Introducing Rebus Projects: A Custom Project Management Tool for Open Textbook Creators

We are very excited to unveil Rebus Projects, new web-based software that we think will be a better way to manage open textbook/OER publishing projects, and gather and organize contributors and collaborators. The platform is currently in beta (meaning it’s still in development! And there will be bugs!), and your feedback will be critical to future development, to make sure it meets the needs of all open textbook creators.

We encourage you to take a look, and see if there is an OER project you can help with. Or, let us know if you have a project in mind, and submit an application to join the beta.

 

We’ve been working over the past 18 months with a collection of almost two dozen open textbooks projects, with partner institutions and faculty from around the world. This has helped us develop a flexible yet clear open textbook publishing process, that builds in best practices, including attention to accessibility, and fosters collaboration on open textbook projects. We are building everything we have learned (and continue to learn) into Rebus Projects, to help guide open textbook projects through the publishing workflow, and to make it easy to find, recruit, and organize collaborators.

A quick FAQ about Rebus Projects:

Q: How do I access Rebus Projects?
A: It’s pretty simple! Just visit https://projects.rebus.community/ and Sign Up. If you’re already a member of the Rebus Forum, you can log in using the same account.

Q: How can I help on someone else’s OER/open textbook project?
A: Great question! Visit the site and find a project that needs help you’d like to offer (Peer review? Proofreading? Chapter authoring? And more …) Click on the activity you’d like to help out on and volunteer.

Q: How can I get my project listed on Rebus Projects?
A: For the moment we have only have capacity to support a limited number of new projects, but as that changes we will be inviting more to join us. You can request access to the beta for your project here.

Q: How can I give feedback on the platform?
A: Your input is critical to shaping the future direction of the platform, so we absolutely want to hear from you. You can leave comments and feedback in the Rebus Forum or email us at contact@rebus.community. You’ll find some prompt questions in the forum to help guide you.

Q: What if I don’t want collaborators on my open textbook project?
A: We make it easy to collaborate only on the parts of your projects you want help with. It’s up to you. Some projects only want collaboration on specific aspects, such as: peer review, editing, proofreading, beta testing, ancillary materials, marketing and more. Some projects want collaboration for authoring chapters, or even conceiving the project itself. The people behind the projects decide.

Q: Who owns the copyright on open textbooks in Rebus Projects?
A: The authors own the copyright. However, all open textbooks in Rebus Projects must be licensed under a Creative Commons license. We encourage creators to adopt a CC-BY license, but recognise that it is not suitable for some projects. In particular, for projects involving traditional knowledge or other similar content, we will work with project teams to amend our licensing policy as needed.

Q: What do I get if my project gets listed on Rebus Projects?
A: You get access to a brand new software platform, that is being developed specifically to help support the open textbook publishing process. You also get:

  • A public web listing of your project, where basic information of your project, team, activities, discussion threads, and documents can be shared. This listing can be used to promote the project, generate interest from potential adopters, and recruit collaborators.
  • Support & guidance on the publishing process from the Rebus team and the wider Community via the Rebus Forum
  • Guides and templates related to the OER publishing process
  • Amplification of recruitment calls and project updates in the Rebus Community’s media channels (newsletter, blog, social media, etc.)
  • An onboarding call with the Rebus Community, with training on how to use the platform
  • Four one-hour drop-in webinars, where you can pose questions and talk through challenges in the process
  • Access to the Rebus Press (powered by Pressbooks), if needed
  • An opportunity to contribute directly to the development of tools and resources that benefit the wider OER community

Q: Will it cost anything to put my project on Rebus Projects?
A: Accepted individual projects will always be free. We are actively working on a sustainable funding model, with educational institutions and state and provincial education systems. Stay tuned.

Q: Who is behind Rebus Projects?
A: Rebus Projects is a part of the Rebus Community, a project run the Rebus Foundation. The foundation is a Canadian non-profit dedicated to building infrastructure and communities to promote open education, and books on the open web. The Rebus Foundation is generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Q: How can I get more information?
A: If you still have questions, head to the Rebus Forum and ask away! Or, you can always email us directly at contact@rebus.community.

