Author: zoe

Peer Review Working Group: Next Steps

Peer review is critical for the acceptance of open textbooks by the wider world. Perceptions of uncertain quality of open textbooks is often cited as a barrier to adoption. Good, transparent review processes will help solve this problem.

While many open textbooks are comprehensively reviewed, there is currently no accepted standard or process for review.

We’ve put together a Peer Review Working Group to help the Open Textbook community come together to develop a clear approach to review. (Would you like to join us? Go here!)

We’ve currently got around 20 members in this group, from as many institutions, including: the Open Textbook Network, OpenStax, SUNY, Oregon State, and Ryerson University. You can find a recap of our first meeting (including the full video) here.

During this meeting, we identified a number of challenges for reviewing Open Textbooks, and our group hopes to provide some solutions, with subgroups focusing on the following issues.

Please join us if you think you can help us figure out smart approaches to reviewing Open Textbooks.

Group 1: Open Textbook Review Board
The Rebus Community has proposed to create a review board that can been leveraged to help find reviewers for open textbooks. Members of the board will be contacted when a book becomes available for review and make efforts within and possibly beyond their institutions to find volunteers. This group will define and help to launch the board. Join Group 1 here.

Group 2: Defining Categories of Review
This group will work to define the purpose and structure of the different kinds of review that could be valuable to an open textbook. They will also help guide the development of dedicated tools and resources for each kind of review. Join Group 2 here.

Group 3: Environmental Scan of Peer Review Tools, Processes & Research
This group will conduct a scan of the existing peer review market in order to inform the development of new review processes. Join Group 3 here.

Group 4: Creating Standard Markers for OT Review
This group will discuss creating a standardised system to clearly identify the kinds of review that any given textbook has undergone. This will link to the work of group 2, who are defining different categories of review. Join Group 4 here.

Group 5: Recognition for Reviewers
This group will discuss ideas of how to recognise and reward reviewer contributions. This may eventually feed into the creation of something similar to the Mozilla Contributorship Badges project, recognising all kinds of participation in open textbook projects, including peer review. Join Group 5 here.

Signup for the groups will stay open, but we encourage you to join by May 20 so we can start moving forward on each of them.

Open Pedagogy in Action: Antología Abierta de Literatura Hispánica

Are you a Spanish language literature professor looking for an open pedagogy project for your classroom? We’re looking for contributors to expand the Antología Abierta de Literatura Hispánica and you and your students could help! Read more about the project below, then head here to participate.


Here at the Rebus Community, we’ve found working with students to be one of the most interesting approaches to creating open textbooks out there.

This approach was the driving force behind the first iteration of our Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature project, which is now being expanded by lead editor Tim Robbins. Our January Office Hours session also discussed the issue, and from that session we began work on a guide to working with students on open textbooks.

We’re pleased to now add another great example of open pedagogy to our stable of projects, with the Antología Abierta de Literatura Hispánica (Open Anthology of Hispanic Literature, AALH) led by Julie Ward of the University of Oklahoma.

The AALH is a collection of public-domain texts from the Hispanic world, with critical introductions and annotations by undergraduate students in Julie’s Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course at the University of Oklahoma. The AALH is intended as a freely accessible digital resource for students of Hispanic literature, and proposes an inclusive, broad, and evolving definition of the canon.

To continue Julie and her students’ work, we are looking for collaborators who will implement the critical edition assignment in their own courses and share the student-created critical editions for inclusion in future editions.

Resources will be offered to support the implementation, including:

  • Assignment brief
  • Marking rubric
  • Suggested assignment timeline
  • List of possible texts in public domain
  • Sample MOU for students
  • Guide to Creative Commons licensing for students
  • Community support from others running similar assignments

These resources are offered as a starting point only, and can be adapted to meet your course’s requirements.

If you are teaching a Hispanic literature course at any level and want to work with your students to expand the anthology, head to the project page in the forum, sign up, and let us know you’re interested!

Call for Reviewers: The Science of Human Nutrition

We are looking for chapter reviewers for The Science of Human Nutrition, a new open nutrition textbook from the University of Hawaii.

