Category: Open Textbook Projects

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

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

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

 

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

A quick FAQ about Rebus Projects:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebus Community Projects: Beta Invitation

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


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

About the platform

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

About the beta

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

Is your project a beta candidate?

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

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

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

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

Why are we prioritizing these areas?

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

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

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

Why join our beta?

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

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

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

How do I apply to be a beta project?

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

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

New OT project: Northern & Indigenous Health and Healthcare

Rebus is pleased to announce a new open textbook project on Northern and Indigenous Health and Healthcare to be launched in August 2018. This textbook is organized and edited by Dr. Heather Exner-Pirot and the University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Northern Nursing Education.

The provision of northern health care entails many unique challenges and circumstances that are rarely represented in mainstream health sciences education. The Northern and Indigenous Health and Healthcare open textbook seeks to fill this void. It contains 40 short chapters from a variety of experts, academics, and practitioners from across the eight circumpolar countries on five themes:

  • Health issues in northern and Indigenous communities
  • Health systems and governance
  • The social determinants of health in northern and Indigenous communities
  • Culture and health
  • Professional practice in rural/remote/isolated communities

Head to the Rebus Community forum or contact Heather for more information and ways to contribute!

Contribute a chapter or section to the History of Applied Science and Technology open textbook

We are seeking chapter contributions (7,000-9,000 words) and section contributions (roughly 1,000 words) on a range of topics for the first volume of the History of Applied Science and Technology open textbook, led by Danielle Skjelver (UMUC).

Authors should have experience teaching first-year history courses, as the text is aimed at first-year undergraduate students. We are currently looking for authors for the following chapters and sections:

  • Egyptian and Babylonian Science before 500 BCE (~1,000 words)
  • Doing History (primary source section) before 500 BCE (500-1,000 words including source text)
  • Greek World 500 BCE-500 CE (~1,000 words)
  • North Africa 500 BCE-500 CE (~1,000 words)
  • Oceania 500 BCE-500 CE (~1,000 words)
  • Doing History 500 BCE-500 CE (500-1,000 words including source text)
  • Golden Age of Islam 500-1400 CE (7-9,000 words)

If you’re interested in participating, please contact Danielle Skjelver and include details of your teaching and research experience. We welcome contributions from faculty and Ph.D. students (ABD), and encourage interest and contributions from members of underrepresented groups within the history community.

Call for Chapter Contributions on Metaphysics, Behaviorism, and Materialism

We are seeking chapter contributions of 2,000-3,000 words (8-10 pages double-spaced) on a range of topics within metaphysics and philosophy of mind for the Introduction to Philosophy open textbook, edited by Christina Hendricks (UBC). We encourage interest and contributions from members of underrepresented groups within the philosophical community.

Philosophy of Mind

We are looking for one or two chapter contributions on the subjects of behaviorism and materialism (identity theory of the mind)Chapters should be written for a smart undergraduate student population being exposed to philosophy of mind for the first time. Send a CV and a short paragraph of your experience in teaching philosophy of mind to Heather Salazar at hsalazar@wne.edu with the subject heading “Phil Mind Open Text.”

Metaphysics

Authors are needed for the following chapters (descriptions available):

  • Finitism, infinitism, monism, dualism, pluralism (Counting 1)
  • Case study: what if anything are numbers? (Counting 2)
  • Case study: metaphysics on a human scale asks whether there is free action
  • Case study: what are universals?
  • Notes on methods: is there an experimental metaphysics?
  • The difficult contacts between religious and physicalistic metaphysics
  • Topics for further study

Please send a CV, including details of your teaching and research experience, to Palma Adriano, and copy Apurva Ashok.

Tim Robbins Presents Open Anthology of American Literature at MLA Convention

The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature continues to grow and evolve. Robin DeRosa, professor at Plymouth State University, and her students, who were looking for a cost-savings anthology for their classroom, started the project. Now, with support from the Rebus Community, the book is under the wing of a new lead editor, Timothy Robbins, assistant professor of English at Graceland University. The anthology has since expanded to include more texts, with collaborators from institutions around the U.S. contributing to the book.

