We’re Hiring!

We are currently hiring for two new positions at Rebus! If you care about books, technology, the web, and open knowledge, please consider applying!

Back-End Developer (for Rebus Community)

The Back-End Developer will work on the Rebus Community, where we develop tools and resources to support the publishing of free, open, and adaptable digital textbooks. See the job posting for this position for more details, including how to apply.

UX/Front-End Developer (for Rebus Community & Rebus Reader)

The UX/Front-End Developer will work on both Rebus Community and our Reader initiative. This new effort is about creating a web-based application that supports scholarly reading, research, annotation, and collections management. The posting for this position provides complete details, including how to apply.

Intro to Philosophy Welcomes Two New Editors!

The Introduction to Philosophy series blazes along, and represents a great example of what can happen when a community comes together around open textbook creation. To join the momentum, get involved as an author or reviewer, or join the project to add your expertise as a copyeditor or proofer, to help with formatting and design, or just to stay informed!

What started as a conversation between series editor Christina Hendricks and Rebus founder Hugh McGuire first turned into an idea for a single textbook. That idea expanded into a more robust range of subject areas, and from there into a full gamut of introductory textbooks that now cover nine major areas of philosophy. By the beginning of next year, three titles will be approaching their release dates, meaning that they will be available for adoption and use for courses starting in the 2019 academic year!

Melbourne, Australia, a view from above

A very gratifying piece of news is that, having welcomed two new collaborators, we now have a dedicated editor for each of the nine textbooks. Valery Vinogradovs is our new Aesthetics editor and replaces Scott Clifton, who had to step away from the project after making many valuable contributions to the project. Valery has started looking over the chapters written to date, and will shortly craft a revised chapter outline, which we will then use to seek out additional authors.

Valery’s background includes a PhD from LaTrobe University, and his areas of specialization cover Kant’s aesthetics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of education. He has a particular interest in the work of Nietzsche, Montaigne, Aristotle, and Plato, and currently teaches in Australia at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy.

Our new editor for the Philosophy of Science textbook is Eran Asoulin. Eran’s first contact with the project was as an author, havingcontributed a chapter to Philosophy of Mind (edited by Heather Salazar). That sparked an interest in becoming more deeply involved with the project, which has now led to his appointment as one of our nine editors. Having just started in his role  this past week, Eran is coming up to speed on the status of the book, while learning more about our processes and resources.

Sydney, Australia, a view from above

Eran is an accomplished author and teacher, with scholarly work spanning linguistics, philosophy, and cognitive science. His focus is the study of language and mind. In 2012, he earned his PhD from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and he currently lives and works in Sydney.

Count on hearing from Valery and Eran as their books take shape. Congratulations to both of them, and to the entire team as a whole, for their dedication and accomplishments—both past and yet to come!

The series will continue to roll along, and there will be new calls for participation, both in the form of writing as well as the all-important phases of editing and peer review. We’ll keep you informed, but you can always join the project now and sign up to the Forum to stay current.

And, as we mentioned, look out for the release of Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, and Logic early in the coming year!


Sydney photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash
Melbourne photo by louis amal on Unsplash

November Office Hours: License to…? (Audio Transcript)

Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. 

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in either of these transcripts, please contact Apurva (apurva@rebus.foundation) as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Robin DeRosa
  • Maha Bali
  • Amanda Larson
  • Cable Green
  • Jennryn Wetzler
  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde

Zoe: Hi, everyone, it’s such a joy to see so many people joining us for this conversation. It’s one we’re really excited about. I’ll hand over to Karen in a moment to introduce our wonderful speakers. But I’ll start with one practical point, because we have quite a few people on the call, I have to say this a couple of times, but those who just joined us, if people could please leave their video off for the moment, so that we can make sure that it’s stable for the speakers.

And then, if we get really patchy, if you let us know in the chat, then we might look at turning off cameras for the speakers as well. But we’re hopeful that it’ll hold. So, I think there are forever conversations to have about licensing, there’s no end to them. This one in particular was really sparked by an exchange that happened on Twitter a while ago. But these are kinds of things that we see around the place all the time.

And so, when we approach these Office Hours sessions, what we’re trying to do is give space for some of those conversations that people are having and hoping to have. And someone’s trying to call in and have one of those conversations right now, maybe (laughs). So, we wanted to give some space to it, to pick it up in a different context, and really invite an amazing group of people who we’re really excited to have been able to get in the same place as the same time, ’cause they’re all very in demand.

And so, we’re hoping to have as I say, a conversation about licensing, about what role it plays in our ecosystem and then, see where it goes, as well out of in response to the perspectives that our guests are bringing. So, again, thank you. We’re really pleased to be here and doing this. And so, now, I’ll hand over to Karen to introduce our guests.

Karen: Great. Thank you, Zoe. My name is Karen Lauritsen, I’m with the Open Textbook Network and we are delighted to partner with Rebus on Office Hours and any other things we can come up with. So, as Zoe said, we’re really excited about this conversation today. We had a robust RSVP and so, we expect many people to join us. And we’re really happy to have four featured guests, each bringing their own perspective and role to this conversation around licenses.

So, we’re going to start hearing from Robin DeRosa, professor and director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University. Then, we’ll hear from Maha Bali, associate professor of practice, center for teaching and learning at American University in Cairo. Next, we’ll hear from Amanda Larson, open education librarian at Penn State University. And finally, we’ll hear from Cable Green, director of open education at Creative Commons.

If you’re new to Office Hours, our format is to hear briefly from our guests, from three to five minutes to give an orientation to their perspective and experience. And then, we really like to open it up to you and your questions and have a conversation as much as we can. Sometimes, when it’s really big, it’s a lot to juggle the conversations, so be patient with us. If we miss a comment in chat, and it seems like we’re moving on, please raise your hand again, just let us know.

And we’ll facilitate as much as we can. So, without further ado, I will hand things over to Robin.

Robin: Hello. Some waves. So, this is my favorite thing about working in open, is that you model your befuddlement on Twitter, and then before you know it, there’s a webinar, (laughs) in which you are starring with all of your befuddlement, so I think putting me at the front, to open this is really less about me telling you what I think than more explaining the source of my confusion about this.

And I’ve been working in open for a pretty long time, so my confusion is not actually about the terms of the licenses, per se. So, I feel pretty adept enough at figuring out what license goes with what artefact in order to let that artefact do what I want it to do in the world. The question that I started getting interested in was really about what license goes with the ecosystem that I’m most excited about teaching and learning inside of?

And is that a different license than might go on any particular one artefact that I’ve designed? So, I’m influenced in this question by things like the care framework, which maybe somebody can drop into the chat the link for that, if people haven’t seen it. But this is a framework basically for the kinds of ethos I think that we might hope to permeate open in order to produce a certain kind of ecosystem and a certain set of behaviors.

So, the care framework talks about the four pillars that surround open being about contribution, attribution, release, and then empowerment. And it’s that last one that I become most interested in, that’s where they talk about inclusivity and diversity. And how to get new and non-traditional voices into open. And I’ve been affected by folks like Tara Robertson in this work, some of the work that she did about, I think one of the things I remember was about “On Our Backs”, the lesbian porn work.

And the awesomeness of having that whole collection digitized and made public. But also, when that artefact first existed in whatever it was, probably like the 70s or something, people did not anticipate where that sharing might go. And we see this a lot with work that people are doing around indigenous communities and open. The question of whose knowledge it is to share and what the politics of sharing are might mean that open, fully open all the time, right?

My go to CC BY is maybe not always the best way to steward the ethos of inclusivity and empowerment in that care model. So, there was that, and then, the other piece that was really affecting me was the model of the commons, from people like David Bollier and Jim Luke who have talked about when the commons has been dismissed because some of the older research about the tragedy of the commons, which is really kind of about when things are open.

What happens if really aggressive and powerful people are able to exploit what’s open in order to do things that aren’t in that sharing model? And I see that happening, honestly, in open. And I worry about the co-opting of open, by really powerful, especially for-profit corporate entities. And I feel like I’m less interested in the sharing of a particular artefact than I am in if we wanted to build a system that truly worked for the public good, what is the public good?

And what kind of licensing do we need to do? So, I was actually asking a question about should I switch to NC? And by the time I finished this Twitter conversation, not only did I realize I was way more confused than when I started, but also, that I was leaning much more towards SA then NC. The main reason so far, I’ve stuck with CC BY is simply because I feel like when I get into SA territory, it gets a little harder for the remixing, which is really how I tend to participate most in open.

So, I have some concerns about the practical on the ground work that happens with SA. But in terms of the ethos of open, I think that’s where I’m leaning right now, but that was the conversation I wanted to open is what’s the ecosystem? And what’s the long vision for what we’re trying to build with open beyond any particular one artefact? And I think that’s what I got.

Karen: Thanks, Robin. Maha, I’ll turn things over to you.

Maha: Sure, thanks. And thanks for this Robin, ’cause I think when I was part of that Twitter exchange, I didn’t really get the part about the ecosystem as much as I got it now, when you said it now. I’m going to try to be very brief about mine, and hopefully we’ll have a discussion about this later. First thing, I just want to say is I think one of the most important things to think about what Catherine Cronin talks about in terms of open educational practice in general, being contextual cultural, continually negotiated.

And so, whenever I talk about a license, which is important, but not the key thing about why we’re open. We’re open and we use the license to fit our purpose. And yeah, the reason there are several licenses is that different licenses fit certain purposes. I think what happens is there happens some kind of license shaming in the open ed community sometimes. It’s like CC BY is the best thing, and why are you not doing that?

So, I think one of the first things that came to mind is we’re working with Rebus to create a textbook on sight reading for guitar. And the condition to get Pressbooks for free is that the book has to be CC BY. But the book is about sight reading for guitar, it’s got musical pieces by composers. And it’s not okay with them that someone takes those pieces of music and commercializes them.

So, what we eventually negotiated with Rebus was that those pieces would be CC BY NC. I can’t remember if we decided on no derivatives also, because maybe musicians don’t want that, ’cause it’s a different ecosystem (laughs) outside of what we’re trying to do as educators. They don’t owe us that. And their work can be commercialized, it can actually bring in a lot of profit in ways that sometimes our work isn’t.

And so, I thought that was a really good combination, is a work does not all have to have one license. Yes, it might confuse people, but that’s not the point. The point is we’re thinking about empowerment and exploitation. We want every person to feel like they’re getting what they deserve and what their rights are within that project. The other thing I think about is for example something like no derivatives, which not considered an OER.

And that’s fine not to consider it an OER, it’s like we decide what OER means. We decide what a planet is and that Pluto is or isn’t a planet. We decide, we construct these things. And I think some things would never be kept open if we didn’t allow people to say no derivatives, but you can access it. So, I think for example about my PhD thesis, I would not be comfortable with someone publishing a part of it without my permission.

It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t ever give my permission. But it means that I would need to know who that person is and for what purpose they were going to use it. And I would not be comfortable with someone taking a chapter out of it, putting it into a book, whether it’s commercial or not, without me knowing the context. I also publish a lot of stuff in different spaces.

And sometimes it gets republished, sometimes with and sometimes without my permission. But I am very sensitive about the images that they use as featured images for my articles. And even when I was an editor and a columnist for Hybrid Pedagogy, which is my favorite journal, I always asked them to check in with me about the image. They wouldn’t let me choose it, but they’d give me a choice among three or four of them.

‘Cause there are certain images like for cultural reasons I wouldn’t accept as images for my work. And so, that’s how a derivative can be taken out of—(silence). That part has been changed. One of the reasons people talk about the importance of allowing derivatives and commercial use and so on, often relates to allowing other people to translate your work. And a lot of educational work, yes, you want it to be open, you want other people to use it, you don’t want them to get back to you.

You want them to just translate it and use it and do whatever they want with it. But we forget that translation is also sometimes an act of violence. And that there is particular content that is sensitive and that could be translated incorrectly, and political problems happen because of poor translation or problematic translation. And it’s not a straightforward thing. So, sometimes you don’t want someone to translate it without your permission, without getting back to you, without you knowing that this is happening.

It’s not that you would never allow. It’s that you want someone to get back to you, yes, it’s an extra step. It decreases the openness of something but might be still in the spirit of what you’re trying to do more than that aspect of it. The last thing I want to talk about is cultural. I have a friend in Sudan, who once created her own science teaching textbook for her cousins and friends.

And when she found that it was helpful, she went to the government in Sudan, in the Ministry of Education, and told them, “I want to help you guys, I’ve got this textbook.” And do you know what she found? She found that someone else had sold it to the government. And now, she’s the person who created this, who wanted to give more of it for free, but they didn’t even want to talk to her, because they already had it. But that person who gave them that, a photocopy of it, couldn’t create more of it.

