Month: October 2018

Collaborate & Create: Announcing the New Rebus Community Guide!

After two years of collaboration, thirty projects undertaken, and a dozen open textbooks released, we are thrilled to announce the publication of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). The book-in-progress is the result of innumerable conversations and exchanges within the Rebus Community, and represents a wide range of collective knowledge and experience. Beyond our pleasure in sharing this outcome, however, we are enormously grateful for the many voices, perspectives, and helping hands that have made the Guide a reality. We also want to highlight those two little words in parentheses in the title: there are plenty of new learnings, knowledge, and reflexive revisions to come!

The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far)

The book (so far)… and what comes next

In its current form, The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) is for anyone thinking about starting an open textbook project. It starts at the beginning of the process, with chapters on project scoping and building a team, and then moves on to content creation and editing, getting feedback and reviews, coordinating release and adoptions, and sustaining the book’s community.

Like all Rebus-supported projects, however, the Guide is and will remain an effort that evolves and grows over time. Through conversations, use, new writers’ and editors’ contributions, and ongoing reflection and revision, it will reflect our changing perspectives on how and why we make open textbooks. In this way, it shows where we have collectively gotten so far, while embodying the ethos of openness and the reality that innovation is always characterized by change. As the book is used and the project grows, we look forward to a lively series of discussions on the Rebus Forum, as well as continuing re-imaginings of how our ecosystem makes textbooks.

The project and book were initiated by Zoe and Apurva as a way to comprehensively document our approach to OER publishing. Over the last two years, we have worked in a very hands-on way with more than 30 open textbook projects! That means that there are many practices that we have learned to make more inclusive, and numerous insights to exchange with the broader community of OER users and creators. Capturing them in text, but in a way that can evolve, is our aim with the Guide. Of course, because every project is different, there is no single template for success. In fact, it is within those differences that we see so much potential for making the Guide a living and dynamic resource.

The Guide represents an important moment in the evolution of the Rebus Community, a culmination of two years of great, collaborative work. Moving forward, it will serve as a living repository of collective knowledge, equipping those who want to publish open textbooks with the resources they need. Just as the forum and Projects platform provide the tools that can make the community more self-sustaining, the Guide will help build long-term capacity. In turn, we can dedicate more time to refining and extending this infrastructure, and enabling more project teams, anywhere in the world, to create and share OER.

Walking our own talk

As we started working on this project, we realized what a learning experience it is to walk the talk of creating collaborative, open textbooks. Using our own tools and resources has helped us identify what aspects of the platform and process work well, what hiccups still exist, and what kind of solutions and improvements we need to work on next. It has also made us all the more grateful when project leads, contributors, reviewers, and readers (and everyone else!) tell us what they think has been successful, as well as what issues remain. We’ll keep working to resolve those issues and avoid new ones. With every new voice giving us fresh and different perspectives, the Rebus Community grows in diversity—in time, that leads to a more accessible and responsive platform.

In the meantime, and in the interest of prompting other insights, here are a few of the surprises we bumped into during our work on the Guide:

  • Managing and contributing to open textbook projects takes a lot of time and hard workWhile that might seem obvious, what isn’t so straightforward is remembering to look after your own well-being along the way. Be nice to yourself (and each other): get lots of rest, eat well, and ask for help as often as possible! Along the way, all that energy you’re putting into the project needs to be replenished.
  • The publishing process isn’t always linear—in fact, it rarely is—and that’s a good thing! Sometimes slowing down to deal with the curves in the road is exactly how you learn to see things differently. Our insight is that you don’t have to wait to finish one task in order to move on to another, and you can ‘complete’ a given phase even if all the content isn’t there. Keep things moving on a rolling basis, and stay patient when the rolling gets rocky.
  • We continuously learn that paying attention to accessible design, inclusive language, diverse forms of marketing, and equitable editing is critical. There are implications for additional work down the line, both during production and after release. In the long run, however, this attention is part of what makes open textbook publishing truly openbeyond just the openness of licenses and usage.
  • Nothing about OER is a solo endeavour, and it’s not just authors who “create content.” An open textbook is many things at once—collective processes and outcomes, a learning opportunity, a set of connections within a community. Building a strong team for your project is therefore critical, and thoughtfully nurturing those people will enable them to nurture the project in return. It’s all about the ecosystem, and the stronger and more enjoyable that network is, the stronger and more successful the textbook will be!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be shining a light on different parts of the content, development process, and insights that have gone into and come out of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). We hope you’ll be a part of the project and follow its progress. Already there are plenty of discussions to be joined, templates and checklists to be used, chapter outlines to be reviewed, and updates to new content. Plus, lots of current and future reflections on why we believe so strongly in this model of publishing—including where it can lead. You’ll also soon be seeing three draft cover designs for the book, and we’ll be asking you for feedback on which ones are most appealing (and why). Stay tuned!