Next, Tim will present the anthology and its iterations at the annual Modern Language Association convention on Jan. 5. He will show Robin’s initial book shell, Abby Goode’s recent classroom-led revision, his own class’s revisions, and the current work in progress with Rebus. If you’re in New York, we encourage you to attend Tim’s session and learn more about this dynamic project.

Inspired by Robin’s experience, Tim included an assignment in his course for students to help expand the anthology. His students read through the texts in Robin’s shell, which included what Tim calls a “potpourri of canonical and ‘minor’ writers.” Tim says his students completed activities to guide their classroom discussions and also give them the skills needed to build the anthology, which they did in teams near the end of the semester.

As part of the process, Tim’s students read about and discussed open education and Creative Commons licensing. Early in the term, student teams participated in developing criteria for evaluation and grading. Tim says that he found this “practice forced students to take a kind of critical ownership of the project by thinking both proactively and reflectively on their own learning and engagement.”

During the term, students used the Pressbooks software to format the anthology. They located and annotated secondary research, edited texts, wrote introductions, all while focusing on “how to make the texts ‘teachable.’” At the end of the semester, teams led a classroom lesson based on their newly designed anthology chapter. The expanded anthology included entries for authors and texts not yet represented in traditional texts.

“My own ‘American Literature to 1900’ course charts some of the various, often contentious stories of “American” culture’s movements towards inclusion, emancipation, and equality across those four centuries of coverage,” Tim says. “When I took on the project with Rebus, I knew that inclination would color the anthology’s roster, a case reinforced in the current 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.”

Robin DeRosa reflects on the expansion, saying: “When my students and I created the first version of The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, we were mainly trying to save money. Students were regularly paying about $85 to purchase an anthology full of literature that was virtually all in the public domain. The first Fall that we used the book started off a little rough: We realized it didn’t have any of the introductions or illustrations or annotations that students generally rely on in commercial anthologies. So that semester, students started adding these things to the book, and before long, we realized that the cost-savings were the least exciting part of our dynamic, student-generated textbook. By the end of that semester, students had created lots of great content, other schools had begun using the book, and I had a whole new sense of the pedagogical possibilities inherent in open textbooks.”

Rebus is excited to be building off of Robin and her students’ work, and could not be more grateful to have Tim at the helm. With Rebus’ support, further entries have been added to the anthology, with more expected in 2018. Roughly 30 entries are completed and polished, and we’re seeking more contributors, including people to take the lead on organizing and writing introductions to the various periodized sections. Tim’s student assistants at Graceland have been charged with line editing, and he has also enlisted a graphic design major to help create a new cover for the anthology.

Robin is proud to see the anthology grow. “Now that Rebus is facilitating a more coordinated expansion of the project, you can’t imagine the pride that my students and I feel knowing that our initial work was the seed that led to the emergence of what will be such a game-changing text,” she says. “There is nothing in my career I feel prouder of being a part of than this project, and I am so grateful to the current editors and team at Rebus for taking our small idea and growing it so beautifully: What a wonderful example of the open community at work!”

The open text is gearing up towards an official launch in the summer, but given the nature of this project, the text will continue to evolve and grow indefinitely. Stay tuned for more updates later in the year, and for those who’ll be in New York in January, please support Tim at the MLA convention on Jan. 5!

If you’d like to collaborate with us on this unique project, please let us know in the Rebus Community forum.

Literature Reviews For Education & Nursing Graduate Students: Available for Adoption!

Written by Linda Frederiksen and Sue F. Phelps, Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students teaches students how to prepare better literature reviews that are vital to their research. Read the book for free on the web, or download it in other formats from the book’s homepage!


Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students is the third open textbook produced with support from the Rebus Community to be released! The book has been peer-reviewed by seven subject experts, and is now available for adoption and use in courses or as a library resource. If you’d like to adopt the book, please let us know.

This book helps students recognize the significant role the literature review plays in the research process and prepare them for the work that goes into writing one. Developed for new graduate students and novice researchers just entering into the work of their chosen discipline, each of the book’s eight chapters covers a component of the literature review process. Students will learn how to form a research question, search existing literature, synthesize results, and write the review. Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students also contains examples, checklists, supplementary materials, and additional resources.

Linda Frederiksen

Authors Linda Frederiksen and Sue F. Phelps are both librarians at Washington State University, Vancouver, with many years’ experience guiding students through research and writing assignments. Linda is active in local, regional and national organizations, projects and initiatives advancing open educational resources.