But what happened is there was a problem of attribution and copyright, you know, it’s a plagiarism and copyright violation. And all those violations. And the thing is when you’re in a culture where this kind of thing happens a lot, asking people to put stuff CC BY is like so far away from where they’re at. They’re not worried to just share something with their neighbor, lest the neighbor take it over and do something with it.

So, I think taking account of those things as well, is also really important. Like where you’re at, what kind of culture you have, what would someone do with something that’s given a very open license, when actually you’re in a culture where anything that’s put anywhere can be taken and anything can be done with it. So, those are my thoughts.

Karen: Thank you. I’m going to hand it over to Amanda now.

Amanda: Hi, so I spent a lot of time thinking about all of this. A large portion of my role as the open education librarian here is to help faculty think through what license is appropriate for whatever it is that their output is. And so, we talk not just about CC licenses but also about open software licenses, and then, the tribal licenses from local contexts. All of that is in the parameter of what I am thinking about when I’m talking to faculty about licensing materials.

And it’s really easy to be an open advocate and get on your high horse about CC BY being the best, and I started in that place. And have since moved into there’s a license for every context. And I really try to advise faculty to pick the license that they are comfortable with, for the material that they are generating. And if that takes multiple meetings and chatting about what they want to do with their work, what they want other people to do with the work.

And I’m fine with that, I’ve also advised people not to license their work openly, depending on how they answer questions about how they want it to be used. It might be better for them to have just like retain their copyright and have people come to them and talk to them about the materials that they want to share. Would I like them to make it open? Most times, yes. But that might not be what’s best for their context.

And I spend a lot of time walking them through the CC license chooser and showing them the differences between licenses and what that means. And a lot of times we do a lot of back and forth about what license might be best. And I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about vendors who are deciding to scoop up OER and put it inside proprietary systems and whether we should be advocating for an SA or an NC license.

Because if we go back to the thought about the commons, basically what they’re doing is enclosing our content within their system and adding a market value to it. And then, saying that they’ve added value, and then we have to question whether they are adding value that’s worth paying money for. And I’m in an interesting institution where OER is defined as not just open things, but also affordable things.

So, I have to also keep tabs of what’s happening in the inclusive access space and making sure that’s not going wildly awry here. And that is a very complicated ethical issue that I face daily. But so far, we have been able to say that affordable is a certain thing, and most inclusive access do not meet those criteria. But I would like for us to get back to the point where we are defining open as open content, and affordable things as educational content.

And so, that’s where I’m at, advocating within my institution now, is like can we go back and redefine how we’ve defined this? And I think that has a lot to do with also, the licensing component. I was reading the chat. And yeah, so I think that’s the best part of my work, though is working with faculty to talk about how they want to use their work and helping them figure out the best choice for them.

Every license has a purpose, and it’s important not to ignore those purposes, in the favor of one overall best license. I think it’s important to remember that these are nuanced situations. I think that’s about all from my context.

Karen: Thanks, Amanda. And to wrap up our featured guest comments, I will hand it over to Cable.

Cable: Hi, everybody, can you hear me okay? Good, okay. Well, thank you for inviting me, I really appreciate it. I think everybody knows Creative Commons is a global non-profit. And we’re in the business of helping everybody around the world share knowledge and creativity with these licenses that everybody’s been talking about. These simple, legal permissions really with the purpose of building a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.

We certainly work with the open education community but also with open access, open data, open science, we work in the glam sector with arts and culture, and even more. We work with the open source software community on their documentation. So, we have a very broad purview. Most people know Creative Commons for our broad suite of open copyright licenses, and certainly, that’s an important part of what we do.

We also have programs, so Jennryn’s on the line, she runs the CC certificate program. We’ve got a whole open education program. We’ve got a copyright reform program, where we’re trying not to create new licenses, but actually to go right at copyright and try to make it work better for educators and scientists around the world. We try and do things like expanding existing freedoms and permissions in things like fair use and fair dealing rights.

And we try to blunt expansion of copyright terms that keep things out of the public domain. So, we have a broad look on the work that we do. For this particular conversation, I think the reason I got invited in was that most of the OER that’s in the world is either in the public domain, or it’s CC licensed. We’re very proud of that, we like to say we put the open in OER. And so, Jennryn and I spend a lot of our time in the open ed space.

The standard definition that most people use for OER is important for the licensing discussion. And I’m just going to drop in the one that we use into the chat. So, Creative Commons uses basically the UNESCO definition, which comes from the Hewlett definition, so they’re all kind of the same. They basically say for something to be OER it has to have two characteristics. One is that it must be freely available, or available at no cost.

And second, that you have to be able to modify it somehow, to meet local needs. And so, that definition that I just shared is the one that we use and it’s basically the one that UNESCO and Hewlett use as well. So, what that means in terms of licensing is that we have six licenses, as everybody knows, we have two no derivatives licenses. And I want to say I completely agree with what people have said about there’s a license for different purposes and for different people.

And we are 100% supportive of that. And we regularly recommend ND licenses when the situation warrants it, or when that’s the wish of the copyright holder, or the author. That being said, the two ND licenses are broadly recognized as not being OER compliant, because you can’t revise or remix an ND license work and then share that revision out with the public, which violates half of the OER definitions that are out there.

Then, the last thing I’ll say is that even though we certainly do defend all the licenses in court, in fact, we’re defending the non-commercial license in court in the United States right now. There’s a big court case on that, and we’re in there fighting to defend for people to use NC and for NC to be interpreted in a way that we believe that we’ve written the licenses. And we strongly support any license choice that people have.

All that said, we do as an organization regularly advocate for CC BY in one particular circumstance, and that is on publicly funded resources. So, when we’re talking with a foundation, but mostly governments, when we’re talking about publicly funded resources, usually what the funders, as we’re asking them what their goals are, they’re trying to maximize the impact, the positive impact that their public investment has.

So, they’re asking themselves about stewardship of public monies questions, they’re trying to maximize downstream revision and remix opportunities for the public. And I’ll share this link in one more time, when Robin started talking, she was talking about SA and thinking about the different remix opportunities. There’s a link to the CC remix chart on our FAQ and one of the things, a big thing that governments think about is how can the work that I’m funding with public money be used by the most people for the most purposes?

And usually, where they come out in that discussion is to offer it either as a work in the public domain, which is always what we advocate for first. But where copyright needs to sit with the grantee for whatever reason, and there are several reasons, that we recommend the least restrictive license that they’re able to tolerate in their policy. And if we can get CC BY, great.

If we can’t, we usually go to BY SA or BY NC and then, we go down the line from there. But we do push governments pretty hard to put works out under the fewest restrictions possible, because fewer restrictions tends to equal greater opportunities for revision and remix, just at a very tactical level. Thank you.

Karen: Thanks, Cable. And thanks again to our four guests. So, as Cable was talking, the chat exploded with the conversation that I think really tries to get at the challenge of this conversation around as Robin called them artefacts or the stuff. And this ecosystem that we’re considering and the larger system dynamics as Jim mentioned in the chat. And how do we think about building a world that we want, when we have a very flexible environment with lots of different licenses?

And we want to have, as Maha mentioned, two-hour consultations with faculty about exactly what they’re trying to do with that particular artefact. I certainly do not have the answer, but I think it’s one of the challenges that’s in this conversation with us. So, we have half an hour left together, and so I wonder if that’s where we would like to start, or if there are other notes that were made in the chat that someone would like to pick up and run with together? So, I leave it to the group to direct us here.

Robin: I might just say one quick thing, which is my academic training is in literature, so this will not surprise you when you hear what I say. But I am also interested in the licenses working on two levels. One is this technical and legal level and the other is this symbolic and rhetorical level, which is always the level that’s the level that interests me. I could care less really, about, just personally, I care about other people’s legal situations. I don’t care about my own.

So, when I think more rhetorically and symbolically about licenses, I actually come up sometimes with different answers than I would come up with in a legal scenario, for the same context. And one problem I have sometimes working in open is just finding the symbolics to communicate the complexity of this kind of way of doing education. And so, I have found actually the Creative Commons licenses to be the most helpful way of talking with faculty in particular about my vision.

About like the flag, that kind of helps people understand what we might be trying to achieve in a broader sense. And I think that sometimes inflects the licenses that I choose, because I think about them more as rhetorical tools, rather than legal tools. And it might be worth talking with people, when you’re choosing licenses about that dimension, like what do you think the purpose of licensing is?

There’s a lot of people who work in various contexts who are actually not that concerned about the legal trail of their stuff. What they’re really concerned with is what teaching and learning looks like after they openly license something. So, anyway, thought I’d throw that out.

Karen: Thanks, I wonder Amanda, do you have some thoughts on that, based on your variety of conversations with faculty?

Amanda: So, I actually start them with the why, why do you want to license it openly? And here, it’s still been largely about affordability, about it being able to make something affordable and open, especially at the Commonwealth campuses. And so, we just started our second round of our OER grant program, and we had some buy in this time from University Park, which is the flagship campus here.

And they’re way more interested in the rhetoric behind it. They want to make it free because information wants to be free. And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know about all of that, necessarily.” But I still always try to start that conversation with the why. What’s your motivation for doing it when it’s really easy just to make copyrighted stuff and not do that? But I think a lot of them are coming from a perspective of they do want to get back to the idea that education is a public good.

And they want to make their materials available to not only help their students, but also to share them back out with their colleagues. Because that’s something that has died a little bit, here, in higher ed. And that makes me feel a little misty and get all happy inside that that’s where they’re coming from. But also, it makes me think really hard about the license that I either recommend or that we come around to. I don’t know if that helps, but that’s what I got.

Karen: It does. This is a conversation, we’re probably not solving all of the problems in this conversation. (Laughs) So, hearing different perspectives is great, and I think like you, I tend to get misty when thinking about the public good and moving public education back to what we imagine it. But then, as one of our guests mentioned, I don’t remember who, how are we defining the public good? Public good is different in different contexts.

And here we are again, almost back at the starting point, it sometimes feels. So, again, there’s a lot happening in the chat. I encourage anyone to turn on your microphone and surface something in the chat, if you would like to get it going in voice. Or we can sit here quietly and type in the chat (laughs).

Robin: I saw that good question about resource sites. I don’t have one, with my students we actually just use that Creative Commons, choose a license, radio button site. And the more I talk about it, the more I realize as someone in the chat said earlier, we really need a different— I mean, that’s a great site for technically producing your license. But I’m usually just filling in the back story verbally to them, as we’re walking through that.

And it would be cool to have an interactive site popping out, Tara Robertson moments. Things like that, so that you could read a fuller accounting. Does anybody have, even if you’re not presenting, if you have something in the chat, put a link, it would be awesome.

Karen: Thanks, Robin. I agree. There’s probably a lot of resources out there, in the community from people in this call that they can share, including conversation starters with faculty. Questions to ask when sitting down and considering all the competing priorities and selecting a license. As Apurva said, you’re also welcome to drop questions in the chat and we can read them out for you.

Do we want to talk about the CC BY expectation? Or this pressure that a few people have mentioned around licensing CC BY in open education? Feelings?

Maha: So, in general if it was just a matter of rhetorical people preferring something over the other, I wouldn’t care too much. I think the problem is funders requiring it, means something. It means that if you have a very good reason [inaudible 0:31:41] OER and the definition of OER includes NC and SA. I understand why it doesn’t include no derivatives, but if it includes NC and SA, I don’t understand, I’ve heard this so often.

I’ve never sought funding for OER in a big way. But that I think is an important conversation. And publicly funded is different than other kinds of funding. And I think it is really important to think of people who are marginal or contexts where the culture is different, where maybe CC BY is not necessary. Okay, Cable, you go.

Cable: No, whenever you’re done, I was just putting my hand up for being next. Go ahead.

Maha: I was done, if you have an answer to that. Just a very quick question to Robin, also, when she says ecosystem, I was thinking ecosystem has the little components in it, anyway. And for me I don’t understand why I need a universal license for the entire ecosystem, as long as you can have little things for the little different things in between.

Robin: I want to talk about Robin Sitten too in the chat, here because that’s pretty interesting. But I think I don’t need a license for the entire ecosystem, but I really enjoy the marking of an ecosystem. And I’m trying to figure out how do you take something like a care framework or commitment to the commons and sign up for it? Like where? And so, I’ve been using the licenses that way for myself.

And partly as a way of now at this point, I’m working with a lot of institutions who are interested in making institutional commitments to open. And that’s really hard, because you have to encapsulate that in some way. And so, a lot of times I’ve been drawing on licensing as a way of talking about one way that we can represent what it looks like to commit to these ideals.

