Author: hugh

Looking Back; Looking Forward

2017 has been a big year for our team and all the incredible projects and collaborators we’re lucky enough to work with. This was Rebus’ first full year working hands-on with pilot projects, and we’ve learned a lot about what goes into publishing open textbooks. In particular, we’ve discovered that there’s a lot of work that happens day-to-day that doesn’t always get shared here in our newsletter, or in other public-facing channels. We thought we’d take this chance to share with you a recap of all our ongoing projects, so you can see what’s been happening even when we’re not asking you to join in!

  • Accessibility Working GroupEarlier in the year, we convened this group and invited a handful of experts to review one of our books in order to take stock and guide the development of a comprehensive strategy for ensuring all books support by the Rebus Community meet accessibility best practices. The draft strategy has been out for comments, and we’ll be releasing a revised version in January.
  • Antología Abierta de Literatura Hispánica – Eight instructors (including one teaching an AP Spanish class!) have been working with their students all semester to create new entries in the Anthology, following lead editor Julie Ward’s assignment structure. Once they’re submitted & formatted, we’ll announce the second edition!
  • Blueprint for Success in College & Career Series – We’re just wrapping up the review process for these three texts, created by Dave Dillon from new and existing resources, and they’ll be heading into his classroom in January. He’ll soon be incorporating both student and reviewer feedback, working toward a summer release.
  • Digital Citizenship Toolkit – Led by authors at Ryerson University, with others as far flung as Cairo and Christchurch, the last chapters of this toolkit will be completed by the end of January and we’re just kicking off the review process.
  • Financial Strategy for Public Managers – As announced a few weeks ago, this text has been released and is ready for adoptions in 2018! We’ll also be sharing some reflections on what we learned from the process in the new year. And if you haven’t done so already, you can read the book online, or download it in other formats.
  • Guide to Making Open Textbooks with StudentsThis collection of case studies, advice, resources, and ideas for working with students on creating OER has had a wonderful response and we’ll soon be getting our hands on some print copies, so keep an eye out at conferences next year! Take a look at the digital book here.
  • History of Applied Science & Technology – This wide-ranging text has been gradually gathering authors from all over the world. We’ll be looking to finalize and release Volume I by mid-next year.
  • Human Geography – With our last contributor joining recently, the authors will be kicking into writing mode in January and February, working toward classroom beta testing in Fall 2018.
  • Introduction to North American Archaeology – With a big team assembled, lead editor Katie Kirakosian is aiming to collect chapter drafts early next year and work through the editing and review phases by the Fall semester.
  • Introduction to Philosophy – Our most experimental project has been booming, with almost 20 new authors joining in the last few weeks. The first few parts should be ready for review by mid-year, with the others following soon after.
  • Literature Reviews for Education & Nursing Students – Our most recent release, this text from Linda Frederiksen and Sue F. Phelps is just out the door! Next steps will likely include making it available in print and soliciting feedback from instructors and students using the book in their classes.
  • Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship – The fourth release on this list, MI+E has been a huge community effort to bring together, and taught us a lot of good lessons that we’re already sharing with other projects. We’ll continue marketing it for adoption into the new year, and the second edition will soon be underway.
  • Media, Society, Culture, and You – A newcomer to the Rebus family, lead author Mark Poepsel is currently working on reformatting this book from iBooks to Pressbooks to make it available in more formats, and we’ll be helping to coordinate the review process.
  • Northern & Indigenous Health and Healthcare – Another recent addition, the project has gathered nearly 50 contributors who will be submitting abstracts for their sections in the next few weeks, with full chapters to follow. The team are also in the early stages of defining what a review process inclusive of expert indigenous and community perspectives should look like.
  • Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature – We’ve added dozens of new entries to this anthology this year, and lead editor Tim Robbins will be sharing the progress at the MLA conference in early January. Another call for contributions will follow soon after, and we’re targeting an official release in Summer 2018.
  • Peer Review Working GroupsKnowing that peer review is critical to the success of open textbooks, we set out to convene a handful of small groups to consider things like different kinds of review, recognition for reviewers, how to indicate the review status of a text and more. This initiative has fallen quiet in recent months, due to the demands of other projects, but we’re keen to get it back up and running next year.
  • Science of Human Nutrition – Having completed the peer review process earlier in the year, this text will be rolled out in the classroom at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in the Spring semester. In tandem, one of UH’s librarians will be monitoring student responses and performance as part of a research project.
  • Sight Reading for Guitar Performance – This unique book has been stretching our formatting muscles for the past few months, but we’re excited to now be launching the review process. Combining video, audio, images, and scores, it’s great fun making it work as a multi-format text!
  • Social Psychology Ancillary Materials – The team of collaborators on this project managed to create a nearly complete set of slides to be used alongside the 1st International Edition of Principles of Social Psychology, currently adopted by several universities around Canada and the United States. We will be looking to complete the set and create even more ancillary materials next year.