Guided by OER technologist Billy Meinke, three UoH authors are working on adapting several existing open resources to create a textbook is aimed at high-enrollment undergraduate (100 level) courses in FSHN (Food Science and Human Nutrition). It will cover elementary aspects of several biological sciences, including information on what nutrients are and what nutrients and foods do for humans; how healthy people can best get the amounts of nutrients and foods they need throughout their lifetime; how people and the environment change foods and their nutrient content; and nutrition issues of current interest.

The first six chapters have been drafted and are ready for review. We are seeking volunteers with some experience in nutrition, biology, nursing or other biological sciences to read, review and comment on at least one chapter, in line with some simple review guidelines. Reviewers will be given access to a shared drive with the content and guidelines.

If you’d like to be involved, please head over to the project page on the forum, sign up and let us know!

Here’s a preview of a few of the chapters up for grabs:

 

Peer Review Working Group & Office Hours Recap

At the Rebus Community, we see peer review as a critical part of publishing open textbooks. In particular, it plays an important role in encouraging adoptions – both by assuring those looking to adopt a book that the material is of high quality, and also by building an engaged pool of reviewers who are themselves potential adopters.

Recognising this importance, we are working to develop – with community input – a clear, robust peer review process that can be applied to all open textbooks produced with Rebus (and potentially beyond).

Our recent Office Hours session on Peer Review for Open Textbooks  surfaced some of the issues we will seek to address with the working group. These include:

  • What should pre- & post-production review processes for open textbooks look like?
  • How can we enable faculty adopters & students to provide feedback directly to authors?
  • How can we leverage the peer review process to market the book to potential adopters?
  • How do we manage the concerns and uncertainty around any non-traditional aspects of the review process?
  • How might reviewers be compensated for their contributions?
  • What tools do we need to support the process?

If you would like to be part of this group, please visit the project page and let us know you’re interested!

You can read a summary of the Office Hours session or watch the recording below.

Help Build Ancillary Materials for Principles of Social Psychology

Ancillary materials are often tipping point for open textbook adopters.

At Rebus Community we will be supporting a new, collaborative way of creating not only open textbooks but also ancillaries, and eventually, test banks and similar components.

Our first example of such an effort is this project, led by Rajiv Jhangiani of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, to help create materials to support Principles of Social Psychology.

The book already has large adoptions at UBC, Ohio State, and a few other smaller institutions (including KPU). Our goal is to develop ancillary materials that will enable even more students and faculty to benefit from this great open textbook.

The first materials we hope to compile are 12 decks of CC BY-licensed powerpoint slides, one for each chapter of the book.

If you’ve already adopted, we hope you’ll chip in a little–the materials will benefit not just you but the community of faculty using the book. And you may be able to adapt resources you’ve already built to benefit the broader community of your colleagues in the social psychology discipline.

If you’re interested in claiming a slide deck, join the Rebus Community Forum and reply to the project post.

Open Anthology of Earlier American Lit: TOC Open for Comment

The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature is a great OER story. It began as a way to save students money in an American literature survey course, has turned into a project held up as a model of open pedagogy, and in its next phase, we hope it will grow into a genuine alternative to costly traditional anthologies and allow faculty and students more freedom to engage with the texts in new ways.

Since finding a new lead to guide this project, we’ve been working hard on the next steps. Lead editor Tim Robbins has been developing a draft table of contents with the help of his student assistant, Matt Moore. Tim explained some of the rationale behind the initial draft in a recent blog post:

I embraced the open project with Rebus accepting that my inclination towards social history would color the anthology’s roster, a case reinforced in the opening draft of our Table of Contents. As expected, the sections track roughly chronologically and feature representative authors and texts. Indigenous creation stories confront European colonial documents; the early texts of New England’s Puritan pulpits are met and challenged by the voices and pens of native peoples, African slaves, and women writers. The American Revolution gives way to an explosion of social movements and an expansion of the canon stretching from Thomas Paine’s republican propaganda to the birth of African-American letters in Phillis Wheatley. The selections from the early nineteenth century include the familiar names of the “American Renaissance”—Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville—in tandem with the literature of abolitionism. The post-Civil War sections aim to balance the significant social writings of the Gilded Age and Reconstruction era with the emergence of realist fiction.

