Category: Office Hours

Open Textbook Network and the Rebus Community present Office Hours, a monthly discussion among people who are creating open textbooks to talk about related issues.

Office Hours Recap and Video: Beta Testing Open Textbooks

In this month’s session, guests discuss the logistics of beta testing an open textbook, including: strategies to recruit beta testers, mechanisms for collecting and implementing feedback, and marketing this process. If you’re curious about how open textbooks are tested in classrooms, or how and when student and instructor feedback is incorporated, read the recap below or watch the video recording.


This Office Hours session began with brief introductions to the Open Textbook Network, whose member institutions pool expertise and promote best practices in open education, and the Rebus Community, a collaborative resource of open textbook creators and users. We also solicited suggestions for topics for future Office Hours sessions, and if you have ideas that you would like to explore or revisit, please let us know.

This month, we were joined by Michael Laughy, Dianna Fisher, Linda Bruslind, and Elizabeth Mays to discuss the process of beta testing an open textbook. The opportunity for beta testing is one of the main competitive advantages of open textbooks, as they can be updated and revised based on classroom feedback more quickly than traditional textbooks. Watch the video recap of the session, or continue reading for a full summary.

Speaking first was Michael Laughy, who is an assistant professor of Classics at the Washington & Lee University. He recently co-authored an open textbook on Ancient Greek, and has been using it in his language courses. The book is also being beta-tested by faculty at Louisiana University and the University of Illinois. Laughy says he makes live changes to the book to incorporate students’ feedback during class. Laughy judges students’ reactions to material as he teaches it, and in so doing learns how to edit chapters in the book for the next time he and others teach the course. The experience of teaching with the book also gives him a better sense of how to partition the book – and how much material can actually be covered weekly during a semester. The faculty at Louisiana and Illinois also have editing rights on the book, and make similar adjustments based on their experiences in the classroom. However, Laughy acknowledged that the live changes can prove confusing for students who may be trying to look for a piece of information from earlier in the course, which has been altered or deleted.

Next, Dianna Fisher, director of Open Oregon State at Oregon State University, described their process for beta testing. She asks faculty to first pay attention to areas where students have historically had difficulty in understanding subject matter, and test these sections of the book with students. Dianna says that they keep two versions of each book – one that is “in use” in the class, and one that is being “edited,” so that they can easily restore complete versions of chapters if needed. She said that they use Basecamp for project management, including managing beta testing changes. On some books, Dianna notes that beta testing is done in stages with specific groups of students – for instance, first with doctoral students, next with masters students, and later with advanced undergraduate students. With the final group, she encourages faculty to find out what students need to know to fully digest or comprehend the information in the book, so that different versions of the book can be created for different levels.

Linda Bruslind, who is a senior instructor and lead advisor in Microbiology at Oregon State University, was next to offer her perspective. She authored an open textbook for a 300-level general microbiology course, as she noticed that students weren’t using the traditional texts she had assigned, and since she wanted a simpler text for students. Linda first tested this book in her summer 2016 course, and later tested it online through Oregon State University’s eCampus. Linda found that students in the in-person class would access the text on their phones, or print out specific chapters, at the same time as they were completing group activities. She invited students to give her feedback, identify areas where information was unclear or lacking, and point to any errors in the book. She then passes this feedback on to Dianna, whose team makes changes to the book. Linda noticed that the post-assessment scores in her courses went up dramatically after using the textbook.

Our final speaker was Elizabeth Mays, adjunct professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and marketing director at the Rebus Community. Elizabeth combined forces with lead editor Michelle Ferrier at Ohio State University to create an open textbook on Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Mays said Ferrier quickly recruited 12 beta testers for this book by reaching out to people in her network. They, along with the book’s authors and 38 others in the community of practice teaching these subjects, were encouraged to join a fortnightly call to discuss each chapter of the book. Beta testers were given guidelines and many mechanisms to provide input. Feedback was also solicited through Hypothesis, which was enabled on the book; through the Rebus Community forum; through a Google Form; and via email. Mays compiled all the feedback into one spreadsheet. The co-editors then made decisions on what changes to implement and how. Elizabeth discovered this process was quite laborious, and said she wished there was a better mechanism on the book itself through which to collect, track, and respond to feedback.