Like the Rebus Community as a whole, this book is an outcome of the collective generosity of many dedicated and creative people who believe in rebuilding the publishing ecosystem. We are humbled to have been able to work with our project leaders and contributors over these past two years. This is book is for you—for all of us, in fact—and stands as a promise to keep making (and re-making) the tools and resources that allow us all to create open textbooks. We hope you’ll be inspired by what we have collectively made—so far!

 

New Mass Communication OER! Media, Society, Culture and You

Media, Society, Culture and You by Mark Poepsel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) is an approachable introductory text that covers major mass communication terms and concepts, including digital culture, social media, gaming, propaganda, and ‘sharing’. Take a look at the book online, download it in multiple formats, and keep reading to learn more!


We’re excited to announce the release of Media, Society, Culture and You, a new open textbook by Mark Poepsel from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Mark discusses various media, platforms, phenomena, and social implications, including their history and how they are evolving as information and communication technologies change. Mass media educators will find that this approachable text helps direct students’ attention to the current crisis in political communication and action, including the roles of social media and the network society.

Mark Poepsel HeadshotThis open textbook began as a larger, campus-wide project to explore the value, both to students and to the university, of offering open texts. Driven by the idea of reducing the financial burden on students pursuing higher education, Mark decided to dig deeper than other professors on the project. His motivations to author the book and share it openly also stemmed from his classroom experience: “After teaching an Intro to Mass Media and Society course for a couple of semesters, I wanted an additional text that focused a bit more on concepts like the network society, the digital economy, and media entrepreneurship. So, I wrote one with the help of instructional designers at my university.”

Unlike most texts in mass communications, Media, Society, Culture and You focuses largely on digital culture, the network society, and the information economy. As Mark notes, “while you can find the same topic areas covered in introductory media and society texts, you won’t find them covered in this depth or with this emphasis. I see it as a supplemental text for most teachers, and as a core text for me, since I expand on it in lectures by bringing in other academic readings.”

The book’s purpose is to dive deeper into ideas about how society and culture are rapidly changing in correlation with evolving information and communication technologies. Once students have a grasp of what the network society is and what the information economy is, hopefully they can plan mass media careers that can withstand change.

Book cover: Media, Society, Culture and You: An Introductory Mass Communications Text, Mark A. Poepsel, Ph.D.For Mark, it’s exciting that other professors can incorporate his text in whole or in part, and supplement it with other texts in their Mass Media and Society courses. Given that the book is free, another bonus is that students interested in other fields might find it and expand their knowledge of media. Mark imagines readers “sipping coffee across the table from me, discussing with some level of excitement what’s going on in the field, and then considering going into it.”

If you’d like to join the conversation with Mark, take a look at the book online, in multiple formats including PDF, EPUB, MOBI, or in editable formats such as XHTML, WXR, XML, and ODT. And if you’re interested in adopting or adapting the book, please let us know by filling out our adoption form!

Power, Publishing, and A Broader Vision for OER

Open licenses are a hugely powerful tool in education, opening the the door to a whole world of possibility and change. But if we expand our definition and understanding of openness beyond licenses, we potentially have an even more powerful tool to begin addressing systemic inequities in society. As Ethan Senack recently pointed out in his post, A Broader Form of Openness, “it’s unfair to expect open licensing alone to fix [problems of inequity], or for open advocates to tackle them all at once. Lack of access, inequity, exclusion: these power structures are too deeply ingrained in, and perpetuated by, our education system.” I would add, these power structures are just as deeply ingrained in the publishing industry that produces and delivers content into that education system. But they don’t have to be.

When I think of a broader form of openness in education, I think of an open, democratic, inclusive publishing ecosystem that enables students, faculty, instructors, librarians, instructional designers, postdocs, other educators, and others invested in the value of education to create and use the content they need. In other words, content that speaks to their contexts. With that as a different kind of foundation, I’ll be exploring these ideas during a panel discussion at #OpenEd18 in Niagara Falls, NY in a couple of weeks. I’ll be speaking about avoiding replicating the issues of the traditional publishing industry, and the importance of moving from considering publishing as an industry to considering publishing as an act. This is closely tied to the idea of who decides what is worth publishing—or more accurately, who should decide. Those choices are far from neutral, however, which has wide ranging consequences for students and instructors as the end users. I look forward to starting the discussion in our conference session and hope you’ll take the time to join us if you’re attending.

Session details:

A Broader Vision for OER
Speakers: Ethan Senack, Jess Mitchell, Rajiv Jhangiani, Dave Ernst, Zoe Wake Hyde
October 12, 2018, 2:45 – 3:45 PM