Sue F. Phelps

Sue’s research interests include information literacy, accessibility of learning materials for students who use adaptive technology, diversity and equity in higher education, and evidence-based practice in the health sciences. Both Linda and Sue are committed to equitable access to information.

The Rebus Community worked with the authors throughout the writing process, advising on formatting, licensing, images and other questions that arose. We also recruited reviewers and coordinated the peer review process for the book, and were fortunate to find a wonderful group of reviewers who generously shared their expertise, giving chapter-level feedback. You can read more about the reviewers and the review process in the book’s Review Statement. Rebus also assisted the authors in formatting, running accessibility checks, and the other final stages of publishing and are very excited to be celebrating the first release!

Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students can be used in graduate-level research methods courses or by librarians preparing subject guides and resources. If you’re interested in adopting the book, please let us know! We would also love to hear from anyone interested in adapting this resource for another discipline. You can always reach us on the Rebus Community forum or at contact@rebus.community.

8 Things We Learned About Making Open Textbooks from Making Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship

When Rebus Community agreed to support the JMC Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship open textbook back in January of 2017, we had no idea the impact the project would have on our knowledge of the processes involved in open publishing.

Michelle Ferrier of Ohio University and Liz Mays, who is Rebus’ marketing manager and also an adjunct faculty at Arizona State University, had the idea for the open textbook.

For Rebus, the thought was one of us would personally go through the process of creating an open textbook start to finish, with Rebus’ support, and we’d use what we learned to inform Rebus Community resources, processes and software in development.

Ten months later, V1 of Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship is available, and it’s time to share some of those learnings with the broader OER community.

Why Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship Was Needed

But first, some context. In recent years, faculty of media, journalism and communications have begun to teach concepts of entrepreneurship in their classrooms, in response to the disruption the journalism industry has experienced. In some departments, entrepreneurship is a full course (or series of courses); in others, it’s part of an existing course.

As faculty who had been asked to teach entrepreneurial journalism and media innovation concepts in our classrooms, Michelle and I, along with others we knew, felt there was no one seminal text that covered the key concepts of media innovation and journalism entrepreneurship that media, communication or journalism students need, especially as the development of content and technology businesses is very different than traditional brick-and-mortar entrepreneurship.

When we embarked on this project, it was our aim to build the resource we ourselves needed, and make it freely available for use to others teaching media innovation and entrepreneurial journalism courses across the globe.

Michelle and I came to the project with two somewhat different drafts for a table of contents. First, we merged our TOCs into a new skeleton. Then, we held a webinar with others who teach these subjects to help us add to, refine, whittle down and revise that into a working, public Table of Contents, which was posted with the Rebus Community Forum call for contributors, along with an Author Guide and Precis. (Note: We stopped maintaining the TOC and moved to other working spreadsheets after beta launch.)

For each chapter, we identified a number of qualified and diverse potential contributors in our networks, and by around April, we were reaching out one by one. Here’s a sample of the baseline verbiage we used to reach out. Some chapters were easier to find authors for than others. (In fact, there are few sidebars and chapters that are still being written to add to the 2nd edition.) While some people didn’t have the capacity to participate, or weren’t interested in helping, by and large, author recruitment went smoother than I had expected. Which brings us to lesson one.

Lesson One: Don’t just build a textbook; build a community.

Throughout every phase of this book–TOC, author reachouts, peer review, beta testing and more–we leveraged community input and contributions around the book, and those efforts paid off. This project could not have happened as quickly had Michelle not been as well-connected in the discipline as she is, and able to bring a good many of her peers and colleagues to the project. At Rebus, we’ve seen the value of faculty leveraging their professional networks. Their involvement helps to drive participation.

I came to the project to build a textbook. Michelle came to the project to build a community. It turns out we could never have built the former without the latter. At the end of the day, 20 authors, 10+ peer reviewers, 12 official faculty beta testers, classrooms full of students–at multiple institutions across the U.S. and as far away as Chile, Greece, and Ukraine–were involved in the making of this book. Nearly 40 others have been following the updates, with an interest in adopting parts or all the book.

Contributors said they found the community aspect of the process rewarding.