Rebus Community Projects: Beta Invitation

If you’re interested in using the Rebus Community collaboration software for your Open Textbook or OER project, now’s your chance! Fill out our application form to register your project.


On May 16, we will launch the Rebus Community Projects platform – a custom-built project management tool for collaboration on Open Educational Resources (OER) publishing projects around the world. We will launch with 10 (selected) beta OER/open textbook publishing projects, and the platform will be open to all volunteers. Would you like your OER project to be a part of our beta? If so, tell us about it!

About the platform

While most project management software is designed for broad use, Rebus Community Projects is specifically customized for open textbook/OER projects and the communities that form around them. With the first release of the platform happening in mid-May, we are now looking for projects to trial the tool as part of their open textbook/OER publishing efforts.

About the beta

Accepted Beta projects will get full access to the tools, as well as some support from the Rebus team over the course of their project. All Beta users will have the chance to (directly and indirectly) inform our product development process, and help shape the future of the Rebus Community and our approach to publishing open textbooks.

Is your project a beta candidate?

Candidate OER projects for the beta should meet the following criteria:

  • The project aims to create an open textbook/OER which can be used in courses at a higher education institution.
  • The resulting textbook and associated materials will be published under a CC-BY license. (Note: for projects involving traditional knowledge or other similar content, we will work with project teams to amend our licensing policy as needed).
  • The text will be published online and made available in editable formats.
  • The project has a responsible and dedicated project manager, lead author or leadership team.
  • At least one member of the project team can communicate with the Rebus team in English. (Note: the textbook itself can be in any language.)
  • The project team understands that Rebus Projects is in a beta phase, and is willing to actively engage with the process to support its development.

In addition, we have particular interest in working with projects that:

  1. Are based outside North America (with the caveat that our platform and working language is currently English),
  2. Include and highlight traditionally marginalised voices and communities,
  3. Are at the peer review stage, OR
  4. Fit into any combination of the above.

Why are we prioritizing these areas?

The Rebus mission has always been to support collaborative open textbook publishing for all subjects, in all languages, everywhere in the world. This mission is a kind of shorthand for what we think is possible with OER, and drives everything we do — big and small.

In this case, it’s driving us to recruit projects that fit the categories above. Here’s why:

  1. We want to work with projects outside North America in order to further develop our model to suit many different regional contexts. We acknowledge that language will be a barrier for many, and are taking steps towards supporting more languages in future, but for now, we appreciate the extra effort made by project teams and contributors who work with us in English when it is not their preferred language. Beyond language, we also want to make sure that the decisions we make about features, user experience, process, etc. are not made with only one type of user in mind. We aren’t fulfilling our mission unless we’re involving people from all regions of the globe.
  2. We are seeking projects that include and promote marginalised voices and communities because we believe that open education has the power to make education more equitable and to promote content that is not well served by traditional publishing models. Supporting traditionally marginalised people, ideas, and approaches to education is critical to that vision.
  3. We want to hear from projects in peer review in order to further develop our approach to managing this phase of the publishing process. We are working towards a clear, replicable peer review process that can be used by anyone, and community input is invaluable to be sure it is a constructive process for both creators and reviewers. Peer review plays an important role in ensuring content quality, but can also play a less desirable part in gatekeeping, so needs to be carefully managed.

Why join our beta?

Joining the Rebus Community Projects beta will, we hope, deliver a host of benefits to project, including:

  • A public web listing of your project, where basic information of your project, team, activities, discussion threads, and documents can be shared. This listing can be used to promote the project, generate interest from potential adopters, and recruit collaborators.
  • Support & guidance on the publishing process from the Rebus team and the wider Community via the Rebus Community Forum
  • Guides and templates related to the OER publishing process
  • Amplification of recruitment calls and project updates in the Rebus Community’s media channels (newsletter, blog, social media, etc.)
  • An onboarding call with the Rebus Community, with training on how to use the platform*
  • Four one-hour drop-in webinars, where you can pose questions and talk through challenges in the process*
  • Access to the Rebus Press (powered by Pressbooks), if needed
  • An opportunity to contribute directly to the development of tools and resources that benefit the wider OER community

*All calls will be recorded and made available for project teams whose work day does not align with that of the Rebus team (based in Montreal, QC). Efforts will be made to run individual and asynchronous sessions wherever possible.