And that may be problematic, I know some people I really trust in open, when I start going this direction they’re always like, “Stop talking about licensing, then. Just stop talking about licensing, ’cause that’s not what you’re talking about.” So, and I get that, too. But I might just go back for a second, in the chat a little ways to Robin Sitten, my buddy, hi, Robin.

She says, “I’m really interested in the ethics of revising an open resource” and talks about Maha touching on this.

She’s interested in how much modification on an open resource is acceptable before it truly changes, like a game of telephone. And I think what she’s getting at there is what are the ethics of that? And in what context are there some real ethical challenges? In some cases that might be exactly what you want to happen, in other cases that might be more challenging. I don’t know if anybody wants to? Maha, if you want to speak to that? It’s a good question.

Karen: It is a great question, Robin. I’m sorry to insert myself here. But Cable has to go, and I know he wanted to make a comment about the funder question with open licenses. So, Cable, before you have to dash, do you want to pop in again about that?

Cable: Sure, thanks. And I can stay until I’m called (laughs), so if you lose my video, then Jennryn’s here and can answer questions as well. So, apologies if I have to jump out. Yeah, well, first Maha makes a really important point, right? These are not black and white issues, these are nuanced, and these should be nuanced issues. And part of the ways that Creative Commons tries to support the nuances is by having a full license suite.

Another thing we do specifically with vendors around the nuanced, and I’m going to share a resource in the chat, is that particularly with foundations there’s always nuance. Because they are working with grantees all over the world, in a whole variety of different contexts. And so, Hewlett’s a good example, where their default license requirement is CC BY. But all Hewlett program officers have permission and the full backing of their general counsel’s office to negotiate different CC licenses, when need be.

So, I’ll give you an example, well, I probably shouldn’t list the name of the grantee. I’m working with one of the Hewlett grantees right now, that doesn’t want to use CC BY. And they have some really good reasons. And so, the Hewlett foundation brought me in, they asked the grantee to list what their reasons were. And the grantee did that, and I read them, and I said, “Hey, I think the grantee’s got a really good case here, CC BY doesn’t work well.”

And the grantee wanted a mix of BY NC, BY SA on some stuff, and some BY NC SA on other things. And they had really thought about it, and they had good rationale and so Hewlett came back to me and said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Hey, I think you should let the grantee do what they want to do.” And so, the resource that I shared is a toolkit that we work with the Hewlett foundation to actually train their staff about these nuanced conversations.

Now, this grantee that I just worked with really, I thought was very thoughtful and had good reasons, and so got the licensing that they want. It’s also true that a lot of grantees will go to foundations and say, “Hey, I’m trying to sell what I’m getting the grant for, and so I want to put NC on everything. And I don’t want to do CC BY.” And a lot of times foundations will push back on that. And we tend to stay out of those conversations, to the extent that we get involved, we simply say, “Here’s how NC works, and here’s how it doesn’t work.

(Laughs) And here’s how it might protect your business interests, and here’s where it really doesn’t, where people can give away NC content as a loss later.” And so, we try to stay very factual, as a third party describer of the licenses, but we work with foundations. Now, governments are a bit different, governments don’t like nuance. Governments prefer a lot of black and white, they’re writing a policy, they want to do it once.

It’s not going to get looked at again for five or 10 years. And they also just don’t have the capacity to negotiate with grantees. So, for example, the US Department of Education, when they give out block grants, they’re giving out usually $4 billion or $5 billion at a time. And they have a CC BY requirement on that stuff, now. They don’t want to negotiate with a thousand different grantees about what license they want. They just don’t have the staffing for it.

And they also have strategic interests, it’s very interesting in governments, one agency or department in the government will give out grants and they want that to be reused and remixed by other agencies and departments. Sometimes within country, sometimes across countries. We’ve worked regionally with sets of governments before that want to have cooperation.

So, for example, Nepal and Bangladesh right now are talking with each other at ministerial levels of education and they want to, to the extent possible, use the least restrictive possible license that both parties will agree to, to make remix and revision easier across boundaries and regionally. So, it’s all very complicated, we try to encourage flexibility everywhere where flexibility can happen, as long as it meets the strategic goals of the funder and the needs of the grantees.

Karen: Thanks Cable. If you could maybe say a little bit more about the NC clause? Both Naomi and Diane in the chat just wanted to hear a little bit more about objections to NC conversations around it. Amada, you may also have some thoughts on how you talk to faculty around NC and just that definition generally.

Cable: Sure, so NC to be totally honest frustrates people because Creative Commons in the license is very vague about NC. So, we version the licenses, I think everybody knows. We’re on version four right now, for the international licenses. And then, we have the IGO ports for the International Government Organizations that if there’s a dispute they don’t go to court, they go to arbitration in The Hague, which is why we have to have a special license for IGOs.

Nevertheless, every time licenses get versioned, it’s an international conversation of the open community that everybody gets to chime in and say what they want. When we versioned to four, I’d say a third of the global community said, “Hey, you need to get specific about NC, say what it is, say what it isn’t.” The other two thirds of the community said, “No, we actually like the vagueness, because as communities of practice, we have as communities decided what the norms are.”

So, for example, many people in the open education community came forward and said, “Look, we actually like the vagueness of NC, because we take NC licensed work, we walk them into our college bookstore, we print them at cost. No profit, but we print them at cost, and we’re able to sell them at cost. And even though that’s a commercial transaction as a community, we’ve decided that non-profit means non-commercial.”

Now, would that actually hold up in a court of law? Nobody knows, it hasn’t gone to court, yet. But the community has made that choice, and so in that case, the community said, “Look, we like the vagueness.” Now, other people feel differently about NC. A lot of people misunderstand NC, so when people ask me what license should I choose? And they get down to a few and I say, “You should know how NC works in the community, and how it doesn’t.” So, a lot of people that say, “I hate the idea of a commercial entity using my work.”

Oftentimes, what they don’t understand is that a commercial entity could take an NC work and give it away for free, as a loss later. And so, I talk with big publishers all the time, just to find out what they’re doing with OER. And I always ask them, ” Why don’t you use anybody else’s OER?” Because for the most part, they don’t. There are some platforms which have brought OER in, but the big textbook publishers haven’t done a lot of appropriating of OER. And I ask them, “Is it NC?”

And they say, “Nah, if we wanted to use NC, we would give it away and we’d sell our textbook on the side. We give the NC away as a loss later.” Is it SA? Are you afraid of the viral nature of SA? Well, not really, we do that, we give it away on the side. And we’d sell something over here. What they’re really afraid of is attribution, because they don’t want to lose eyeballs.

They don’t want to send people out and they certainly don’t want to charge for something that Robin DeRosa created when they have to give an attribution statement and a link back to Robin. And now, they’re going to have upset customers, because they’ve paid Pearson and they could have gotten free from Robin. And Robin’s is the master copy, anyway, which has more credibility.

And so, the other confusion with NC that we see often, is people say, “Oh well, I work at either a private primary or secondary school that charges tuition, or a university or college that charges tuition. And because we charge tuition, that’s commercial, you can’t get into my class without paying tuition. And therefore, I can’t use NC licensed OER.” Which is not true at all, you just can’t sell access to the OER, so that confusion space it’s a little tricky.

And then, of course, I mentioned the court case in the US right now, which is a big deal, it’s in the ninth circuit court. This is a case where there was public money, there was the open policy, the open license requirement got screwed up, if we’re honest by the public governments. The copyright went to the commercial vendors that did the work. And then, the commercial vendors decided to put a BY NC SA license on the work.

Okay, fine, it’s still OER. And then, the school districts in the United States which were using this work in mass. 85% of the school districts in the United States are using this OER, it’s an incredible success story in terms of adoption. And then, the publisher, the copyright owner of the work, sued the printers, in this case FedEx and Office Depot, both of them, they’re two different lawsuits.

Because they said that was a violation of a non-commercial license, which we said it wasn’t, and the judges so far have said it wasn’t. But my point of telling this story is that in this case, NC caused a tremendous amount of friction in the ecosystem. To the extent that just anecdotal evidence that we have is that there are probably six or seven US states which have not adopted this OER.

And were about to, but because there was a lawsuit and they don’t want to get wrapped up in any court case. And their lawyers have said, “Stay away from it.” That’s been unfortunate. And so, this is a unique case, that NC has caused some difficulties, but nevertheless it’s real.

Maha: But can I just say that I think part of the problem is that NC is a vague license? Even when I talk to you or to David Wiley or someone. NC does have a lot of meanings. And someone in the chat, I think Diane Hamilton was saying, the distinction between non-profit and non-commercial. When we were discussing our textbook with Rebus, we were like, “Can’t we clarify what we mean, when we say NC?”

Because people mean different things. And we’re not allowed within those licenses to do a sub-license. I don’t mind if you use it for educational use, even if it’s a commercial educational use. But I do mind if you sell it, but I don’t mind. If we have this number of licenses, it’s confusing for people who are not us, anyway. Maybe a lot of people in this room understand the licenses relatively okay.

But if we’re going to then allow that nuance, maybe it’s nitpicking, and yeah, licenses are not the main thing. But if people are going to understand them differently, why not allow people to clarify what they want to do with the work?

Cable: Yeah, it’s a really interesting point. And people actually do, so they kind of started well, so there’s I always tell people there’s the legal answer, and there’s the community answer (laughs). So, in this particular case, the legal answer is you can’t adjust the terms of a CC license and still have it be a CC license. So, even though our licenses are all dedicated to the public domain, so anybody could take them and write new licenses if they want to.

What you can’t do is call them a CC license if you change them, because that’s under trademark and we protect our trademark. We do that so that the licenses work everywhere, and they’re recognizable and everybody knows that they work the way that they’re supposed to. So, I lost my train of thought. Maha ask me again.

Maha: I think it’s clear, you’re saying you can’t legally put a different license, but you could I think Jennryn’s also saying the same thing, you could write out something else.

Cable: Yeah, so what people…

Maha: Call this. [inaudible 0:46:39] Writing about it. That even though I’m saying that, I actually allow you to do this? Or the opposite? Yeah, I guess are the legal ones more restrictive? Promise not to sue them.

Cable: So, let’s take attribution as an example. Attribution, the license legally says that the user of the work can provide attribution in “a reasonable way”. So, reasonable says there’s lots of ways I could do it. Now, there are a lot of authors, or copyright holders that say, “Hey, here’s exactly how I would like to receive attribution.” So, Open Stax does that, for example. Open Up Resources says, “On every page of our work, we want to see this attribution statement.”

Is that legally required by the license? Absolutely not. Has the community accepted that additional condition? Yes, they have. And people say, “Hey, you gave a gift to the commons, we want to respect your ask.” NC is another example, so Robin was talking about the symbolic nature of the licenses. When people want to signal to the community that they really don’t want people to get anywhere near their work with anything that smells commercial at all, NC is a great way to do that.

Even though legally NC may not protect in the ways that they think it will, it’s certainly a signal to send to the community. Share Like same thing, so people think Share Like is more viral than it is. So, what I mean by that is a lot of people believe that if I take your Share Like work and I revise it, or remix it, that I have to not only license my work SA, which I would. But that I have to share it back publicly, or even that I have to share it back with the original author.

None of those are requirements in the license, I don’t have to share it back publicly, if I don’t want to. And I certainly don’t have to contact the copyright holder. Is there that community expectation that people do that? Yeah, there kind of is, especially when people ask. So, I think Robin opened with a really important point, which is what’s the world and what’s the ecosystem that we’d all like to build?

And let’s start with those values and principles, and I think that there’s a whole lot of licenses which we can use that get us to those principles. And Maha, to your point, it’s not one license, it’s a mix of licenses. And just personally, I’m very comfortable with what the OER open ed ecosystem has done over the past 15 years, which is to say, “Look, these four CC licenses and public domain really work for open education.

So, let’s all be flexible and yeah, there’s going to be reasons to pick one license over the other. But these four licenses plus public domain work really well.”

Karen: All right. Great conversation. So, we have about five minutes left. Diane asked how often we hold Office Hours? And the answer is monthly, we can certainly get you on a list, so you’re notified for the following topics. I think we’re taking December off. Do I remember that right, Zoe? So, 2019 Office Hours. Anyone want to continue this NC part, or do we want to bounce back to Robin’s comments several minutes ago, exploring the ethics of remixing and revising? Or where are we at here?

Robin: I can say one thing to the second question, to go back to Robin Sitton’s thing. I still find the question that I get asked all the time, a really interesting one my students ask me it all the time, which is like, “Well, what if I make this thing, and then somebody uses it to do the opposite of what I was trying to do with it? Like they use my work, especially politically to make the opposite argument, or in some way do an intervention that I completely find abhorrent.”