“Many thanks…for the gift to join you in such a fascinating intellectual and collaborative journey for making the Open Textbook on “Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship” a dynamic learning, writing, and mentoring experiment,” wrote contributing author Betty Tsakarestou. “Along with the open textbook and the upcoming instructors’ manual, I think you are also helping to create a very dynamic network and community of practice.”

Lesson Two: Building an open textbook is going to take a lot longer than you think.

Once we assigned sidebars and chapters to authors, that’s when we learned the next major lesson. How long does it take to build a community-created open textbook?

In hindsight, we suggest people to allow more than a year, and that’s if you plan to be aggressive about staying on timeline.

One thing that lengthened our editing process was that we didn’t anticipate the questions authors would have about how their chapter ought to be different for an “open” textbook than a traditional textbook. We had never thought of them as any different, but realized we could have made clearer suggestions for the voice, which we wanted to be accessible to students rather than in a formal style. Quite a few authors sent us substantive outlines to edit to make sure they were on track before their full chapter, which added another round of editing that more clarity up front on our part could have eliminated. Also, in a transparent process, I learned it’s a good idea to give all contributors roughly the same deadline, assuming you’ve allowed ample time for editing and revisions.

After a frantic summer of editing and formatting, we found ourselves barreling toward peer review (which went quite smoothly) and then getting a “minimum viable product” up by Aug. 1 for the faculty who would beta-test it in fall semester. All the while we were scrambling behind the scenes to live-edit that version for when students would see it, mid-August.

We ended up in a similar scramble to implement the tail end of revisions from the extensive feedback we received in the book’s first semester of use, just in time to enter the book into the prestigious AEJMC Tankard Award competition, which required that the book be “available in print” in 2017. For teachers wanting their students to be able to get a print copy (that they didn’t print off at home), the timeline wasn’t much later.

If you want to produce an open textbook in a leisurely way, consider spreading it over a year and a half.

In hindsight, here’s how I would adjust to make a new open textbook happen on a roughly yearlong academic timeline. (I’ll note though that every open textbook has different nuances that may add or remove time from your schedule.)

Our Timeline Ideal Timeline
Jan-April: planning Nov: planning
May-June: writing Dec-Jan: writing
June-July: editing, peer review, formatting Feb-May: editing, formatting
Aug-Oct: proofreading, beta testing, open review June-July: peer review, make available for beta testers to consider, proofreading/fine-tuning, accessibility
Nov-Dec: POD first edition Aug-Nov: beta testing, open review
Nov-Dec-Jan: 2nd edition additions Dec-mid-Jan: POD first edition (most of this is waiting after you upload)

Lesson Three: Find collaborators who have different skills than you.

One of the startup culture concepts j-entrepreneurship faculty stress in their classrooms is the need to build a team around you with skills that are different from, but complement, your own.

Prior to Rebus, I had been a professional editor for 10 years full time and for another 7 years on the side. Michelle too, with her background in journalism, brought this expertise. But our editing skills were different and complementary, which enabled us to tag-team and divide the work fairly, without stepping on each others’ toes.

With a national profile from researching and practicing the teaching of media entrepreneurship and innovation in higher ed, Michelle served as subject matter editor and line editor–she did the intense “heavy lifting” types of editing and rewriting. I wore the hat of managing editor and proofreader, making sure project deliverables came in and were tracked; proofreading the book; and dealing with image logistics and footnotes. We also had help with additional copy edits on four chapters from some great volunteers–in retrospect, we wish we had put out a call more widely for volunteers who could assist with the editing. Supporting the process of finding collaborators for editing, images and similar non-writing, non-reviewing components is something Rebus will be working to expand in the future.

Lesson Four: Modularity for OER is a “capital D” decision.

Early in the project, we had to make some decisions, decisions we didn’t recognize as Big D decisions, and probably should have.

First, it never occurred to us to build the book in any way other than a modular way. This was because media innovation and entrepreneurship are taught in vastly different ways at different institutions. In some cases, there is a full class in journalism entrepreneurship, media innovation, or business of journalism. In others, these concepts are part of a media management, magazine writing, student media, or other reporting course. In some programs, students might be from the broader fields of media, communications or P/R, rather than just journalism. Also, at Rebus we care a lot about the remixability of open textbooks, and a modular format works really well for that. It means future faculty can take parts of the book or most of the book as a baseline and write just the pieces they need to accommodate the specific way they teach their class.