How do I apply to be a beta project?

If you would like to submit your project for consideration to become one of our first Rebus Community Projects platform beta projects, please fill in our application form.

Have questions about the platform, or the Rebus Community? Please contact us.

Office Hours: Launch: Rebus Community Projects (May 16, 12 p.m. PST / 3 p.m. EST)

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

Office Hours Launch: Rebus Community Projects

Time / Date: Wednesday, May 16, 12 p.m. PST / 3 p.m. EST

Guest Speaker: Zoe Wake Hyde

Rebus Community is building a new, collaborative model for open textbook publishing. To support this model, we are building a platform to enable global open textbook creators to collaborate on open textbook projects.

In this special session of Office Hours, Rebus Community project manager Zoe Wake Hyde will demonstrate the platform, which will launch in beta soon. Interested in joining the beta? Get on the list.  

RSVP 

Click https://zoom.us/j/752315866 to join the session day of.

A Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students Wins 2018 Open Education Consortium Award for Excellence

Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students coverWe just found out that the Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students that Rebus Community released last summer has won the 2018 Open Education Awards for Excellence in the Open Textbook category.

This resource could not have come together without contributors Robin DeRosa, Rajiv Jhangiani, Timothy Robbins, David Squires, Julie Ward, Anna Andrzejewski, Samara Burns, Matthew Moore, Alice Barrett, Amanda Coolidge, Maxwell Nicholson, Steel Wagstaff, Gabriel Higginbotham, Zoe Wake Hyde, and Apurva Ashok.

Also, we’d like to thank whoever nominated this resource for this incredible honor from Open Education Consortium. (We honestly don’t know, but we’re very grateful that you thought enough of this resource to nominate it.)

You can view the full list of winners on the OEC website.

New Research from the Rebus Foundation: An Open Approach to Scholarly Reading and Knowledge Management

Rebus Community Mellon Report on Scholarly Reading CoverMany of you shared your insights on scholarly publishing and deep reading with us in an online survey on digital reading back in October, as part of a larger Rebus Foundation research project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The public report is now available. It details explores scholarly reading through publisher, librarian, and reader perspectives and details other findings from the research.

We hope you’ll help us spread the word, and we welcome your feedback on the report

Copy Editor Needed for the Antología abierta de literatura hispana

Last semester, a number of instructors ran an assignment to expand the Antología abierta de literatura hispana (Open Anthology of Hispanic Literature, AALH). The AALH is a collection of public-domain texts from the Hispanic world, with critical introductions and annotations in Spanish by undergraduate students in Julie Ward’s Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course at the University of Oklahoma. It is intended as a freely accessible digital resource for students of Hispanic literature, and proposes an inclusive, broad, and evolving definition of the canon.

Now, the first set of content is in, and we’re working toward integrating these student submissions into the anthology. We’re looking for a copy editor proficient in Spanish for the submissions at hand, and those to come in the next few months (on a rolling basis). If you’re interested in participating as a copy editor, let us know in the Rebus Community forum!

February Office Hours Recap & Video: Barriers to Open Textbook Adoption: Common Questions and Concerns Explained

Are you a faculty, staff member, or librarian hoping to encourage the adoption of Open Textbooks? Speakers in this month’s Office Hours on Barriers to Open Textbook Adoption explained their strategies to overcome obstacles to textbook adoption. Watch the video recording, or read a summary below.


Open textbooks reduce the costs of attending college and increase access to knowledge. Still, they have their (vocal) detractors. In this session, experts dissect common arguments for and against using open textbooks, and discuss ways to overcome these objections in the higher ed landscape.

This session featured guest speakers Jasmine Roberts, Strategic Communication Lecturer at The Ohio State University and Sarah Cohen, Managing Director at Open Textbook Network.

Watch a recap of the session, or read the full summary below.

Sarah Cohen, a guest speaker who is also the managing director of Office Hours co-sponsor Open Textbook Network (OTN), kicked things off. She introduced the Open Textbook Network, “an alliance of higher ed institutions committed to access, affordability and student academic success through the use of open textbooks.” Sarah said their focus has been on faculty adoptions but is expanding to open textbook creation.