I don’t have the answer to that, but I know it’s one of the things that most interests new people when they’re in the situation of choosing a license. It’s why people drift towards ND, I think. And I think for me, being in open because of my political investments, that actually becomes a pretty interesting question. So, my on the ground answer is usually that’s part of open, is that it’s not a conflict free zone, and it’s tricky and troubling.

And the commons is not always pretty in order to be functional. So, I get that, but I also am very sensitive to that question. So, I don’t know if people have things to say about it, but I just to put it out there that it’s unresolved and interesting to me.

Karen: Yeah, it’s a great question to put out there. I’ll also point out Cable’s comment in the chat that all Creative Commons licenses have two protections, which include the copyright holder can require the attribution statement be removed. There are cases of this in the Open Textbook Library for example. And second, under no circumstances can the user of the work say the copyright holder endorses this new revised version of the work.

Of course, those two things may be true, but sometimes when someone’s skimming something or they see it quickly or it’s online, they may not take the care that we would all hope would be there. Jim is saying, “Robin’s raising a great point, especially as we’re moving into new territory with video and audio stuff that can mimic original, but entirely fake and opposite comments. Like fake Obama speaking videos, based off videos of him.”

Yeah, these are complex times, so much is possible with technology, that makes this especially murky. And these same topics are popping up in the news as well. So, there are frequently asked questions to that point it looks on the Creative Commons website. I think that with three minutes left, we should probably start wrapping up, unless somebody would like to pick up this thread, or have any last comments?

Zoe: I just want to say that the conversation ongoing in the chat as well has been really fantastic, and so we’re going to try to capture some of this to draw it out, ’cause it’s been two events happening that have been really, really wonderful. So, thank you to everyone, to our guests and to those of you who’ve been chiming in in the chat, it’s been a really wonderful conversation, thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you.

Karen: Absolutely, and we definitely pay attention to the community’s questions and interaction when we hold Office Hours, so we can continue elements of this conversation. Have a second part, somewhat based on your interest and demand and what you’re dealing with in your professional lives. That’s what we’re here to do together is talk through these sticky things and find best practices, if there are any.

So, thank you all for joining us, featured guests and community members alike. It’s really great to hear your questions and your perspectives and dig into some of these issues. I’d like to thank Rebus for partnering again with the OTN on these conversations. And if you have other topics that you would really like to see explored in 2019, you’re invited to put those in the chat, or contact one of us.

Let us know what you’re dealing with, that you would love to hear how others in the community are dealing with. We can do that. So, we are at the hour, and I think it’s time to thank everyone again, and say our farewells. So, farewell.

Surprise, surprise! What we learned while writing The Rebus Guide

As anyone who has contributed to the creation of open educational resources can tell you, there are often many surprises along the way! Here we share those that came up for us in the making of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), but we also want to hear back from you. What surprises you about making OT? Whether they are grim or good, let us know on the Rebus Forum.

Having worked with so many remarkable open textbook project leaders and contributors over the past two years, we thought we knew the lay of the land. But as we wrote and reflected, we learned even more about our own processes, resources, and infrastructure. Over time, the Guide will continue to evolve, and we will keep working to make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community.

A stitch in time saves nine
It’s an old saying, but still relevant in the digital age. Over and over, we were reminded how important it is to put plenty of time into project scoping, establishing content tracking templates, and building up the initial leadership team. Even if it seems like a lot of labor at the beginning, make sure these pieces are really clearly planned up front, because they make your work much easier in the long run. While it can be challenging to plan a textbook, determine its structure, and prepare to write content before you know what that content will actually be, it is nonetheless crucial.

Small sparks can grow into burning interest
Surprisingly, we found that individuals who were initially outside the core team could eventually get very engaged in a project. For example, reviewers who were ‘only’ asked to critique a given chapter often developed an abiding interest in the book as a whole. Given encouragement, volunteers may became much more involved over time, making contributions (both big and little) beyond their original commitment. In the Guide’s section on engagement, we talk about how to make this happen, and in turn grow community connections and support for the book after release.

Keep rigorous but stay loose
Innovation is always characterized by change, and collectively driven publishing is a pretty innovative process! While it’s important to reach objectives and keep your team focused, it’s just as necessary to stay responsive to change. Adapt, revise, and improvise. It’s okay to change course, even if you’ve put a lot of time into the upfront planning. Remember: every project is different, so even though the Guide puts forward a model for creating open textbooks, you’ll always be modifying and renewing that model.

People are your key resource
Again, this might seem obvious when talking about collaborative publishing. And despite our commitment to providing great online tools, we recognize that human beings are the best ‘software’ out there. It can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task to recruit contributors, but if you spread the word widely, like-minded people frequently come out of the woodwork, keen and raring to go. You still need to remember, however, that once they’ve signed on, the interpersonal work needs to keep happening. Managing volunteers involves a lot of emotional and mental support, but there are tools and tips aplenty to help you navigate your way through.

Your audience is everywhere!
The readers of the initial textbook release are not your only audience. Those who eventually adapt the book, and take it to its next iteration, are part of the ecosystem too. Keeping adapters in mind is just as important as thinking about adopters and readers. This makes the planning and production processes a little different from conventional publishing—and somewhat more difficult—but that is also what makes open textbook publishing exciting and rewarding.

So these are a few of our happy surprises along the way. What has not been surprising in this experience is how much we learn and grow through collaboration with the OER community. None of these unexpected lessons would have come to light had we not had so many people share their voices and experiences. Thank you!


photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Media, Society, Culture and You — The Backstory on Our New Release

Media, Society, Culture and You by Mark Poepsel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) is a highly approachable text that introduces a wide range of mass communications concepts, including their complex histories and compelling contemporary realities. What’s more, the backstory of this project is just as intriguing—an example of how making open textbooks can help change the way we produce and share knowledge.

Kyoto street view by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Mark’s work on this textbook began as part of a broader OER project initiated at SIU Edwardsville, one that challenged community members to explore the value of offering open texts in classrooms. Having decided that he wanted to create a more in-depth tool for examining such themes as the network society, the digital economy, and media entrepreneurship, Mark initiated the project with the help of instructional designers at his institution. In time, both the analysis of his subject and his reasons for creating an open textbook in the first place became more profound.

“I probably did a deeper dive than other professors in the original project,” says Mark. “I stayed with this text, and continued iterating it because I think our students are burdened enough with the costs of higher education.” A preliminary version of the book was created using Apple’s iBooks platform, which Mark found fun to use, but lacking in support for the academic editing process. Eventually he transferred the project over to Rebus’s Pressbooks instance, the Rebus Press, which he found simple-to-use, open to customization, and less limiting than iBooks Author.

“It was eye-opening to work with Rebus Community. People were ready and willing to edit one or more chapters of my 45,000-word text. The book is only about 150 pages, but with the help of project managers, peer reviewers, and a copy editor, we made it a solid 10 chapters that focus on precisely what I want to share with students. In other words, Rebus Community supports a level of academic freedom not widely seen.”

To his department’s credit, the textbook featured in Mark’s tenure application, pointing to growing recognition for the academic legitimacy of open publishing. The work has also led to other positive impacts in his professional career. He has been invited to write for other open textbook platforms (ones that even pay a stipend!), and has given three conference presentations about the process of OER development.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Media, Society, Culture and You represents a start for new pedagogical outputs, new ways of writing and teaching, and new ways to keep academic work fresh. Mark has called the book a “stub,” meaning that it serves to prompt more work. He intends eventually to double the extent of the text, adding more content and historical perspectives to each section, as well as quizzes and discussion questions at the end of every chapter. In time, an online teaching manual may also be created by the community of educators who use the book.

For Mark himself, the experience has also been a kind of stub: “This effort in some ways guides my future plans. I want to stay on the edge of pedagogy and research into participatory and entrepreneurial journalism. Establishing this text as a pedagogical option for a community of scholars will go a long way toward my efforts to contribute to a community of practice. Working on this has created to a positive feedback loop between my research and my pedagogical work.”

Now that the textbook has been released, it is open for use, including adoption and adaptation. Already, it is engaging both faculty and students at SIU Edwardsville. Readers there have found it accessible and easy to follow, as well as provocative in just the right way. Mark says that he hopes the book “serves as a shot in the arm for facing the realities of digital disruption” and that it will prompt users of social media and those within the network society to reflect on and recognize their own roles in how political communication and action unrolls. In that way, perhaps, the publication of the book embodies its own theme as a whole!

A special thanks goes to copyeditor Leanne Page, who dedicated a great deal of time to the project, as well as her keen eye for details and an invaluable progress-tracking spreadsheet (making sure the book would be ready before Mark’s tenure dossier was due!)


Take a look at the book online, download it in multiple formats, and let us know how it works for you, your students, and your colleagues!


photo by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

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. Keep telling us in the forum how we can make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community—that’s what we are here for!

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 or joining 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

September Office Hours: Defining Textbook Structure and Elements (Audio and Chat Transcripts)

Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. The chat transcript is also available, for those interested in reading the conversation that took place amongst participants and seeing resources shared.

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in either of these transcripts, please contact Apurva (apurva@rebus.foundation) as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Dave Ernst
  • Jonathan Poritz
  • Jim Luke
  • Terry Williams
  • Richard Saunders

Karen: Welcome to the Rebus Community and Open Textbook Network Office Hours. We are delighted to collaborate on these monthly conversations together, to bring all of you together as a community of open textbook collaborators and practitioners. As many of you know, in these sessions we talk informally about issues in open textbook publishing. As a reminder, these conversations are community driven, and are one way that we can think and work together on support and solutions.

So, please let us know if there are topics that you would like to explore in future sessions. I would now like to introduce my colleague, Zoe, at Rebus.

Zoe: Thanks, Karen. Hi, everyone. Wonderful to see everybody here today, and in good numbers, too showing up for this one, which is great to see. For those of you who may not have encountered the Rebus community before, we are developing tools and resources to support collaborative and community driven open textbook publishing. So, we’ve been working very hands on with about 35 projects all around the world, and in all sorts of subjects to really draw out learning.

What we can learn from the process and to turn that into a replicable publishing process that others can then use and can then adapt to their contexts. And as Karen says, these Office Hours are a wonderful place for us to explore some of the issues that come up, within the community, and really engage with them in what we find to be really fascinating and interesting ways.

And so, for today’s session we’re very pleased to be handing over to OTN to be talking about some of the work that they’ve been working very hard on, we know for many months. So, this is a great moment to be able to hear about that for all of us here. So, I’ll hand back to Karen and Dave. Thank you.

Karen: Thank you, Zoe. I appreciate that. So, my name is Karen Lauritsen, I’m managing director of the Open Textbook Network. The network is a community of almost 800 institutions working together to move higher education towards open. And today’s format for Office Hours is going to be a little bit different than our usual, because as Zoe alluded to, we’re very excited to announce a new open textbook publishing curriculum.

And are dedicating this session to a module within that curriculum, and the module is called “Defining Textbook Structure and Elements”. So, I’m just going to talk briefly about the curriculum, what we’re going to talk about today, introduce Dave, and he’ll finally take it away. So, just a little bit more about the Open Textbook Publishing curriculum. It is open to everyone, online as an asynchronous experience. And in addition, OTN members will have access to synchronous support around the curriculum, much like today’s talk.

And this curriculum was developed as part of our publishing cooperative pilot. The coop includes teams from nine institutions, working together to grow open textbook publishing expertise in higher ed, and of course, produce open textbooks. And so, some of the content that you’ll find is specific to the methodology we’re experimenting with in the coop. But however, the vast majority of the content applies to publishing open textbooks through a variety of methodologies and programs.

So, it’s not exclusive of any one particular method. I’d also like to say it’s of course, iterative and we’ll continue to build on it as we move forward in open textbook publishing as a community. So, your feedback is always welcome. So, I am now going to introduce our topic and speaker. Many of you may wonder what makes a textbook a textbook? They are of course fundamentally different from monographs and other publications and it’s really their structure that defines them.

But how you define a consistent structure for the entirety of a textbook is a question, and it’s critical to students’ reading expectations and their learning. So, how can project managers and authors work together to structure their textbook? And I keep saying the word structure, ’cause it’s something we talk about a lot in the publishing coop. So, today, we’re going to learn about common instructional design elements found in textbooks and a methodology for working with authors to create a consistent structured textbook.

So, our guest, as many of you already know, is Dave Ernst, he’s the chief information officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. He’s supervised instructional designers, curriculum designers, educational technologists there for more than 15 years, is a PhD in curriculum and instruction and learning technologies from UMN and has worked in ed tech and curriculum design for 26 years.

Dave is also the director of the center for open education and the executive director of the OTN. So, what we’re going to do today, Dave’s going to present the module, and then, we’ll open it up for questions and discussion. So, I’m going to put a link to the module in chat, this is what Dave is going to be talking us through shortly. So, Dave, I hand it over to you.