Knowing this, we designed the book modularly. And we stand by that decision. Some initial users were quite enthused by it.

“I really get why it makes sense to be a modular “book” because we could rearrange our curriculum and almost build courses around it. Like we could focus on 4-5 chapters per course, depending on how it makes sense to break up the coursework,” wrote Mark Poepsel to Michelle and I, who has been using portions of the book. “Then courses would be built to the professor’s expertise or they’d be designed around resource availability. You’re making the IKEA of information.”

However, we got a lot of feedback in beta testing about the modularity of the book from those who were using it straight through–some things are repeated because we’re cognizant that students reading only an isolated chapter of the book will still need background on a concept that might also be introduced somewhere else earlier. While we couldn’t fix that repetition easily, it’s something we would like to smooth out for the second edition.

Lesson Five: Pressbooks — did I mention we broke Pressbooks? (Don’t worry, we fixed it too.)

Most people who know the folks at Rebus know that some of us–Apurva Ashok, Zoe Wake Hyde, Hugh McGuire, and I–also work for Pressbooks. So here I’m switching hats. This was the first educational book we ourselves had tried to format, to see what problems we ran into.

Some of those included:

  • Because the book is produced from a single source, and will be available in multiple formats, including printable PDF and print-on-demand, anything that might otherwise have been a link from the digital formats also needed to be a footnote, because embedded links wouldn’t be clickable or visible in the print edition.
  • How to handle multiple authors in the metadata (we’re working on a new way to handle multiple contributors in the metadata of a book)
  • Wide charts and tables (temporary fix in place on this book; long-term fix in process)
  • Import from Google docs, including footnote and link import (we learned a few things)
  • Easier glossary making and figure numbering (on the Pressbooks roadmap)
  • Editing (I recommend doing as much of the editing process as possible before importing to Pressbooks as it does not have tracked changes or similar functions that copy editors rely on at earlier stages of editing.
  • Images (Apparently, in addition to throwing errors if you send too low-res of images, POD will actually throw errors or cause delays if your images are too high-res. For large images displayed in a small area (such as author images), this became a problem.

These are problems that lots of educational books would run into. This book turned into an opportunity to use our own product and find the flaws. We were able to put these issues into Pressbooks’ queue to improve the software not only for us, but for all the others using it for open textbooks and OER. Changing back into my Rebus hat…

Lesson Six: Someone (maybe us) should build a mechanism to track feedback from beta testing

We put the book through a formal peer review process, with most chapters getting their own single-blind peer review prior to the beta launch. The book was then formally beta tested in classrooms. We gave beta testers a guide and as many ways to give their feedback as possible. We enabled hypothes.is on the book. We asked for narrative feedback by email. We opened a “suggestion box” Google form and offered a place to suggest revisions on the Rebus Community forum. One student even reviewed the book as his honors project. (Read Kyle Kercheval’s review.) We then held biweekly calls with the community of practice teaching these subjects and using parts of the book. Through this process, we received hundreds of points of feedback. (And we still have three peer reviewers still working their way through the full book!) I can tell you from that process that there is no magic way to track and incorporate beta feedback–yet. Just a lot of heavy lifting.

We learned that having too many avenues isn’t practical but no one of these avenues was sufficient. This is another problem Rebus would like to help solve in the future.

Lesson Seven: Print-on-demand is still not instant.

Having a print book comes with many benefits, especially for students who prefer non-digital formats, but preparing the print format and ensuring its availability can be tricky!

No. 1: If you just want students to be able to purchase a print copy of the book in Amazon if they want it (rather than a university bookstore ordering a bunch of copies), you should know Ingram recommends you allow 6-8 weeks before you need them to be able to do so. (Createspace doesn’t allow CC BY content, so we went through IngramSpark for print-only distribution.) That’s two months of waiting added to the time it takes to bring an open textbook into the world. That meant for us, with a contest entry that required the book to be available in print by a hard deadline of Dec. 31, we had to declare a first edition a few weeks earlier than we would have liked.