The floor was then opened to questions from other participants. Participants were curious as to whether students in online courses and in-person courses provided different feedback about the textbooks. Linda noted that feedback from the two groups was very similar. Other participants wondered what types of feedback were solicited and how. Linda welcomed all kinds of feedback from spelling errors to the clarity of a particular chapter. Elizabeth mentioned that a Guide for Beta Testers was created with prompt questions for faculty using the book in their courses. Karen wondered what the pros and cons were of framing the book as being in beta testing. Linda liked the idea of a more formalized feedback process, and would want to provide all students with an opportunity to give feedback on the book. Michael noted that students were hesitant to critique, challenge, or correct information in the book as it has been written by “the professor” – he actively sought to make students comfortable to state their opinions about the book and its content. Dianna noticed that students overcame this initial discomfort and later feel more invested in their learning, and felt that their contributions made an impact. Linda said that students seemed excited about being engaged in the process and having some control over the content of the book. Another question was about who implemented these changes – in Michael and Elizabeth’s case, they made changes themselves; in Linda’s case, the implementation was done by the publisher.

Beta testing is a valuable process to gain student and faculty insights on how open textbooks can be improved. Thanks to our guests, and to participants who attended and shared their thoughts! If you would like to have further conversations on these or related areas, please let us know on the Rebus Community forum!

Resources

Rebus/OTN Office Hours: International Perspectives on Open Textbooks (December 2017)

December’s topic for Rebus / OTN Office Hours is International Perspectives on Open Textbooks, and this month, we’re doing things a little differently.

The Rebus Community headquarters is located in Montreal, Quebec, with our brilliant marketing manager based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our partners, the Open Textbook Network, are also U.S.-based, and as a result, we schedule our calls during business hours for mainland USA and Canada, and they are run in English. While there are practical reasons for this, we have to acknowledge that timezones, language, and undoubtedly cultural differences can be barriers to participation for many in the OER community.

So, this month, we thought we’d shake things up. With a nod not only to our guest speakers who are from different continents and in varying time zones, but also to anyone who faces barriers to engaging with our usual Office Hours format, here’s how things will go:

  1. Each of our guests will pre-record their comments.
  2. These recordings will be compiled into one video.
  3. That video will be made available on Dec. 4 at 2 a.m. CLST, 7 a.m. SAST, and 3 p.m. AEST in the Rebus Community forum.
  4. Our guests will lead an asynchronous discussion with participants in the forum, where everyone will be encouraged to ask and answer questions in their preferred language.

Office Hours Open Textbooks: International Perspectives title image

Currently, guests include Mark Horner, CEO of Siyavula Education in Cape Town, South Africa; Werner Westermann Juárez, Chief of Civic Education Program for the Library of National Congress of Chile; and Jessica Stevens, Doctoral Student in the Faculty of Law at Queensland University of Technology.

Guests will discuss student, faculty, and staff perspectives on the creation, adoption, and awareness of open textbooks in their countries. They will also provide advice to creators who want to make their content useful to faculty and students in multiple countries.

In addition to changing the format for this call, we’d like to make all of our Office Hours events more friendly to our audience members, so we will be making the asynchronous discussion piece a permanent feature of all future events. We hope that this will prove a useful alternative for those who prefer to, or by necessity have to, ask their questions outside of the live calls, for any reason.

The video will be posted in the Rebus Community forum and discussion will take place on this thread. You can RSVP here.

Office Hours Recap and Video: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Textbooks

In this Office Hours conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in open textbooks, guest speakers and participants identified several aspects of OER that deserve attention and improvement. Read the recap below, or watch the video recording.