We would now like to invite the community to comment on the draft and help select the texts that will represent each author. In particular, we are looking for:

  • Feedback on the sections and structure
  • Feedback on the authors selected for each section
  • Suggested texts for each author
  • Any other comments or suggestions

If you have some experience working or teaching with anthologies of early American literature, we welcome your feedback on the proposed TOC. You can access the document here and add your comments.

If you have any general comments or wish to discuss anything with other collaborators on the project, you can also reply to the project post in the Rebus Community forum.

Welcome our two new section editors for Introduction to Philosophy

From a glimmer in the eye of lead editor Christina Hendricks, the Introduction to Philosophy project has grown quickly, with a team of around 20 collaborators working to clarify the approach to and scope of the project. The team have developed a draft table of contents, with seven initial sections to be covered; Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science and Ethics.

In a big milestone, we are pleased to welcome aboard our first two section editors who will lead the way on developing and completing their sections, and also help to build out the process of starting an open textbook from scratch with the Rebus Community.

Dr. Scott Clifton is a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Miami University, and will lead the section on Aesthetics. Scott works primarily in ethics, analytic aesthetics, and philosophy of emotion, and is also interested in medical ethics.

Dr. George Matthews is a teaching lecturer in philosophy at Plymouth State University with 20 years experience teaching intro courses in philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, environmental ethics, and political philosophy. He will be heading up the section on Ethics.

The section editors will be responsible for:

  • Creating a list of around five chapters to be covered in their section
  • Working with Christina to develop a light author guide (e.g. desired length of each chapter, general guidelines for content structure)
  • Helping to organise and guide chapter authors (with support from Rebus project managers)

A huge thank you to Scott and George for agreeing to join us in this role!

As with the History of Applied Science and Technology project, our approach is to break a larger project down into manageable pieces and focus on completing one or two of those pieces at a time. You can read more about this approach in this blog post: “If We All Chip In, the Effort Will Be Minimal and the Benefits Great.”

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with this project, or might be interested in authoring a chapter in Aesthetics or Ethics, head to the forum project page and let us know!

Open is More Than A License: Why File Formats Matter for Revising & Remixing

I once wrote a 2500-word essay on why PDFs are terrible, so it’s safe to say that I have some thoughts about file formats (and also that I’m great fun at the right kind of parties). However, it’s also safe to say that not many people give file formats as much thought as I do. We probably collect quite a few of those who do in the OER community, but for anyone who doesn’t, here’s a little primer on why they’re important to what we do:

There is an ongoing conversation in the Open world about what being “Open” means beyond allowing cost-free access, from accessible language to inclusivity to leaving open unknown future uses of your work. In the educational context, we’ve talked about what it means to us here, and most famously, David Wiley has encapsulated “Openness” in OER in the 5Rs – the right to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute content. Formats have big implications for all of these, and directly inform our approach to Openness at Rebus. Open content needs to do more than give permission to exercise the 5Rs (i.e. through open licenses); it also needs to offer the technical capability (and ease) to exercise them.

As an example, when it comes to revising and remixing, it helps if the content exists in a format that lends itself to editing. The Rebus Community is currently supporting a project that will see two OpenStax biology textbooks combined to create a new text. However, the books are only available in formats that don’t lend themselves to editing: web/HTML, PDF and OpenStax’s own format, CNXML. This means that before being able to work on the content, the team needs to figure out a way to turn one of those formats into something easier to work with.

BCcampus has been working on bringing the OpenStax books into Pressbooks (an open source book production software widely used for producing OER, including in the Rebus Press) and Rebus is working on converting OpenStax Biology in a similar way so it can be adapted (we’re currently doing this manually, but hope to build an automated process in the coming months).