No. 2: Some POD platforms only allow you to cite up to three contributors in the metadata (even though Amazon allows up to nine). This is going to be a challenge for the burgeoning cadre of open textbooks with multiple contributors. Also, we had issues with the metadata we used transmitting incorrectly, a problem we’re still working through on both sides. It seems neither Ingram nor Amazon can fix an Amazon entry that didn’t originate on the Amazon side.

Lesson Eight: Publishing versus authoring

The question in open textbooks, and the problem we’re trying to solve at Rebus, is how to help authors do, or find other volunteers to do, the things that publishers have traditionally had a staff to do, in the absence of a traditional publisher.

Among these are permissions, accessibility and other “invisible” labor.

We believe strongly that all those things still need to happen for open textbooks, especially those produced with support from Rebus. Editing, images, Pressbooks formatting, and accessibility are four areas where we want to specifically build up pools of potential volunteers interested in contributing their skill sets in these areas to open textbooks.

When we embarked on this project, we weren’t sure what accessibility for open textbooks really entailed. We have a much better idea of that now, after starting the Rebus Community Accessibility Working Group, but we didn’t have that information in time to tell the writers what to send us, so that we wouldn’t end up writing alt text for most of the images ourselves, for example.

At Rebus we have since been working on some guidelines for accessibility for open textbooks produced with Rebus support, and these will be part of the author guides for future projects.

Styling footnotes, from both an editing and a formatting perspective, was a monumental effort, and one that I can say with absolute confidence needs its own volunteer or volunteers.

Another of the inherent challenges to creating a CC BY-licensed open textbook is images. Our goal was to use all CC BY images. Some writers found that limiting (since traditional publishers help to source permissions), or did not quite understand the nuances (for instance, buying stock photos doesn’t skirt this problem).

We cut any images that weren’t necessary. Of the rest, some image suggestions were general enough for us to create new openly licensed images. I had the benefit of support for this from Rebus staff member Apurva, who with her design background was able to help create some illustrations for the book from scratch. (This is another job, by the way–one that needs a volunteer.)

In other cases, even if using an image would have been fair use, the fact we were setting the book up to be remixed downstream and would lose control of the content, made us err on the side of caution while we figure out all the nuances to this.

Some images were so central to the subject matter that we simply had to include them. How do you not include the Business Model Canvas in a chapter about startup business models, for instance? There’s no way to remake what’s important about that chart without exactly copying it. Thus, we had to hunt down permissions for some images.

Luckily, the Business Model Canvas folks, along with a few others, were awesome to us. They got the concept of what we were doing right away and gave permission to include their image in the textbook, and to them we are eternally grateful. There were others too who had to bend internal rules to work with our paradigm, but were ultimately able to grant us the permissions we needed.

Then there were the publishers that wanted to charge an exorbitant rate, which would increase with every format or new edition (exactly what does that look like for a book that is continually updated, and can be remixed?)

Still others were never able to grant us permission to use the simplest of things. These included one data chart that, according to the site’s TOS, could be embedded in our website with no problem but could not be published in something like an ebook or print book. With single-source formatting, this was unworkable. Our multiple calls and emails requesting a solution went unreturned.

In the end, the thing I thought would be hard about building an open textbook (getting contributors to write and review the content) was not the thing that was most challenging about building an open textbook. Our authors, reviewers, beta testers, and everyone else who played a role in refining the content for this book were awesome, and they built the content into the open textbook we envisioned.

What was hardest was getting these behind-the-scenes jobs, many of which take a lot of invisible emotional labor, done. We at Rebus will now be working to build up pools of volunteers to enlist in these efforts on future books. Of course, we will credit them with their efforts. In addition, the software we have in the works may help. If you have further ideas on this front, please reach out to us in the Rebus Community Forum.

Financial Strategy for Public Managers: Now Available!

Financial Strategy for Public Managers by Sharon Kioko and Justin Marlowe is the first Rebus-supported open textbook project to be officially released, and is now available for adoption and use in classrooms!

This book offers a thorough, applied, and concise introduction to the essential financial concepts and analytical tools that today’s effective public servants need to know. It has been reviewed by 8 subject experts at 8 different institutions, and is available openly available in web, PDF, ebook, and other formats from the book homepage. If you’re interested in adopting the book, let us know!