Office Hours, hosted by The Open Textbook Network and the Rebus Community, is a monthly event in which we create a space to discuss common topics in open textbook production. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Textbooks was this month’s topic.

We were joined by Maha Bali (American University in Cairo), Susan Doner (Camosun College), and Alan Harnum (OCAD University) to discuss how we can leverage the values of open education to create a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and vibrant publishing culture. Unfortunately, one of our original guests, Tara Robertson (CAPER-BC), couldn’t join us for this event.

We’d like to especially thank Maha for attending despite the large time difference. We are aware that scheduling our Office Hours events based around the time zones of a largely North American audience creates challenges for those outside this part of the world, and we are working to find ways to make the event more accommodating for all who might want to participate in future.

As a start, we always aim to provide a recap of the event within a few days (once the video has been captioned). So if you missed the event (for timezone-related reasons or not!), you can watch a video recap or scroll down to read the complete summary!

Karen Lauritsen and Hugh McGuire began the session with quick introductions to the Open Textbook Network and Rebus Community. Karen said that this event was an opportunity to ensure that diverse voices are equally valued and explore what barriers exist in open textbook publishing that currently inhibit these voices. Next each guest speaker gave an overview of the topic from their perspective.

Maha Bali is an associate professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo. She talked about inclusion from a postcolonial perspective and reminded participants that there was nothing inherent about Openness that means it will include everyone – inclusion is still something that needs to be intentionally worked towards. Maha asked us to reconsider a common analogy used for diversity and inclusion – “giving someone a seat at the [pre-designed] table” – and instead to give people opportunities to design the table with you, decide what goes on the table, what the rules of the table are, and the height of the table. This approach can be considered at many levels in our community, from community participation, to systems, organizations and technologies. Each of these should be approached with an acknowledgement and understanding of different backgrounds and contexts, and with considered thought given to who is “building the table.” With regard to OER creation, Maha said that while we need to empower people to be able to share work, we must also be aware of other barriers that may be involved with openly licensed content. (Footnote:Read what Maha has said about Creative Commons licenses elsewhere.) She also noted that there are all kinds of barriers to participation in open movements. For instance, she said, the Open Source movement requires one to have certain technical knowledge and be comfortable participating in a male-dominated environment. Other requirements can be more practical. As an example, the oft-touted Domain of One’s own requires a credit card to make payments, something Maha noted not every student may have.

Alan Harnum is a senior inclusive developer at OCAD University’s Inclusive Design and Research Centre. He brings a technical perspective and mentioned that IDRC is looking at ways to improve authoring tools to support alternate ways of creation, such as voice recordings and transcription. Alan said that they are experimenting with other aspects of the production line to ensure that materials have the widest possible reach, including accessibility, alternatives to images, touch, and sonified infographics. They are also looking at ways to create components that can be easily internationalized. Alan is also interested in looking at the remixing of content and ways to blur lines between authors and readers that is carried over from traditional publishing. On the question of the valorizing of content and remixing, Alan quoted Michael Caulfield’s blog post, saying, “What if the OER community saw the creation of materials as a commodity, but the reuse as an art?” He also cautioned against the replication of traditional power structures in publishing, a message echoed by others in the call.

Susan Doner is an Instructional Designer at the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Camosun College. She considers proprietary educational materials as laying claims to knowledge, and often being created by a homogenous group of people with a monoculture–they are a risk to diversity, she says. Susan thinks that educational materials should have input from a diverse variety of individuals and stakeholders, including student voices, if they want to stand the chance to be relevant to all students. For her, the default setting when working on any project should be open. Susan also said that openness creates opportunities to widen the circle of input, to build, share, and expand resources beyond what they could be in a closed system. She pointed to the BC Accessibility Toolkit as an example of a growing resource. It began as a small set of resources put together by her and Tara Robertson, and grew into the toolkit, which was later translated into French and adapted into a workshop activity. Overall, Susan sees OER as a collaborative vehicle for inclusion.