Dave: Okay, hi everybody. I am David Ernst, it’s exciting to see so many familiar names on the list of people here. I want to start just by saying how much I really appreciate these Office Hours and the partnership we have with Rebus on this. And this is what the open education community needs to be doing more of, talking with each other, sharing with each other their expertise. As Karen mentioned, what I am going to talk about today, is iterative, it’s in progress, it’s something we’ve learned, and we just want to share. It is in no way perfect.

It’s no way a solution for everybody who’s ever going to be publishing a textbook. It’s what we’ve learned works well and is a tool that we use and a process we use working with faculty and helping them create something, a textbook that they can envision that’s good. So, anyway, I want to start off with that, and thank you all for coming here. What I’m going to talk about today, is basically the Open Textbook Network really started out focused on adoptions of open textbooks.

And open textbooks that already exist, right? So, they’re out there, they’re kind of the low hanging fruit. But as we’ve traveled around, ran workshops for faculty, talked with staff, librarians and so on at institutions, it became clear there was a real appetite for publishing as well. And so, we have spent the last probably two and half years trying to get a better understanding of what it takes to publish a textbook, and we are definitely still learning.

And a large degree of thanks goes to all of the institutions who we’re working with, and the cooperative, and the other institutions we’ve talked with, that have helped us understand this. So, what I’m going to talk about today comes from some of that digging deep into the actual in the dirt on the ground, I guess might be a cleaner way of saying that. On the ground discussions we’ve had with faculty about what they need and about publishing textbooks.

So, it’s a very step by step process that I’m going to walk through here. If you’ve opened up the module, what I’m going to do is walk through it and try to explain it, and how it works, and why it works. I’m also going to share my screen here, so hopefully this is working okay? Okay, good. And so, again, I’ll put a plug in for this open curriculum that many people have worked hard on, Karen in particular, that’s out here, and this is just one little piece of it.

So, please we are putting it out there for the open community, please use it. So, this particular process came from working with about 15 different instructors a couple of years ago, over the last two years, I guess. And trying to help them design textbooks. One thing that we discovered early on, which is probably obvious to most of you, but oftentimes, if you ask a faculty to write, they will write. They will write what they know, and they will put it all down perfect. That’s what we ask them to do.

If we want it to be a textbook, that’s a different thing, that’s an additional thing, right? So, just want to point out as Karen first asked that question, you’ve probably asked the question “What makes a textbook a textbook?” I’d like to know the answer to that question, I don’t have a really great answer to it. But, I guess I would say that basically it is this content but wrapped in it is actually instructional design. Okay? Like my PhD program was in curriculum and instruction.

They name it that way, because curriculum and instruction are two different things. Curriculum you can think of content, as what you want students to know. And instruction is the process of teaching it. A textbook is primarily, we think of it primarily as curriculum, as content, right? But what makes a textbook a textbook, I think, is the attempt to design the textbook in a way that help students learn. Right? And so, this first diagram up on the top here, really, it’s just a simple illustration of that. You can see a monograph on the left, which is just the content dumped on the page.

And the book has some structure to it, it probably has chapters, and it might have sections to it, but then it’s just content. It’s just the written word. If you look on the right, that’s the OpenStax biology book. That’s one page, that’s the first page of chapter one. What things there are helping students learn? Look at that, see how many things that you can pick out that are helpful for learning.

A big part of learning is context and structure, is understanding how this piece of something that I am going to learn fits into the larger context of this field, or what I’m going to be taught. So, if you look at this, they use everything from font size, font color, the styling, the styling within the, you see the chapter outline there is in a box? It’s in a green box, and then, it basically gives you the outline of what’s to come in the chapter.

There is an introduction, which is just basically setting you up, here’s what you’re going to be learning. There are learning objectives, there is an image here. The content, frankly, pretty much everything on this page is structured to help students learn. The content itself, about the study of life isn’t even on this page, really. These are just summaries, structures, and so on. Okay? So, what we found is that faculty generally need help getting from a monograph to a textbook.

Getting from simply content, to content and structure that helps students learn. And what we found is what is I’m going to go over here today, not only provides structure to get to a textbook that helps students learn, but the structure also at the same time, will help faculty write. It will help kind of, you know your work is cut out for you phrase? It basically helps kind of cut out their work for them, giving them a structure to kind of work within. So, here we go.

So, let’s start with the simple highest-level structure of a textbook, and that’s the first question that we’ll sit down and ask. What do you want this textbook to look like? What do you image it’s going to have? And so, if we start at the book obviously being the highest level, the whole book. The book is going to be broken up into what pieces, and so you can see three different options here, right?

You can say a book has chapters, and chapter have sections, then we’re done. Or a book might have units, and a unit might have chapters, and a chapter might have sections, and a section might have sub-sections. Or any variation of those things, it’s a pretty easy decision, pretty simple decision, but it’s something that we’ll just start with, so that we have this very highest-level book structure that we ask instructors to identify. Okay. Once that’s identified, that then really defines the whole high-level book, right?

You have the book, the book has chapters, each chapter has sections. Right? This would be an example of this first one: book, chapter, section. And this really illustrates just chapter one, but you would have that same tree structure then for each chapter, right? That’s pretty obvious, okay. So, you need to start with that, ’cause that’s the high level. Structural elements, then, these elements are really the interesting part.

And these are the pieces that help students learn, these are the pieces that oftentimes, perhaps without our assistance and prompting, instructors might not think about, okay? So, these structural elements is what we’re calling them, are the pieces that for instance we see in the OpenStax book here that we will add to provide help and learning. And I’ve broken them up into three categories. What we call openers, we call closers, and then, down here a little bit, integrated pedagogical devices.

I think I should find a simpler name than that. But openers are basically things that you find at the beginning of a chunk of the textbook. So, it could be a textbook has openers. Could be a chapter has openers, could be a section has openers. Okay? So, if we look up at this example, every chapter in this biology book from OpenStax has a chapter outline, it has a banner image, it has an introduction and it has these learning objectives that by the end of this unit you will be able to… Right?

It’s consistent across the whole book, that is what students expect. They expect a structure that’s consistent, that’ll help them learn. So, it could be a banner image, learning objectives, introduction, so on. And there is a link here that’ll bring you, if you click on this to a list of some common things that publishers will use for openers. Closers similarly, are things that come at the end of a chunk. So, it could be the end of the book, could be at the end of a chapter, could be at the end of a section, or whatever.

There could be review problems, summary of the chapter, links to external resources, right? I mean, if you think about textbooks you know, you’ve seen all of these things, right? And they usually are things that we think of as coming in the back of the textbook. So, if we think about the textbook, if we look at a chapter, for instance, if this is a chapter, the chapter might have openers, like learning objectives, introduction, focus questions, have the main content in some form, it might be broken up into sections.

And then, it’ll have some closers. Notice that this can happen again, at multiple levels. Let’s say the main content of this chapter is actually sections. The section itself then, could have openers, closers and main content. Right? Should I be stopping for questions? Or do we want to wait? The plan was to wait, but I see them rolling in.

Karen: There is a question, Dave, on evidence for the highly structured approach, and I think I may be able to track something down. So, we’ll put that question on hold, which Jonathan says is fine if you want to keep rolling on.

Dave: Okay, does that mean evidence as in evidence of its success?

Karen: Yes, like the structure of a textbook makes…

Dave: Yeah, okay. Got you. Let’s see. I will take a quick stab at that. And I am no expert in textbook design. What I’m going to talk about today is lessons learned from working with faculty, really. But I will say that I’ve spent, I don’t even know how many, a couple of decades probably, working on online courses. And there’s a lot of research about structure in online courses, and the way that instructional designers that I’ve been working with their whole job is to, well, not.

A big part of their job in instructional design is to provide structure for online courses. And we know there’s a ton of evidence there in online course design that that structure is helpful to students and facilitates their learning. Helps them find the content, helps them put it within context of the other content. And the way that we talk about textbooks oftentimes is I’ll say this is really like to instructional designers who are used to designing online courses, this is really pretty much exactly like designing an online course.

Except the end result is not an online course, it is a digital textbook. It’s just a different medium when we’re done. So, anyway, I’ll stop there with that. These integrated pedagogical devices are really just elements that live, that aren’t openers, and not closers, but are other pieces of content that are connected, that are within the main content of the section, chapter, or whatever it happens to be.

Oftentimes, these pedagogical devices are intended, are focused on meeting some specific needs, like for instance, the biography element. Oftentimes, you’ll see in a textbook the biography of maybe it’s a biology textbook. It’s a biography of a famous biologist, or it’s a biography of a biologist who’s working in the field right now on something really interesting. Or it’s a biologist who can maybe connect with the students in the course for some reason.

And so, typically, those biographies are really laid out there to show that these are people, they have some goals that they’re trying to accomplish by putting this element in the book. Right? A case study sometimes will say it will address the goal of saying I want to take this content, and I want to see how does that really work in the real world? A case study is exactly the element you would want to show, okay, I know we just talked about all this abstract stuff, here is a case study of its application in the real world.

So, there are a number of different elements like this, that we can integrate into the content. And again, they will typically be there to provide extra insight, or scaffold some goals that we really want the students to understand. Again, there’s a list of some common integrated pedagogical devices there. Okay, so those are that’s the basics of what we’re talking about here. We have these elements that we want to put in the textbook, to help students learn, right?

The question is how do we get authors to work with these things? And not only do we want them to work with them, but we want them to do in a consistent way. A textbook’s part of the instructional design of the textbook is its consistency chapter to chapter, section to section. Students know what to expect, they know that when they see the blue box with the blue heading that those are oh, those are learning objectives, or those are… Right? It helps lower barriers to learning by providing this context.

So, here’s what we did, and we’ve written this, I’ve written this section to be technology agnostic, there is no technology involved in this, except for magical Post It notes, invented right here in Minnesota, thank you very much. So, this is exactly what the technology that we used to work with the instructors that I worked with. We sat down with them and had them structure their book in the way I’m going to show you here with sticky notes, and it worked beautifully, actually.

So, we’re going to start out, like I said, we’re going to start out at the very highest level. We’re just going to say, “Please describe the structure, the highest-level structure of a book.” So, in this example, book chapter, section, subsection. Let’s just say that that’s what they decided they wanted to do. We would have them then, look at each level, starting at the book level, and say, “What elements do you want in this book at the book level? What elements live at the book level?”

And there are openers, there are closers, and then, there is the main content. So, for the book, in this example, the instructor wants to make sure there’s a cover page, wants to make sure there’s a table of contents. Some of these things are so basic, they hardly need mentioning. But it isn’t unhelpful to actually have the instructors think about it, just to be aware that this will exist in your book. And then, at the end they want an index, and they want a glossary. Okay, pretty simple book structure, right?

The next thing we would do then, is go down to the chapter. So, you notice that we include chapters in here. And there might be 20 chapters, but we’re just going to put one placeholder chapter in there, right? That’s where all the chapters are going to live. And then, we define what a chapter looks like. And in this example, the instructor says the chapter, I want a little intro paragraph, I want a chapter outline, I want a list of learning objectives, I want to list key terms upfront.

I want sections then, so those are all openers, those are all things that at the beginning of every chapter you’ll have intro, chapter outline, objectives and key terms. At the end of every chapter, you’ll have discussion questions and case studies. And so, we would then go to the section, and we would do the same for the section, which would of course have subsections, and every subsection then, we would also define. And they might have openers, they might have closers, and so on.

So, there you can see how the structure is building level by level. Right? Okay so, so far, we haven’t even talked about the content of the book, right? We haven’t talked about biology, we haven’t talked about whatever this book is about. We’re just saying, “What are the pieces that you want?” I want to add a caveat to this, I think we are way, I think we need a lot more work here in this area, to attach these different elements to actual learning objectives, and having elements that will address learning objectives, specifically.

Right now, the way that we worked with these faculty is we relied on them and their expertise to say, “What pieces do you think would be useful to your students?” We don’t get into depth about why and what specifically, how this is going to help them meet their learning objectives. I think we should go deeper in that area right now, we need a little more work on that. Okay, so the next step that we went through then, is basically content structure, right?

We were working now we’re going to talk about the content. In this case, let’s talk about biology, for instance, right? So, the term Scope and Sequence is usually more of a K12 kind of word. I hardly ever hear it used in higher education. But basically, the scope means what’s the breadth? What are you going to cover? What’s the scope of the book? Defining that. And then, defining the sequence in which it will be covered, what comes first?