While, in theory, we could have dropped the content into any editing software (e.g. Microsoft Word) for this current project, the advantage of Pressbooks is that it easily allows the work we do to benefit others; this, and many other Pressbooks books can be made available for download, in a range of different formats that each serve a different purpose, through a distribution option. Once activated, the distribution option automatically adds the most recently exported book files to the book landing page, where anyone can access them. The main formats available are:

  • PDF: This is best for print, and is preferred by some for digital reading (especially offline)
  • Ebook (EPUB and MOBI): Ebooks are another popular option for reading (but much less popular with those doing anything remotely technical with the files)
  • XHTML: The standardised nature of this format makes it very useful for moving content between systems & formats. HTML is the language the web speaks, and XHTML is the central source from which PDF and ebooks are created in the Pressbooks system.
  • Pressbooks XML: This is an extension of the standard WordPress XML output format, and allows a clone of the book to be uploaded to a new Pressbooks shell, with either all content or a selection imported. It makes revising and remixing in Pressbooks incredibly easy, with a new, editable version of a book able to be created in a matter of minutes.
  • OpenDocument Format (ODT): ODT is an open file format that is compatible with MS Word and similar word processors. While the ODT output produced by Pressbooks isn’t very pretty in terms of formatting, it does allow for content to be edited in a familiar system, which is sometimes a useful option.

One of our goals is to take the entire collection of OpenStax books and make them available in the Pressbooks format, so any Pressbooks-based network (opentextbc.ca, press.rebus.community etc.) can host copy of the originals that can then be taken and adapted by downloading the XHTML, Pressbooks XML or ODT (with the disclaimers about formatting).

The OER refrain of not reinventing the wheel applies here, too — openness means that we share our work so that it doesn’t have to be replicated, and everyone can build on it. We usually think about this in terms of content and licenses, but we should also consider the practicalities of how we can (or can’t) work with that content. An open textbook that exists as a PDF available online and a Word document buried on someone’s computer just isn’t reaching its full potential!

We should also consider how this kind of openness applies to all the other work that goes into creating an open textbook. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do at the Rebus Community: engage with the people who are making open textbooks and leverage their experiences to create tools and resources that can be used by everyone in the community.

Want to be a part of it? Join the forum and sign up to one of our projects.

The distribution option is currently available or can be activated on any Pressbooks network except pressbooks.com. Infrastructure upgrades are in process in order to be able to support it at the scale required on the main network and it is expected to be available within the next couple of months.

Making Open Textbooks Accessible: A Test Case

The Rebus Community is pleased to announce the latest addition to our stable of projects: Financial Strategy for Public Managers.

Led by Justin Marlowe of the University of Washington, this text is targeted at Master of Public Administration students, but could also serve as the core text for a range of undergraduate, graduate and professional education courses on public financial management.

In addition to being a great contribution to students and faculty in the area, this project will be serving as a special test case for the Rebus approach to accessibility. We understand the importance of accessibility and inclusive design when it comes to both the production and consumption of open textbooks and are working to ensure appropriate checks and tools are built into our processes (read more about our approach).

If you can help with reviewing, proofreading or promotion, you can sign up at the Financial Strategy project post. Or, if you can contribute to our work on accessibility, head over to the forum and add your name to the working group we’re forming.

Found: A Lead Editor for The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature

We are pleased to announce that The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature has a new lead editor. Timothy Robbins, an assistant professor of English at Graceland University, has joined the project and will be leading the charge to expand the range of texts covered in the anthology.

This second edition will continue the work pioneered by Robin DeRosa of Plymouth University, a champion of open pedagogy. Robin has written about how she and her students compiled the first edition in this post, and we are grateful for her support as we pick up where she left off.

Tim has used the Anthology in his own Early American Lit course and is dedicated to student collaboration and innovative teaching practices. His research interests include literature of the “Long Nineteenth Century” in the United States, and his Ph.D. focused on the works of Walt Whitman (so expect that section to grow!).

In the coming weeks, Tim will be taking the lead in developing a table of contents, and we’ll be looking for more volunteers to help with finding public domain texts, writing introductions and getting the book looking good.

A list of detailed tasks to be done will be available soon, so make sure you sign up to help and stay up to date on the project page in the Rebus Community forum.