Once guests shared their insights, the floor was opened for questions and comments.

Esperanza Zenon pointed to the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity as a resource folks might collaborate with to make OER more inclusive and equitable. Other participants identified significant problem areas that need more attention:

  • Funding and Grants – Authoring OER is largely contingent on funding and grant money. How can we help granting agencies get better at recruiting diverse voices and funding a variety of authors?
  • Enrollment – How do we ensure that OERs are developed for courses that don’t qualify as “high enrollment”? How do we encourage authors both financially and in sentiment to create materials for all courses?
  • Position – We must acknowledge the extra challenges and risk faced by non-tenured, underrepresented, and/or part-time faculty when creating OERs. How can we involve and incentivise those in more secure positions to participate in OER creation and advocate for their colleagues in more precarious circumstances?
  • Content – OER creation teams should be diverse and inclusive from the point of conception. How can we ensure that diverse perspectives are taken into account when designing content, and that traditionally marginalised voices can be heard?
  • Remixing – How can we ensure the “source code” of an OER material is made available for easy remixing? What can content creators do to enable things like localisation and translation down the line? Remixing is a clear departure from traditional publishing models, and we should recognise and promote the new opportunities it creates.
  • Technology – Access to and fluency with all kinds of technologies varies widely for students and instructors, across communities, institutions, and geographies. How do we address and overcome these barriers to creation, use, and remixing of OER?
  • Existing Systems – The creation of new models of publishing offers a chance to reject the power structures of traditional publishing and embed our values in everything we do. How do we ensure that these new systems embrace diversity as the default, rather than having to try to retrofit it later?
  • Quality – The assumed quality of a resource can often be tied to institutional prestige and who contributes to a text. We need to put aside our preconceptions of supposed “high-” and “low-”quality resources when interacting with OER, particularly when integrating student voices and traditionally marginalised perspectives. How do we signal the reliability of an OER? If it is through peer review, how is this carried out?
  • Time – We must be aware of the amount of time that each stage of the publishing process takes, and whether faculty, staff, and students can devote this time. We should be conscious of their other responsibilities both at work and home, and how this can affect their workload. How can we avoid overburdening people, while also not privileging the voices of those with lesser time commitments?

As is evident from this list, these issues are broad, and cannot necessarily be easily resolved. However, recognizing that they exist is a first step. At the Rebus Community, we are committed to working with our partners, contributors, and other community members to find ways to make the OER community more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We plan to reflect on our own practices in the coming weeks to ensure that we continue to be supportive and inclusive of anyone who would like to be involved in OT creation, and will share our reflections with you.

Thanks once again to our wonderful guests, and to everyone who attended and shared their thoughts. If you would like to have further conversations on these or related areas, please let us know on the Rebus Community forum!

Resources:

A transcript of this recording is also available.

October Office Hours: Beta Testing Open Textbooks

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

Beta Testing Open Textbooks

Oct. 25, 4 p.m. EST

Guest Speakers: Michael Laughy, Assistant Professor of Classics, Washington & Lee University; Dianna Fisher, Director of Open Oregon State; Elizabeth Mays, Rebus & Arizona State University; and others TBD

The ability to beta-test open textbooks with students and faculty in order to improve them quickly and repeatedly based on feedback, is one of open textbooks’ competitive advantages. What are the logistics of beta-testing an open textbook? Is the process different depending on whether the testing happens in the author’s or a colleague’s classroom? When and how can publishers of OER market a new work to benefit from beta testers? What are the best mechanisms for collecting and integrating feedback? How do you decide which suggestions should be implemented, and when?

RSVP for the session.

If you have any questions, or have difficulty entering the call, email us at contact@rebus.community.