What comes second, and so on? And those are important discussions to have, when we worked with some of these instructors in the last two years, they were working in teams. And we basically asked them, again, we had them use sticky notes. And they’ve taught these classes for a long time, they knew what concepts needed to be addressed. They together, collectively just went through and defined here’s all the things we need to cover, and then they sat down and sorted them into the sequence.

And you’re going to have disagreements between instructors on that. And I give this example here, of an OpenStax chemistry book that I believe was revised is Kathy in here? I believe it was revised by UCONN instructors, was my memory, at least. Sorry if I’m wrong there. And they decided they wanted to teach the concept of atoms first, before other elements. And so, they worked with OpenStax to actually move content around, ’cause they didn’t agree with the sequence of the chemistry book as OpenStax had published it.

So, you’re going to get disagreement there, but it’s important to agree on that upfront. Okay, and then, once you have that basically, you fit it into this structure that you have built, right? You have a book chapter, section and subsections and you should, you work with them to work that out. I just said that in 10 seconds, it will take a long time to get this kind of pushed through, especially if there’s multiple authors. But you want to end up with a structure like this, and so I just yanked this out.

This is the actual book structure, I believe, of the biology book of OpenStax. And so, here’s unit two, unit two is the cell. Chapter four is cell structure, section 4.1, two, three, and so on. And then you can see here’s unit three and so on. They have a book structure, of book, unit, chapter, section, at a high level. Once you have this structure, this content structure mapped out, and once you have this kind of element structure mapped out, you have everything you need to map out the whole book.

And this is the piece I think that this is kind of the magic of doing both of these things and then, integrating them together. So, if we look for instance, let’s look at this example. Sorry, I hope you’re not getting sea sick on me, as I move the screen around. Here are two chapters, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 of this textbook. Here is the element structure they agreed on, before they wrote the book, right? So, you have a book, chapter, section. This is what a book has in it, this is what a chapter has in it, and this is what a section is.

This is the content structure. Chapter 11 and 12. So, if you combine these two structures, you can now say “All right, the very first thing in this book is going to be the cover page, right?” Here’s the book structure, the next thing it’s going to have is a table of contents. It’s going at the end, have an index and a glossary. For each chapter, so here’s Chapter 11, there’s going to be an intro, objectives and key terms. So, you see that? Here’s Chapter 11, intro, objectives, key terms.

And then, there’s in this chapter there’s two sections, and each section is going to have the main content, and it’s going to have review questions. Here’s section two, 11.2 review questions, or main content, review questions. And then, there’s going to be discussion questions at the end of each chapter. So, that repeats itself for each chapter: intro, objectives, key terms, review questions at the end, I missed one, discussion questions at the end of the chapter.

And then, each section is structured the way a section is structured. So, when you’re done, when you combine these two structures, the content structure and the element structure you end up with basically an outline of the whole book, of everything that needs to be written. So, that’s what I said at the beginning, when I said, “Not only does this process help you end up with a better textbook that ensures that you use some of these elements and is more consistent. But it actually will help the instructor, their work is cut out for them, now.

They know exactly what they need to do.” They need to write an introduction for this Chapter 11, they need to write key objectives, they need to write key terms, they need to write the main content for section 11.1, they need to write review questions, and so on. Just go down the list, it’s like a checklist. So, when it comes down to it, this is why we found it to be successful, because writing a book can be an overwhelming task, it really can.

It’s just huge and it takes many months of time and any kind of structure that you can give, that not only helps them, but ensures that you end up with something better, than if you hadn’t, you want to use that. And that’s why we find this useful. I want to make a few just really simple notes here. A few comments. When coming up with a structure, especially the content structure like this, like this, I made a note of it in here, in the text here.

You should know that in 2012 there was actually a lawsuit. There were a number of publishers who sued Boundless and they sued Boundless not because they copied the content of the books per se. But Boundless copied, or at least that’s what they asserted, the structure of the book. The outline, like this. What Boundless was trying to do, Boundless was trying to say, “This commercial textbook over here, look, we have the same outline, but it has open content in it. So, you can use this one to replace that one.”

And they were trying to say, “Look, this is equivalent to that one.” It should be an easy swap, right? And so, it made sense for them to try to just take the structure of the book and copy it up. They were sued and so what was claimed, basically, was and there may be some on the line who know more about this than I do, but it was claimed that they claimed copyright on the structure of the book. And that there was a copyright violation, and so on.

So, they settled, it was never decided in court who was right and who was not, and can you actually copyright this kind of thing? How close is this getting to be copyrighting facts, which you can’t do? They settled, so unfortunately, we don’t know what you can or can’t do. But just be aware of that, and something that if you’re working with instructors to make them aware of, so they don’t just go to their book say, “I’m just going to copy the outline of this book.” They might think that that might be a nice, easy way to get to where they want to go.

And even if they come up with it on their own, it’s likely going to be very similar to the book they just got done using. But just to make you aware of that. Let’s see, what else? I guess, I would just then throw out a couple of caveats to this. I guess that, I know that this isn’t going to work for everybody. This, I kind of put together, because I work this way. When I write, I write an outline and I fill in the outline. My wife on the other hand, she just writes. I don’t know how she does it.

And then, when she’s done she rearranges it to a way that makes sense to her. So, she actually ends up with the outline kind of in a way. So, again, I want to just point out that I’m not saying necessarily that this is the best case for absolutely everybody. But it’s a tool that we found, a process that we found to be useful for many to give them, to remind them number one we don’t want to end up with a monograph, we want you to think about consistency and elements.

And number two, we’re going to help you structure this, to make the job easier of writing. I think I’m probably ready to answer questions.

Karen: Thanks, Dave. So, we are ready for your questions, or discussion. There’s been an exchange in the chat. Thank you, Anita, for finding some articles on the Boundless lawsuit that Dave mentioned. So, Paige has a question about whether you found an outline like this may work better for certain disciplines or areas more than others. (Silence) Dave, I can’t tell if you’re thinking hard or if you froze.

Dave: No, I’m sorry, I’m reading the chat.

Karen: Well, I’m also reading….

Dave: I’m sorry, you were asking me a question. I was reading. I thought you were asking everybody else the question. No, I have no evidence to show that it’s better for any other content there is. A textbook is pretty much a textbook. If that’s your aim, I think this structure probably works similarly for anyone. It could have very little structure. They might decide I just want book and chapter, and they want very few elements, ’cause they don’t feel like it would add pedagogically at all.

That’s quite possible, you know? So, it could be that some areas, where there isn’t a need for quite as much stuff in there, they could do that. It just would be a minimalist approach to this. So, no I don’t have anything that points to specifics about content.

Karen: And then, related Deb is asking she’s interested in more recently established disciplines, that don’t have consensus on fundamental concepts, and how that would impact this particular process.

Dave: Well, that is a really good question and a question that’s kind of outside of the scope of this. But probably the hardest part of all of this, you know how I said that about “Oh, they came up with this content structure and it sounds easy”, but yeah. I mean, I can only imagine in the field of education, getting people together, and that’s a much more well-defined field, it’s been researched and talked about and studied and focused on for centuries.

You still would, if you got five people in a room, they would all disagree on what you ought to be teaching in this education course. So, that’s a whole challenge in and of itself. The way that we worked on it with some of these teachers, there were some multiple authors on some of these books is you know, we just got them in the same room. Went through the process of having them define what concepts, whatever level they want, high level, low level concept, whatever it is.

And write them all down on sticky notes and then, sat them down together and made them duke it out. And they sat there, and they moved things around on the table, sticky notes and this and that. And they did agree and disagree on things. But eventually, at the end of the day, they knew that they wanted to get this done, and they kind of settled, I’ll put it that way.

Karen: Well, you had a hard deadline on that project, too, right?

Dave: Yeah, that’s right, it was a very short timeline. Right. But I didn’t need to push them, they actually came to some consensus pretty quickly on it.

Karen: Okay, I’m going to keep reading through the chat. Matt mentioned a question about Pressbooks and wanting to go deeper into potentially other levels and subsections. And then, Naomi chimed in that Pressbooks just came out with a two-level table of contents option. Just wanted to invite Apurva or anyone else, if they want to add anything on the Pressbooks’ front. People use that for open textbooks.

Zoe: Yeah, I can chime in on that a little bit. For those who don’t know, I was formerly the product manager at Pressbooks and we still share an office with them. So, we know them quite well. So, as has been noted, right now, Pressbooks has kind of a two-level structure. So, you have chapter and then there’s the ability to define subsections. And what Apurva mentioned in the chat is there’s some work happening at WordPress that’s really interesting that might enable us to expand on that.

So, I still say us, but them/us, same thing. And so, what the Gutenberg editor, which is the big, big change coming with WordPress if anyone’s aware of the work going on. What that does is it really breaks what in the Pressbooks context is a chapter into blocks. So, very defined clear blocks of content, much like what Dave’s been describing here. So, that’s new added functionality that’s really exciting when you’re looking at in this context of being able to break down a chapter into its smaller pieces.

And also, to be defining what each of those pieces are. So, that’s a big, big project from WordPress and there are big implications for it, but it’s something Pressbooks is keeping a really close eye on, because we see the applications as we can see here. I think it’s easy to make the connection between laying out a book and really dedicated pieces of content. And in being able to replicate that and leverage that in the Pressbooks context would be really interesting. So, we’re watching closely and if anyone has more questions about that, I’d be happy to answer them offline.

Karen: Thanks, Zoe. And too, if any of you prefer to unmute your mike and ask your question that way, you are certainly invited to do so. I’m just going through the chat, but feel free to interrupt that process at any time. So, Deb also had a question about integrating multimedia into the text, in instructional element. And I would think that that could certainly be a choice that the author makes or makes with the project manager. There’s no reason why that, maybe every chapter opens with a video, for example.

A video introduction to that particular topic, I think that would be great. It’s something I aspire for the curriculum that we shared in this call. So, Terry says, depending on the specific aspects of textbook structure that are subject to copyright, might OTN create a repository of openly licensed textbook structures? And this is something we talked a lot about in the coop because we think it would be pretty helpful to sit down and have a starting point, when project managers begin those conversations with authors after they’ve selected their projects to support.

And so, we are looking at doing something like that, as well. So, stay tuned. Jonathan seconded as an amazing idea. I would not want to be too prescriptive, of course, part of the process is uncovering your unique perspective on the subject and how you like to present information. And if you’re thinking particularly of your student body and their needs it really can take a lot of different directions, as all of you know.

Terry: Absolutely, just to follow up, Karen. I was thinking specifically around providing just to provide authors and project managers and all other stakeholders with options that are like really effective. And that draw on all that genre and layout and all of the design aspects, but which can be created for this and made open, so that people can play with them and remix them without feeling like boy, is Pearson going to show up at my house in the middle of the night with a cease and desist order?

Karen: Right, thank you, Terry. That makes sense.

Zoe: Yeah, we’ve encountered that before with people approaching a project, they sometimes just want to look at what else is out there. But do have this slight nervousness of not wanting to replicate something like what happened in the Boundless case. So, that just as a prompt, as a resource for like these are the kinds of things that could go into something that have been thought through, I think would be really, really interesting.

Karen: And then, Jim is wondering if there’s any history buffs out there, who know about the history of the textbook? And when higher ed moved from trees to textbooks, and he knows in Econ the first real textbook was Samuelson just post-World War Two. Jim, I’m not brushed up on my textbook history. But a link I shared a little bit earlier our partners in the coop, which is Scribe, the founder and CEO David Rech does a lot of reading on this topic.

And I will admit I did not cull his reading list, so it’s rather long, but if you want to sift through it, there could be some books and articles there that dig into the history of the book and textbooks. And could start getting at your question a little bit. And if it does, we’d love to hear back from you.

Zoe: And if I can chime in with a little bit of publishing nerdery, post-World War Two was a really kind of critical time for journal publishing and monograph publishing. And the kind of formalizing and industrializing of that process. So, I imagine, I don’t know for sure, but I imagine it was kind of caught up in that similar process of commercializing knowledge.

Terry: I wonder, too, if outside of academia traditionally, like especially in the trades, and technical fields, there might well have been, this seems like a very technically minded structure, which academia might be late to. And technical people not so much, so the plumbers may have been way out ahead of this. I certainly know the radio people were, it really is like the 20s.

Dave: Can I just add to that? Jim, good to see you. I was in Scotland well, it was right after I saw you. And I went and visited some castles up there, and in one of them there was a textbook from the 18th century. I’m trying to pull up the images of it, and it was actually shockingly similar to, it was a math textbook, and it was shockingly similar to what a textbook would look like today. It had problems in it. Yeah. I’ll send you those photos, they’re kind of fascinating, if you can real old English.

Karen: Go ahead, Richard.