Sarah introduced Jasmine Roberts, a faculty member at the Ohio State University who is an OER research fellow and an open textbook author who created the open textbook Writing for Strategic Communication Industries.

Sarah then talked about the typical obstacles she has seen to faculty adoption of open textbooks. These included discovery and lack of awareness, which she said were less common, or at least, more solvable, now. She said she was increasingly having conversations with faculty, in which the key objections were quality and the time it takes to switch to a new textbook (especially if they’ve built their course around another).

“I think that it’s important that we are empathetic to the struggles of trying to find the time to change your course. It’s a huge lift for faculty and not something for us to take lightly in having those conversations,” Sarah said. “However, the tack that I take is that all faculty at some point are going to have to look at their textbook anew.”

Jasmine jumped in to discuss some of the objections she had heard from faculty as she evangelized about OER. “A lot of faculty members think that this is purely an altruistic thing that you are doing for your students,” she said. Jasmine said she’s heard things like, “‘That’s very, very lofty of you to do, Jasmine,’” from her colleagues, followed by, “‘We still don’t see the professional advantage of doing something like that.’” (The impact of doing an open textbook on tenure and promotion was discussed later in the session.)

She talked about three major issues:

  • the stigmatization of OER;
  • the departmental kickbacks that faculty or their departments receive when they adopt a textbook from some traditional publishers; and
  • the ancillary materials that often accompany a textbook and make teaching easier.

She said it’s helpful for faculty to have top-down support or departmental support for creating OER.

Jasmine also mentioned distorted faculty perceptions of the need for college affordability. Some faculty, she said, see buying textbooks as a student’s responsibility, ahead of the technology they take to the classroom, or perceived luxuries like their coffee.

Sarah added that it was important not to conflate the issue of the high cost of a textbook versus students not reading the text. “That cost of the book is something that we, as faculty, can do something about.”

The session proceeded into Q&A, moderated by Liz Mays, of the Rebus Community, which coordinates the event with OTN.

Liz read a question from the chat, asking for more clarification on departmental kickbacks.

Jasmine explained that some publishers give the faculty member’s department funds they can use for professional development when they adopt a textbook. “And of course, departments want that funding for research conference, conferences, for teaching conferences.” Sarah added that the “kickbacks” could be more subtle – food that gets dropped off, a box of chocolates at the holidays. “And I also know campuses where there is no such thing,” she said.

Next, Liz read a question from Michelle Reed, at University of Texas at Arlington, who mentioned a workshop she had been to that took a “tough love” approach to the costs of college. “The argument was essentially, yes, maybe students are struggling with the costs, but it’s teaching them financial literacy and budgeting skills,” Liz read from the chat: “Michelle said her opinion is that there are better ways to teach students these types of lessons.”

Other chat participants referenced the “beer” and “Starbucks” arguments: “If students save money on textbooks, they’ll spend it on beer.”

“And I think that the argument that we make at the OTN, really is around that might be true for some students, but you don’t know in the classroom which students that applies to,” Sarah responded. “And we’re talking about trying to support all students.”

Jasmine said she didn’t think it was her business to judge how the students spend their money.

“I just don’t think it’s my role as an instructor to be my students’ financial planner, and to be their parent,” Jasmine added. “But it’s my job as an educator to make sure that my students are successful and to prepare in that fashion. And so, if I’m assigning a textbook that’s $150, am I really setting my students up for success?”

Sarah clarified: “It’s so important to recognize that just as we’re saying that we don’t want faculty members essentially to blame students in those situations, how important it is that we don’t blame faculty in those situations…we’re not going to bring more faculty to open textbooks by yelling at them that that’s a ridiculous argument.”

Sarah also added that this is an argument you don’t hear as much in community colleges, because food insecurity is a more prevalent issue in that environment.

Other questions from the chat centered around peer review. Jasmine said she found it important to have her book peer reviewed and be able to state that. Liz mentioned that Rebus Community has a working group around peer review. And Sarah said that OTN library does not require books to have a formal peer review process.

The conversation then moved on to “inclusive access” and similar services traditional publishers are offering that put textbooks, sometimes including OER, and sometimes even course tests, behind a digital access code for a reduced price.