Kioko and Marlowe’s book covers materials found in most public financial management texts, but it also integrates foundational principles across the government, non-profit, and “hybrid/for-benefit” sectors. Coverage includes basic principles of accounting and financial reporting, preparing and analyzing financial statements, cost analysis, and the process and politics of budget preparation.

Book homepage on Pressbooks, with a short description and links to download formats including PDF, EPUB, MOBI, XML, WXR, XHTML, ODT

Throughout the text, Kioko and Marlowe emphasize how financial information can and should inform every aspect of public sector strategy, from routine procurement decisions to budget preparation to program design to major new policy initiatives. Their book is written in an accessible style, understanding that students in Master of Public Administration programs often do not have backgrounds in finance or budgeting. Marlowe says, “Our book covers the same basic material in just over 200 pages, with just a few selected cases and a couple dozen practice problems, and it’s written in the plainest possible language. And of course, it’s free and open, so students download it and get to work immediately. That removes another important psychological barrier to the subject. So our book is different because it’s more accessible, and the fact that it’s open really reinforces that message.”

The book is already being used in classrooms as of Fall 2017, and students are responding to the book well. Marlowe, who is using the book in his course at the University of Washington, says, “[The students] know that I can update it almost in real time, so they’re eager to offer suggestions for cases, examples, problems, exercises, etc. because they know their ideas might appear in it sooner than later.” He says that students are also appreciative of the fact that it is available for free, and adds, “but they also say ‘it’s about time.’”

The Rebus Community provided support for this project in the form of coordinating peer review at the chapter and book-level. Rebus also ensured that the book will be available through print-on-demand, in order to enable students who prefer print to obtain a copy for less than it would typically cost to print off using a home computer or at a copy shop. Students who would like a print copy, can purchase it on Amazon, where it was the No. 1 new release in Government Accounting for several weeks.

If you’re located outside the US, and would still like to use this book, you can adapt it to better fit your needs. Marlowe encourages this remixing of content, and says, “Public budgeting and finance is the same in most places, but it’s also different from place to place depending on the local laws, politics, history, and other factors. The OER structure allows professors using the book in other states and other countries to swap out our discussions of budgeting and finance in Washington State, and swap in a discussion that’s more relevant to their own context.”

If you’re interested in adopting or considering the book for use in your classroom, or if you’d like to stay abreast of future editions, please sign up here. Alternatively, if you are a librarian who knows faculty at your institution who teaches a course that could use the book, please help us spread the word!

First Open Textbook on North American Archaeology!

The latest Open Textbook project to join the Rebus Community is the first of its kind in its field. Aptly titled From the Ground Up: An Introduction to North American Archaeology, this book brings together an intergenerational and international team of scholars to shed light on the multiple voices and vibrant diversity within North American archaeology.

The project is led by Dr. Katie Kirakosian from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with support from a steering committee of colleagues who will offer support and advice throughout the process. The decision to pursue the project was fueled by feedback Katie had received from her colleagues in the field about existing textbooks, which don’t often contain diverse perspectives or include primary data with which students can practice.

Katie hopes that this book will “make North American archaeology more accessible and help archaeologists inspire and train the next generation.”

In contrast to existing books, this textbook is committed to including voices from descendant communities and community members, as well as perspectives from individuals in various archaeological sectors, including academia, CRM, museums, non-profits, and the government. It will discuss regional sections that summarize indigenous and non-indigenous cultures and allow students to explore culture change across space and time. In addition, this open textbook will include primary data whenever possible so students can see the data behind archaeological interpretations and can practice making interpretations of their own. The focus of the book is on presenting how material culture and other data help to understand the lived experiences of people through time and space.

As the first step, Katie is seeking contributors to form teams of 6-10 people around each chapter, who will be responsible for:

  1. Creating an outline for the chapter that will be shared with other contributors for feedback
  2. Writing the initial “background” chapter for their region
  3. Securing a case study of a particular site or landscape within that region
  4. Potentially contributing to peer review, beta testing, creating ancillary materials and other activities related to the project

If you are interested in joining one of these teams, you can view the list of chapters, and sign up on the contributor sign up thread in the Rebus Community forum. Or, if you want to find out more about the project, you can read the full project summary and post any questions you may have on the discussion thread.

From the Ground Up will be available for adoption in 2018. Follow the project on the Rebus Community forum for updates!