see Open Textbooks not simply as “free” books.

More Freedom than Just Costless (aka the 5Rs)

The “costless” aspect of an Open Textbook is in some ways its least important freedom-attribute, compared with the other freedoms that come with Open Textbooks: the freedom to build upon, to remix, to reuse, to revise, redistribute.

Open Textbooks — if created and published at scale — can serve as basic framework for an “intellectual public resource”, a resource that can and should be built upon, used and elaborated upon, repurposed and repackaged in many different ways. (See the 5Rs of Open Educational Resources).

(For more writing about our thoughts on books, and Open Textbooks, see here here and here.)

Open Textbooks as a Map of Knowledge

So thinking about that context broadly, our vision is, eventually, to have a complete “map of the basic building blocks of knowledge” available as Open Textbooks. (Yes! We recognize that such an ambition is, of course, epistemologically impossible! But it’s still a mental model when we are thinking about what we are trying to do: Providing the source code of knowledge, that can built upon).

This ambition means not just that these Open Textbooks/building blocks are free, but even more important that these building blocks can be used to build new educational experiences, new books, new iterations.

An Introduction to X

So, while we are excited about any Open Textbook we can help usher into the world — regardless of how specific or obscure its subject or approach — we have a particular interest in laying down the basic frameworks of knowledge. So that, for instance, the “Introduction to X” might be most useful as a basic introduction to the ideas of, for want of a better term, “the cannon of X,” with an expectation that future iterations, or versions, or companion works can build on this starting point, criticize it and question it.

This is not to say that we hope a Rebus Community-supported “Intro to X” is a dull, personality-free reporting of the history of “X.” But rather that such an “Intro to X” covers the aspects generally agreed to be important to know about “X” … while still leaving space for more idiosyncratic explorations within the text.

And, we hope that, once published, a Rebus supported “Introduction to X” can become a starting point for new explorations and iterations, building on the text itself.

Come join us?

If you are interested in these ideas, come help us build on them at the Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation.


A Collaborative Approach to Making Open Textbooks … Getting Started

The Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation is building a global network of people passionate about Open Education, a network of people willing to dedicate time to help with a mission:

To make Open Textbooks available in every subject, in every language in the world.

That’s a (big, very big) long-term goal.

Starting Small: The Projects We are Working On

But it will start small. We are targeting a handful of Open Textbook projects (about 10) in the coming months, and we’ll be working with authors, editors, librarians, college staff, and volunteers around the world to develop a process that makes sense.

We have a couple of projects started already (would you like to help?): Introduction to Philosophy and An Open Anthology of Early American Literature. And we have some great projects in the works, books on: the history of technology, cultural geography, nutrition, and more.

Working with people around the world on this small collection of projects will help us better understand the unique characteristics of Open Textbook creation and community building, help us (all of us together, perhaps including you) build community-driven processes that work well. And help us build the (right) infrastructure to make all of this easier.

How the Rebus Community Can Help

The kinds of things we hope the Rebus Community can help with on Open Textbook projects include:

  • Supporting project management for Open Textbook publishing projects
  • Finding ways to get a global community help support various tasks needed to publish Open Textbooks, including:
    • contributing chapters (where appropriate)
    • copyediting & proofreading
    • reviews & peer reviews of chapters & books
    • sourcing (openly licensed!) illustrations & images
    • formatting, design, and accessibility of Open Textbooks
    • “marketing” books to professors and classes
    • distributing books into libraries and directories
    • making Open Textbooks easy to find and free to anyone in the world

Not every project will need all of this support. In some cases, academic institutions have provided funding for some of these activities. Sometimes there is no funding at all.

And, of course, not every project will want “external” people in all aspects of their book. Each project will be unique, but we hope to develop a general approach that is flexible enough to support many kinds of projects.

But, these are the kinds of things we hope the Rebus Community can help with, partly through our staff, and partly though a growing global network of passionate people dedicated to making Open Textbooks.

What’s the Catch? What Should an Open Textbook Author or Editor Expect to Contribute Back?

And, what of a lead author of an Open Textbook who joins the Rebus Community to get help with a project? What do we expect of them?

First and foremost, we want people who care about Open Education, who believe that the world will be a better place if there is an Open Textbook available in every subject, in every language in the world.

We also are looking for people who care about building a global community around Open Textbooks.

We expect that they will be present on the Rebus Community Forum, and will thank the volunteers who are willing to spend time to work on their projects.

We hope they will respond quickly and positively when, for instance, someone spends a couple of hours proofreading one of their chapters, or finding images for them. Or when someone offers to do this for them.

We hope that they will encourage chapter contributors, thank volunteers who have cleaned up their formatting. In a word, we hope they will spend some time being kind to the people who are helping them make their Open Textbook.

But Really, How Much of My Time?

How much time & commitment this actually will be for a lead author is hard to pin down. Is this two hours a day (probably not!), or an hour a week (maybe)?

In some ways it depends what kind of support the author is seeking. If you are looking only for proofreaders for one chapter, then the time commitment would be small. If you are looking to build a community that will support for the whole process of creating an Open Textbook from scratch — from chapter contributions to reviews to proofreading & design — then chances are you’ll need to put in more time.

We’re Figuring This Out Together

But we (that is, Rebus staff) are here to help.  We’re not quite sure yet what the details will be, exactly how these different projects will work. Though as with anything, I would guess that the more time a lead author puts in to fostering a positive community around an Open Textbook, the more vibrant that community will be. The more successful that book is likely to be.

But, in actual fact, I guess that all of this time would likely be spent in any case: even outside of the Rebus Community, surely an author would thank her proofreaders by email, would express appreciation if someone spent some hours finding great images to go with his chapters.

It Takes a Village

Publishing a book — an Open Textbook, or a traditional one — is not a solitary endeavour.

It takes a village to make a book. Our hope, with the Rebus Community, is that we can bring a global village together, on the web, and help make an Open Textbook for every subject, in every language in the world.

It’s going to take a while, but perhaps you can help us? If you are interested, please wander over to the Rebus Community Forum, register, and say “Hi.”


Call for Open Textbook Editor: The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature

Would you like to help create and publish an Open Textbook and at the same time contribute to developing a new, collaborative model for publishing Open Textbooks?

The Rebus Community is looking for someone to join “The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature” as lead editor. The editor should be either faculty or a Ph.D. student in Early American Studies or a related field.

The Anthology is one of a handful of Open Textbook projects being undertaken with the support of the Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation. Support will be offered in the form of finding contributors and coordinating the different tasks in the publishing process (e.g. proofreading, formatting, reviewing, marketing etc.).


Unlike a traditional managing editor, this role will be the guiding academic voice on the project, but much of the project management work will be handled by the Rebus team, and the work of editing will be shared with collaborators.

What we ask of the lead editor is to:

  • Lead the TOC creation & guide development strategy (possibly in collaboration with others).
  • Tap into their network to help find introduction authors & other contributors.
  • Curate appropriate public-domain literature texts for inclusion.
  • Collect, edit & review introductions (in collaboration with other editors).
  • Help spread the word once the project is completed & encourage adoptions.

Are you interested in becoming the Anthology’s new editor? Let us know by doing the following:

  1. Read the project summary in the Rebus Community forum, then sign up and “Reply” with any questions you have
  2. Email to register your interest in the role

We look forward to hearing from you!