Richard: I’ve got one bit of comment for Ian. I can’t find my video, so I can’t unmute myself. As somebody who dabbles with print and printing history, there’s a couple of other things that might be interesting. The post-World War Two period is also there we go. The post-World War Two period is also the time at which there’s a technological shift from letterpress to offset letterpress, or offset printing.

So, there’s a technological reason that you can add complexity to pages, much more simply. It’s not exclusive. The firm that I used to work for, back forever ago, started off as an offset publisher. The other thing that happens is the ability of developing film setters in the 1960s, which is another bit of technology. So, there’s printing shifting, but there’s also compositional shifting in the way that plates are actually produced.

That happens I could probably look it up, I think it’s 1968 or ’69. They start really taking off about then. And at that point, wow. At that point, they are able to, compositors are able to change from a text based to a graphic based production. So, you actually look at the page as a space that you can put different things on, rather than as a line that you have to follow. So, just a couple of bits and pieces. That really shifts in the late 1980s with the creation of Aldus Pagemaker and the first real desktop publishing software.

Karen: I’m sorry, I think we should all get together and talk about the history.

Richard: It’s fun.

Karen: There’s a lot of conversation in the chat, too about it. So, thank you all for sharing your vast knowledge on that.

Zoe: And very appropriately, what we’re now talking about is a new technology and how that’s impacting things as Dave said, a lot of this has come out of online courses as well. Nice parallel there.

Karen: Okay, so I’m going to look back at the chat and just see if there are a couple of other questions we can answer. So, Claudia, hello, it’s been a long time and nice to see you. Your question when individuals are composing a textbook do you also encourage them to consider development of supplementary materials, or is it too much at once? I love this question. ‘Cause there’s two answers in my mind.

Dave: In the projects I’ve worked with supplemental materials were not part of the project that I worked on. And Karen, I don’t know if you can say any more about what the cooperative is doing?

Karen: We really wrestled with this question, because we know it’s such a big part of adoption decisions. People really look for those supplementary materials. I answer many questions about supplementary materials every week, related to the Open Textbook Library. But ultimately, we did decide it was too much at once to make a requirement. But I could imagine another proposal, or another program deciding to require it and see how it goes. And maybe people out there have something to add, based on their publishing programs. I certainly welcome any of you to chime in.

Dave: Can I just add that in the Open Textbook Network we had a work group that put together an amazing document about what they felt needed to be done, with these materials, these supplemental materials because they are so important. And we’re going to be working towards that vision that they laid out. But I think to some degree, we’re a little behind on it, because there are a number of things that need to be developed simultaneously.

There is the technical side of it. There’s if you’re writing a quiz bank, there’s psychometric sides to it. You can’t just write a quiz and there are valid questions and questions that don’t really help you learn and so on. So, thank you Karen. So, anyway, there’s a lot of extra additional expertise that needs to be rolled into this, and technological expertise as well. But it’s important and the open community really needs to work on it, if we’re going to catch up.

Zoe: Yeah, I can speak very briefly about our experience at Rebus and the projects we’ve worked with have largely decided that it was out of scope, that they wanted to focus on content first. And then, the few cases where that hasn’t happened, we found it has affected the pace of work, it has proved to be distracting in a way. And so, I think as Dave said, I think it needs to be considered really carefully and in a similar structured kind of way.

And really, done with the proper support and not lumped in with what is already a really big project, that it needs the space, the time, the effort that is given to the content as well. So, a lot to work on there, because it is critically important.

Karen: Paige has a question about any specific recommendations on the lengths of sections in a book.

Dave: I don’t, I’m afraid.

Karen: Fair enough.

Dave: I don’t know if anyone else does.

Karen: Yeah. I’m reading now. I think most of this chat that I’m reading about is related to the history of textbooks. Let me know if I’m missing any questions to pose to Dave, please.

Dave: Thanks Jim, you really sidetracked is. (Laughter)

Zoe: I can chime in a little briefly on length of sections. Apurva’s just reminded me that some of our projects have looked at things like reading level and considered that they’re writing for an introductory course. And that’s really been their guiding principle, of how long they want the sections to be. And that’s been really important, in particular, I think our introduction to philosophy book there are many, many sections.

There’s a whole lot of authors, there’s a lot going on, and so they’ve had to really pare themselves down to I think the chapters were kept to 3,000 words each. So, it’s not a section… Yeah, and that authors found that difficult, but it was a good tool to keep it scoped to the particular audience that they were writing for.

Karen: Okay, I think that we’ve covered the questions that are in the chat so far, and we only have a few more minutes left. So, if something is top of mind, please unmute, or type it in. I also would like to invite, again, there are so many people on this call who have experience developing open textbooks either as authors, or as project managers, librarians. So, if you have feedback about this particular methodology or would like to share the methodology that you used, please chime in. This is the part where I pause and wait for chiming.

Jonathan: Can I ask a question? So, this was what I posted way early about whether there’s empirical, whether there’s studies about these things. I thought as a, I’ve written a couple of open textbooks, and I wrote them more like monographs, ’cause that’s more what I was used to. And my students certainly have lots of complaints about lots of things, but I don’t know that it was that particular thing.

So, when I’ve looked at the open textbook world, one of the things like I look, not to badmouth them, but I look at the OpenStax books, and they look like commercial books. And I think this is a strategy of theirs to try to slide into what we’re all familiar with. But then, oh hey, look it’s open, that’s great. And so, I’m wondering, the answer might be that I have to get more up to date, but is there real evidence that for example, student learning outcomes is one of the things.

Your learning outcomes you mentioned was one of the sections in the outline that you were talking about. Do students ever actually look at those? I’ve seen no evidence that my students ever notice any of the other stuff than the text and the problems. And one more wrinkle on this, the other thing I’ve noticed that in a lot of undergraduate classes, if you use a textbook, the students finish the class and they don’t know how to read anything but a textbook.

And you say, “Oh wait, we need to spend a semester in the senior year teaching them how to read actual scholarly material in whatever discipline they’re in.” And maybe we’re doing them a disservice by not teaching them from the very beginning to read scholarly material. I’m just putting it out there.

Dave: Sure, no, I would agree. I sympathize with those questions, and I don’t in any way would say that we ought to replace everything that students read with textbooks, but there is a place for textbooks, as well. So, it could be, Jonathan, that what you’re doing is that whatever you’re writing, you would know. You’re the instructor, you would know best whether what you write is working for your students. I would leave it you to make that judgement.

And if it’s more monograph like, or however you want to frame that, then it is. And the reason we focus on textbooks is simply because it’s a place we know we can make a difference, and we know that there’s a big problem. It doesn’t mean that we believe textbooks are necessarily the solution to all problems, or that that’s what students should read. So, I understand exactly what you’re saying. I would agree with your questions, I don’t agree with your questions, I don’t know how that works, but I understand. Thanks.

Richard: Can I toss out one more odd observation? My career in publishing, academic textbook publishing, as a matter of fact, broke across the shift from film setting to desktop publishing. It was really a kind of remarkable time to be in the business. I noticed personally as somebody with an academic background that as soon as color printing became low cost opportunity, that the complexity of textbooks exploded.

And that’s where I think that you see a lot of the first elements, because you could now click new design elements to them in ways that you could never do prior to that. Now, obviously that’s not exclusively correct. I think a really good model if you’re interested in following the way textbooks have evolved is graphic presentations. Take a look at college algebra textbooks.

Those in many respects, because they have problems that were set in the text and usually numbers and then examples and whatnot that tended to very quickly be the place where things diversified. And then, you went to two-color textbooks, so you had the black text, with usually a blue bar or something like that over elements. And then, you had three-color textbooks and then you had four- and then five-color textbooks, where you would put teacher notes on one side of the edition that went along with the text.

When you could start doing, you could do that all in hot metal. But nobody did it, because it was enormously labor intensive. When you started film setting, and when you started desktop publishing, especially in the 80s, that’s where you really see the big shift and the change. And the reproduction with images, as well, was a major change.

Jim: If I could hitchhike off of that, in a prior career, I was actually in strategic planning for paper and the paper business. And remember studying a lot of stuff in the 80s and 90s about all the change in digital printing. And one of the things that struck us particularly because I mean, there was this giant wave of how litho and offset could do all this wondrous stuff and this high quality.

And what was stunning was when desktop printing came along, to find out really, people just needed good enough color. They didn’t need litho they didn’t need all that high-quality stuff. And I wonder if there’s an analogy here on textbooks, in the sense of the big publishers have all gone with fancy grandiose stuff and I mean, it’s not just structure, but it’s also structure and color and layout and everything like that because they can now.

And what I’m wondering is if we don’t have a great advantage here with something like Pressbooks and now by having some common language about structure like David’s given us. I’m thinking we need to decentralize this and what we need are good enough textbooks that are rapidly iterated. Rather than and perhaps this also applies to the ancillary problem, like I mean, I agree quiz questions and stuff like that need to have the goal is you want to get to the validity and stuff like that.

But if we set out that the whole bank needs to be done first, and totally verified, before we iterate through it, we’ll never get there. And of course, the reality is the big publishers don’t validate their ancillaries either.

Richard: I’ve got to differ on that one, just a little bit, Jim. And I’m not saying you’re wrong, just saying it’s a little more complex. I remember, in fact, I actually have a copy, this was my last, I happened to have a copy. And I one time counted up the number of people who had been involved in that, that were name credited and there were 150 people. Now, there were only three authors.

But it was an entire village full of problem checkers and designers and verifying of various sorts. They pour money into it, because they know they can get a return on investment, the first printing of this particular book was 50,000 copies. A standard academic book is like 500 now and dropping quickly.

Karen: And clearly, we need to continue this conversation in future Office Hours. I’m sorry to cut everyone short, but we are at time. And I really appreciate all of the experience, expertise and knowledge that everyone here has brought to this conversation. It makes it really fun and exciting and we appreciate the input. As a reminder, this is related to a new open textbook publishing curriculum.

I put the link in the chat again and would love if anyone wants to contribute a module on the history of the textbook, or some of the topics we’ve been talking about today, get in touch. It would be great to talk to you. Thanks to our partners at Rebus, Zoe, Apurva and everyone, and of course, to our guest speaker today, Dave Ernst. And all of these sessions are recorded, they’ll be on YouTube shortly. And stayed tuned for a few more Office Hours in the remainder of 2018. Okay, everyone, thank you and farewell.