August Office Hours Recap & Video: Metadata for Open Textbooks

Are you an author, librarian, or staff member creating or using Open Textbooks at your institution? Learn more about the metadata that helps make these books discoverable in this month’s Office Hours session! Scroll down to read a recap, or watch the video recording.


This month’s Office Hours event, hosted by the Open Textbook Network and the Rebus Community, covered a technical but important topic in the growing world of Open Textbooks – metadata. To help us understand how metadata works, we invited special guests Naomi Eichenlaub (Ryerson University), Sarah Cohen (Open Textbook Network), and Hugh McGuire (Rebus). Laura Dawson (Numerical Gurus) was unfortunately unable to attend the event, but you can read what she has said about metadata in the past.

Watch a recap of the session below, or continue reading for the complete summary. Metadata is a complex topic, and there were a lot of acronyms thrown around during this call. Scroll down to get some clarification on the technical terms mentioned during this event!

Rebus Foundation co-founder Hugh McGuire started the session by introducing the Rebus Community, which is building a new, collaborative model for open textbook publishing. Next, Sarah Cohen introduced the Open Textbook Network, which is active in over 600 campuses and promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks. She said there were currently 425 books in their Open Textbook Library, and that number was growing.

As the universe of Open Textbooks expands, Hugh said, it is more important than ever that we think of how these resources are categorized, and how they can be discovered by faculty and other users: which means using metadata.

Metadata is a bit of a buzzword, but what does it mean? According to the Government of Canada Records Management Metadata Standard, metadata is “structured information about the characteristics of an analog or digital resource which helps identify and manage that resource.” In the context of Open Textbooks, metadata is information about a book, attached to a book file, including the usual things like title, author(s), subject, license, and ISBNs, as well as potentially more complex data around versioning and accessibility.

Okay… but why should I care about it? Because metadata:

  • provides everyone with useful information about a book and its content;
  • can be both machine- and human-readable;
  • makes a book you create discoverable in different repositories, libraries, and catalogues; and
  • helps people in their search for the right book to adopt.

You may not be involved in determining how information about a book is being shared with different softwares (like libraries or repositories), but it’s important to know that information is being sent and received! Without it, books would be all but impossible to find and collections impossible to navigate, meaning that valuable resources couldn’t reach the people who benefit from them.

Naomi Eichenlaub, a catalogue librarian at Ryerson University, first came into contact with metadata while working on an Open Publishing Infrastructure Project to extend BCcampus’ Open Textbook collection and migrate it to eCampus Ontario’s new Open Textbook Library. During the course of this project, Naomi looked at trends in metadata, trying to find the best schema (a schema is a “framework that specifies and describes a standard set of metadata elements and their interrelationships” (ISO)) that would help integrate BCcampus’ repository. Naomi said they looked at various schemas, and settled with Dublin Core for this prototype. She hopes that this project will allow them to integrate other schemas, allowing them to submit content to different repositories, and in so doing, expand access to all kinds of content (not just books).

Sarah Cohen, managing director at the Open Textbook Network, said that they used Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC records) in the Open Textbook Library, which can be downloaded by users if needed. The library does not host materials itself, but rather refers to other repositories, so OTN wanted a schema that worked well with Open Public Access Catalogs (OPAC) that most universities have. Sarah said that the challenge was to point to the right location for the content that was being searched, and allow for easy correction of any broken links. They are working with Colorado State University and the Online Computer Library Center to clean these records.

Hugh McGuire, co-founder of the Rebus Foundation, described the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) initiative to create web-native standards for web publications. While this process is a lengthy one, it involves first determining which metadata fields are mandatory (like author, title, license), and which can be optional. Next, the web publication working group will look at ways to link this standardized metadata file to existing schemas. Hugh says that Open Textbooks will be the first use-case for this new specification.

Melinda Boland, a guest at Office Hours from OER Commons, explained that they host and link to over 60,000 pieces of OER in their digital public library. Michelle Brennan, their information services manager, said that they follow the IEEE standard for Learning Object Metadata as a guiding profile to make it easy for content to be searchable and for users to find these resources. Their approach is to build different modules on top of this core that map to different metadata standards in the field.