The progress we’ve made on these 17 projects and two working groups has only been possible due to the incredible dedication of their project leads and the (collectively) hundreds of volunteers who have so generously given their time and expertise to the cause. We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed, from writing a chapter right through to retweeting a call for contributors! We can’t wait to continue working with you through 2018 and beyond.

Looking ahead to next year, we’ll be continuing to support these projects, and also start sharing some of the tools and resources that we’ve been developing. We’re also hoping to grow our team, so we can dedicate more time to those resources we know will benefit many of you. We’re as committed as ever to our goal of creating a new, collaborative model for open textbook publishing that can help all those working to create open textbooks and change the face of education worldwide.

Thank you once again, and we wish you all a very relaxing holiday break.

All the best,

The Rebus Team (Zoe, Liz, Apurva, Hugh, Boris & Baldur)

History of Science and Technology Open Textbook needs you!

The Rebus Community is building a new collaborative model for open academic & textbook publishing, and we’re always looking for forward-thinking academics, students and citizens to come help us reimagine publishing.

Right now, we are looking for contributors of short sections to a new (open) History of Science and Technology textbook. Would you, or someone you know, be interested in contributing a 1,000-word section on any of the following topics?

  • Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy, Medicine & Mathematics
  • Mathematics, Astronomy, & Aristotle
  • Ancient Roman science, engineering, and technology

There are many more sections up for grabs, and also needs for proofreaders, reviewers and more. Find out about this project, lead by Danielle Mead Skjelver, from the University of Maryland University College & University of North Dakota.

We’re also supporting the publication of a dozen other open textbooks, including: Intro to Philosophy, The Science of Human Nutrition, The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, and Financial Strategy for Public Managers, working with faculty and staff from institutions including University of Hawaii, University of Washington, Graceland University, University of British Columbia, University of Arizona, University of Calgary, and many more.

Perhaps you’d like to help?

Note: The Rebus Community is a project of the non-profit Rebus Foundation, which is supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A Rebus Community Philosophy of Open Textbooks

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

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

A Rebus Community Philosophy of Open Textbooks

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

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

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

More Freedom than Just Costless (aka the 5Rs)

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

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

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

Open Textbooks as a Map of Knowledge

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

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

An Introduction to X

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

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

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

Come join us?

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


A Collaborative Approach to Making Open Textbooks … Getting Started

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

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

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

Starting Small: The Projects We are Working On

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

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

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

How the Rebus Community Can Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Really, How Much of My Time?

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

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

We’re Figuring This Out Together

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

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

It Takes a Village

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

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

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


Call for Open Textbook contributions: An Introduction to Philosophy

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

“An Introduction to Philosophy”, in development by lead author Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia), is one of a handful of Open Textbook projects being undertaken with the support of the Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation*.

We’re looking for people to volunteer time, with a variety of tasks envisaged, from chapter contributions, to proofreading and a host of other things. There will be space for everyone from tenured faculty to students to the general public to participate in the project, though chapters will be written by faculty or graduate students (preferably PhD students) in Philosophy.

Interested in helping? You can let us know by doing the following:

  1. Register at the Rebus Community, here:
  2. Read the Project page, and “Reply” with your interest here:

Or, if you have more questions you could send an email to: .