Chat Transcript

00:18:38 Jonathan Poritz: didn’t you want to start recording?
00:19:12 Apurva Ashok: Hi Jonathan, we are recording. You should see a small red dot saying the same at the top-left on your screen. 🙂 Thanks for double-checking!
00:19:25 Jonathan Poritz: Ah, ok, sorry.
00:19:35 Apurva Ashok: No worries 🙂
00:19:39 Karen Lauritsen: https://z.umn.edu/ot-structure
00:20:42 Apurva Ashok: If anyone has questions along the way, please feel free to drop them in the chat, and we’ll hopefully have some time towards the end of the session where you can ask these out loud if you wanted.
00:29:10 Terry Williams: Or at least Trademark “IPD” : )
00:29:44 Apurva Ashok: Haha
00:30:05 Jonathan Poritz: Is there any empirical evidence that the highly structured approach is more effective than a more monography-like, in terms of student learning? I ask because I’ve often noticed that students don’t even seem to notice “all the decoration,” instead concentrating on the plain, monograph-style parts. Maybe I should teach them to pay attention…?
00:30:41 Tina Ulrich: We were just saying the same thing!
00:31:02 Jonathan Poritz: Waiting is fine!
00:33:06 Terry Williams: Structure also helps reinforce “genre”, and textbooks are definitely a genre of publishing. Genre is powerful!
00:33:43 Apurva Ashok: Definitely!
00:34:26 Karen Lauritsen: Jonathan, there’s a reading list related to your question at the end of this module: http://z.umn.edu/co-op-partners
00:34:41 Anita Walz: There is a (relatively old) book “Designing Instructional Text” / Hartley (1985) has some helpful checklists on typography, organization of content, role of examples and illustrations, etc. It’s not evidence based but is a helpful old school guide.
00:35:36 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Karen and Anita! Really helpful
00:36:04 Anita Walz: The graphics, Dave, are much easier to follow than the Chicago Manual of Style!!
00:36:18 Paige Mann: Sticky notes! Nice. 🙂
00:41:00 Kathy @ UConn: Yes, Ed Neth Chem Prof did that at UConn.
00:41:23 Apurva Ashok: Thanks for confirming Kathy 🙂
00:41:43 Kathy @ UConn: My pleasure!
00:45:42 Apurva Ashok: Checklist is such a helpful way of putting it – it’s about getting clarity of the bigger task, but also allowing to break it down in manageable chunks, which is often a struggle.
00:46:24 Terry Williams: Well said!
00:47:10 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Terry 🙂
00:47:22 Paige Mann: Good to know about the Boundless lawsuit. Thanks for drawing our attention to this.
00:47:30 Anita Walz: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/12/19/boundless-settles-publishers
00:47:44 Jim Luke: Interesting re: Boundless. Every major proprietary ECON principles text is essentially the same outline & structure.
00:48:12 Anita Walz: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/3-major-publishers-sue-open-education-textbook-start-up/35994
00:48:21 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Anita. And Jim, that’s really interesting.
00:48:27 Anita Walz: (second link is older than the first)
00:48:30 Paige Mann: Have you found whether an outline like this works better for certain disciplines or areas (e.g., sciences, social sciences) more than others?
00:49:18 Apurva Ashok: If others had questions too, now would be a great time to drop them in here!
00:49:39 Deb Amory: yes, I am interested in more recently established disciplines that don’t really have consensus on fundamental concepts etc.
00:49:41 Matthew DeCarlo: your tree structure provides multiple levels. when publishing in pressbooks, there are only two levels (parts and chapters). Is there a way to create additional levels in pressbooks?
00:50:32 Matthew DeCarlo: do you have any information on the optimal length of sections?
00:50:32 Naomi: Pressbooks just came out with a two-level table of contents option that can allow authors to include subsections in their tables of contents!
00:50:52 Deb Amory: Q: any experience in terms of integrating multimedia OERs into the text? perhaps as a structural element?
00:51:02 Terry Williams: Depending on the specific aspects of textbook structure that are subject to copyright, might OTN (or another partner) create a repository of openly-licensed structures?
00:51:48 Apurva Ashok: @Matthew, I think WordPress is working on allowing additional levels in the book with their Gutenberg editor, and Pressbooks may be able to add this functionality in the future. And thanks @Naomi!
00:52:22 Jonathan Poritz: @Terry: that is an *amazing* idea!
00:53:06 Terry Williams: Gee thanks @Jonathan! : )
00:53:17 Jim Luke: Good explanation of structure & what really makes textbook a textbook, as opposed to treatise or monograph, etc. I’m curious is anybody knows much about the history of textbooks? When did higher ed move from treatises to textbooks? I know in ECON, the first real textbook was Samuelson just post WWII. Before that everybody taught from treatises.
00:53:40 Apurva Ashok: @Terry, great idea!
00:53:40 Matthew DeCarlo: i think the challenge for me is that the sections cannot be on separate pages, even if they are demarkated as sections on the ToC, it doesn’t impact readability
00:53:42 Claudia Holland: When individuals are composing a textbook, do you also encourage them to consider development of supplementary materials or is this too much all at once?
00:54:11 Paige Mann: Any specific recommendations on length of sections?
00:54:17 Jim Luke: Gutenberg also holds the potential for re-usable chunks (i.e. boilerplate).
00:54:24 Apurva Ashok: @Deb, we’ll come to your question next. I’m sure there are others who have used multimedia in OER, and could share their experiences
00:54:54 Phil Barker: @Jim in the UK Higher Ed, in some disciplines, the move to text books hasn’t happened.
00:55:00 Terry Williams: Structural/format library for would-be textbook authors would be something I would love to be part of
00:55:13 Apurva Ashok: @Jim, I would love to hear an answer to your question. I don’t know much about the history of textbooks myself!
00:55:48 Jonathan Poritz: @Jim: Well, in some sense I would argue that Euclid’s Elements was the first (or one of the first) textbook… but, then, I’m a mathematician and many of us think that monographs make fine textbooks.
00:56:02 Apurva Ashok: @Matthew, yes, that’s right. Hopefully Zoe’s response provided some more clarification?
00:56:04 Jim Luke: @Phil That’s interesting about UK.
00:57:20 Karen Lauritsen: http://z.umn.edu/co-op-partners
00:57:55 Claudia Holland: Jim, you might want to look for a dissertation on that topic.
00:58:31 Jonathan Poritz: Well, math “textbooks” were being written in the 18th century — e.g., Maria Gaetana Agnesi wrote one of the first “calculus textbooks” in 1748
00:59:44 Apurva Ashok: @Claudia, from what we’ve seen, it could really go either way. Rebus has supported open textbook projects where teams have thought about different phases for the project from books to instructor workbooks to ancillaries, but only started to work on one at a time. Others may have found this thinking a bit overwhelming, so focused on only one piece at a time.
01:00:14 Apurva Ashok: @Paige, I might leave your question to Dave or Karen! 😉
01:00:17 Claudia Holland: Thanks, Apurva!
01:01:07 Apurva Ashok: Thanks @Jim!
01:01:24 K. Hakanson: that’s really interesting! Thanks for sharing!
01:01:46 Terry Williams: I think the proliferation of fonts is also an important compositional aspect, in the post WWII ear
01:01:47 Apurva Ashok: @Phil, so interesting about UK higher ed. Why might that be, do you think?
01:01:49 Terry Williams: *ear
01:01:53 Terry Williams: *era…
01:02:21 Jim Luke: Thanks to all for the great comments on the history. Great fodder for some research/thinking I’m doing re: higher ed & commons.
01:02:26 Phil Barker: Was that textbook Euclid with colored images and symbols (I have a copy–reprint, not original)
01:03:09 Jonathan Poritz: @Phil: yes, it looked like Oliver Byrnes’ beautiful Euclid…
01:03:27 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s the ancillaries report: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NNt2Di4ShIyllwIsguAAfxHf02RVWWFyrFGeEFKpCwo/edit#heading=h.iecgvb7od0hq
01:03:38 Phil Barker: @Jonathon, thats the one
01:03:50 Marilyn Billings: Thank you Dave for mentioning the ancillary group and we are always open to more members of that group.
01:04:00 Claudia Holland: Thanks so much for the answers!
01:04:36 Michael Shiflet: The Affordable Learning Exchange here at Ohio State in collaboration with colleagues at Penn State is working on a tool for open test banks since the lack of them has been a major issue impacting adoption.
01:04:39 Marilyn Billings: I wonder if there are grant opportunities for the creation and management of ancillaries.
01:04:54 Phil Barker: @Apurva I’m not sure why. My background is in sciences and engineering, where textbooks are used. But a lot of feedback from colleagues in arts and humanities when I talk about open textbooks that they prefer to work from original/primary sources.
01:05:05 Apurva Ashok: Thanks for sharing the report Karen!
01:05:24 Marilyn Billings: @Michael – awesome work!
01:07:12 Apurva Ashok: @Michael – thanks for sharing. and @Phil, thanks for letting me know. Definitely something to look into, like the history of the textbook!
01:08:11 Anita Walz: Really interesting question!!
01:08:17 Apurva Ashok: @Marilyn, universities/colleges might have funds for these, but I don’t think there are all that many (or as many as we might need)
01:08:46 Jim Luke: I have never had a student ever refer to a learning outcome or offer evidence that they even read them.
01:09:35 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s a (not open) article on cognitive mapping related to textbook structure, that may be related (from list link I sent earlier): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512001704
01:09:38 Terry Williams: It’s also worth asking if there is evidence (or if evidence might be gathered) about whether this makes it easier for the textbook creators. If “textbooks” and “monographs” are equally effective learning objects, then maybe the bigger issue is how to facilitate the creation of more learning objects. If this makes that easier, it’s a win!
01:10:14 Paige Mann: Interesting point Terry.
01:10:20 Claudia Holland: Perhaps the learning outcome piece is for subsequent adopters and metrics purposes rather than the student user?
01:10:54 Apurva Ashok: @Jim, maybe it’s just not being surfaced? Thanks @karen! And @Terry, very important question to ask.
01:11:50 Apurva Ashok: For those who may be heading off since we’re close to our hour, thank you so much for attending!
01:11:53 Deb Amory: Thanks folks, very much, for the session. Gotta run but this has been very helpful.
01:11:54 Phil Barker: I would put money on the answer to whether textbooks are effective compared to monographs will depend on how they are integrated into the course, e.g. whether the course is structred around them or are they just supplemental.
01:11:59 Paige Mann: @Claudia: interesting for that’s writing textbooks for non-student use; thinking ahead for assessment, etc.
01:12:03 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Deb!
01:12:09 David Farmer: What will be the topics of future sessions?
01:12:12 Karen Lauritsen: @phil. Yes! Great point.
01:12:32 Jonathan Poritz: Thanks @Terry, @Claudia, good points, thanks for the link, @Karen!
01:12:33 Phil Barker: @karen thank you
01:12:47 Claire Nickerson: Have to go, but many thanks for the info!
01:12:50 Apurva Ashok: @David, we’re open to suggestions so they’re on things you would like discussed. Let us know if you have any topics in mind!
01:12:51 Terry Williams: so…what is the minimum amount of genre/structure that gets the job done without going overboard on cost/complexity
01:13:31 Apurva Ashok: @Phil, nice point!
01:13:32 Lauren Ray, University of Washington: Many thanks for this session, and for sharing the curriculum – very helpful!
01:14:15 Anita Walz: @Jim, I wonder if this is because novel and fancy seems to convey more credibility without really digging into the content?
01:14:17 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Lauren! And @Terry, we might have to bump that question for a different conversation, given time!
01:14:32 Terry Williams: This was an amazing session. Thanks to OTN, @Zoe, @Apurva, @Karen, and @David!
01:14:41 Paige Mann: This was great! Thank you Dave and everyone!
01:14:45 Apurva Ashok: Thank you all for such an interesting conversation!
01:14:46 Karen Lauritsen: https://z.umn.edu/ot-pub
01:14:58 Anita Walz: Really great! Thank you so much!
01:14:58 Phil Barker: Thank you all. My first time attending. It was very worthwhile.
01:15:00 Tom Judson: Will you send an email with a link to the recording?
01:15:02 Claudia Holland: Thanks to Karen, David, Zoe, Apurva, and all participants!
01:15:03 Kathy @ UConn: Thank you David and Karen! Great discussion!
01:15:16 Jonathan Poritz: Thanks, everyone!
01:15:18 rsaunders: Thank you, Dave. Well done.
01:15:20 Steve Foerster: Very interesting! Thanks all!
01:15:25 Jim Luke: Thanks ALL!
01:15:26 David Ernst: Thanks everyone!
01:15:26 Naomi: Thank you very much! This was a fascinating conversation!
01:15:26 K. Hakanson: Thanks everybody

Rebus Projects v1.2 Changelog

It’s that time again! We’re rolling out a new release of Rebus Projects, and once again, it is packed with some exciting new features and improvements. With our beta projects underway, we’ve been gathering great, live feedback from them and can’t thank them enough for their patience and willingness to give it a go. Many of these changes have been a direct result of their comments, and we’re already busy planning the next round of changes.

If you’re interested and/or using the platform at all, we welcome your questions, bug reports, feedback, and any great ideas you have for what we should add in future.

New Features

  • Standardised subjects: When you create a project, you can now select the relevant subject from a set list, or use a custom subject. The list of subjects will likely expand in future, but structuring this data helps us to develop some very useful features, such as…
  • Filter by subject: With standardised subject names, you can now filter project by subject on the homepage. As the number of projects grows, this will be very handy!
  • Standardised activity names: When you create a new activity, you can now select a name from a set list, or create your own. While similar to subject naming, the reasoning here is slightly different – this is a first step towards modelling the publishing process in the platform, so creators can see the different kinds of activities they might need to undertake on their projects. In future, these preset activity names will also be associated with activity templates & guides.
  • Create activities during project creation: In another one-two hit, adding standard activity names also allows these activities to be added right when you’re creating your project. You can select from the full list which ones you think you’ll need, and they’ll automagically appear as part of your project!
  • Reorder activities: A repeated request, project admins can now change the order in which activities appear on the project info page, allowing them to bump more active ones to the top, order them by timeline, or, hey, alphabetically if they want!
  • Reorder resources: As above, this allows project admins to reorder the resources on the project info page from the editing interface.
  • Edit resource names: Another request – resource names can now be edited to override the title pulled automatically from the link. This can help provide better context for the resource.
  • Sharing (is caring): Twitter, Facebook, and email sharing has been added to the project info page and activities – spread the word, people!
  • “Book Released” widget (first cut): Ready for the world to see the results of your hard work? This widget lets you highlight your book front and center on the project info page! Add a link and upload a cover, and it’ll all appear. Then, if you want to focus to go back onto the work (e.g. for a second edition), you can switch it off again.

Other changes

  • Small modifications to the user sign up flow
  • Added minimum character count to comments to avoid blank comments saving
  • Changed target release date format to month + year
  • Added help text where helpful
  • Fixed bug where volunteers for an activity could not be accepted
  • Fixed a handful of other minor bugs