Sarah said this was a hot topic that had been written about by David Wiley and Inside Higher Ed recently. She said it was important to assess if the platforms offered faculty the flexibility they need and students what they need to succeed academically. Jasmine said this is why it’s important not to just use cost-savings arguments around OER, because the big publishers can use them too, but to bring in pedagogical arguments.

Ethan Senack said, “My concern with inclusive access programs are that there’s even less accountability for publishers. With print textbooks students could opt out, or look for alternatives. With inclusive access students take their tests through the platform, and they have no way to opt out.”

Cheryl Cuillier added, “These inclusive access programs cut out the used book market, and the rental book market.”

Other attendees mentioned the potential marketing challenges and brand confusion when bigger publishers put OER behind a proprietary platform and paywall.

“I think it’s kind of a great thing that in open education we actually are having an impact and that the publishers are taking notice,” Jasmine said. “But I have to be honest with you, it’s sad to see all these publishers getting in on what they call OER, when it’s really not OER.”

Sarah said it was important to spread the OER-enabled pedagogy messaging from faculty to other faculty.

Liz asked Jasmine how she has those conversations, particularly with tenured faculty.

Jasmine said in her experience, tenured faculty hadn’t been as eager to create open textbooks.

But Sarah said she was aware of campuses where tenured faculty were the most likely ones to be leading open textbook projects.

“So, I think [this] again brings back [the fact that] every institution is different. And the culture at your institution might be that your tenured faculty could be the ones that are going to be your coalition of the willing,” she said. “While at other campuses, it might be adjunct faculty, or newer faculty to the profession, that or the discipline, that might be your best inroads. So, that’s I think the thing that we have to ask ourselves. Who are my allies going to be on my campus?”

Cheryl added that it is helpful when promoting OER to be involved in faculty senate and advocate for textbook affordability in policies, resolutions and the like. She said another strategy is to partner with instructional designers when a course is being redesigned.

Join us for the next Office Hours session, on Tracking Open Textbooks Adaptations and Adoptions, on April 4 at 12 p.m. PST / 3 p.m. EST.

Resources:

A raw transcript of this session is available.

Reviewers Needed: Media, Culture, Society & You

Rebus is supporting peer review for the Media, Society, Culture and You open textbook, authored by Mark Poepsel of Southern Illinois University.

Currently we’re seeking a few peer reviewers for these chapters:

  • Music Recording, “Sharing,” and the Information Economy
  • Radio Broadcasting, Podcasting, and “Superbug Media”
  • Digital Gaming
  • Advertising, Public Relations and Propaganda

If you’re interested in participating, please contact liz@rebus.foundation.

Open Education Week Global Web-a-thon: A First Look at Rebus’ Project Tools!

Our own Zoe, project manager at the Rebus Community, will be speaking during the Open Education Week Global Web-a-thon on March 8/9/10 (depending on your time zone). In this session, she’ll give a sneak-peek of a new platform to support the collaborative creation of open textbook projects. The platform will launch in beta soon, so stay tuned!

You can catch Zoe’s session this Friday, March 9 at 16:00 UTC (11 a.m. EST). And check out the other sessions too – this is an all-day event! The full schedule is available online.

Global Webathon ad

 

Office Hours: Tracking Faculty Open Textbooks Adaptations and Adoptions

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

Tracking Faculty Open Textbooks Adaptations and Adoptions
Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 12 p.m. PST / 3 p.m. EST
Guest Speakers:

Tim Robbins, Assistant Professor of English, Graceland University; Karen Bjork, Head of Digital Initiatives, Portland State University; David Harris, Editor in Chief, OpenStax; and Rosie Liljenquist, Fellow in Open Access & Education Initiatives & Asst. Prof., Library Media, Southern Utah University

Publishing an open textbook is a monumental feat, but for a dynamic, living, open resource, the project doesn’t end with publication. Open textbooks can be modified for specific courses, combined with other texts, and expanded and revised. In this session, faculty and administrators will talk about out how they discover and track who is using the resource they created, and how it has been adapted.

RSVP for the session.

Click https://zoom.us/j/880980990 to join the session day of. (Note that the session will be recorded.)