Thanks to Naomi for sharing this comic on Standards by Randall Munroe (xkcd.com). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

After speakers discussed the importance of metadata, and their different approaches, participants had some questions. Some wondered what kinds of accessibility metadata were being used. Michelle Brennan, information services manager at OER Commons, explained that they use A11-Y, which is a community-driven effort to improve web accessibility.

Others had questions about versioning, and its implications on a book’s metadata. Hugh said that this was something to think about as we work to build a formalized means of handling metadata for books on the web. Melinda Boland, also from OER Commons, said that including a Version History to each book (or web object) is good practice. Participants also wondered how different versions of a book would be indicated to users searching in repositories or catalogues. Jonathan Poritz, professor at Colorado State University, pointed to versioning systems like GitHub and Wikipedia to help track the lineage of an Open Textbook as it undergoes revisions or remixing. Another participant suggested the GITenburg project as an example.

This session revealed that we still have a long way to go in working out best practices for metadata in the Open Textbook arena, and that many conversations need to take place to best lay out a universal standard for all kinds of web-native open content. However, metadata is a fundamental (if complex) building block for Open Education, and we hope to have more discussions about them down the line!

To keep the conversation going, head over to the Rebus Community Forum, or join us at another Office Hours event.

Resources:

Here’s a list of some metadata-related technical terms, and what they mean.
Technical Term Description
LMRI (Learning Resource Management Initiative) Co-led by the Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources. It is for learning objects only, and was recently accepted to schema.org.
IEEE LOM (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association Learning Object Metadata) Specifies the structure of metadata for learning objects in the IEEE standard.
DCMI (Dublin Core Metadata Initiative) Supports innovations in metadata design and best practices.
Schema.org The closest thing to a standard for web content. It includes different schemas that help structure the web.
A11-Y A numeronym for accessibility, the A11-Y project looks to make web accessibility easier for developers to implement.
MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) A data format introduced by the Library of Congress, it is now popular in most libraries.
NSDL_DC (National Science Digital Library) A variant on the Dublin Core standard.

September Office Hours: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in OER

September 26, 12 p.m. EST

Guest Speakers Maha Bali, Tara Robertson, Susan Doner, and others TBD

We have an opportunity to leverage open educational values to create a vibrant publishing culture. How do we increase diversity, equity and inclusion in OER publishing? How can we work together to ensure that diverse voices are equally valued? What barriers may exist in open textbook publishing that inhibit this vision? Join us for a discussion about how we can best move forward.

RSVP here for the session.

If you have any questions, or have difficulty entering the call, email us at contact@rebus.community.

July Office Hours Recap & Video: Updating Open Textbooks

Are you an instructor, staff member, or librarian using Open Textbooks at your institution? Do you want to know how you can keep this resource updated over the years? This month’s Office Hours session on keeping open textbooks relevant will help you do just that! Watch the video recording, or read a recap.


During this session of the monthly Office Hours event organized by the Open Textbook Network and the Rebus Community, special guests Lauri Aesoph, BCcampus; Shane Nackerud, University of Minnesota Libraries; and Kristen Munger, SUNY Oswego discussed the challenges of keeping Open Textbooks up to date.

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

For host Karen Lauritsen, of the Open Textbook Network, the topic of updating Open Textbooks is especially pertinent to their Open Textbook Library initiative – which acts as a database for reviewed and published Open Textbooks. Hugh McGuire, founder of the Rebus Community, also emphasized the importance of revising open textbooks to ensure that they remain a relevant resource in the post-publication years.

Following a quick introduction to Rebus from Hugh, Karen invited our special guests to describe their experiences.

Lauri Aesoph, manager of Open Education at BCcampus, explained some procedures that they perform, beginning with a comprehensive record of their collection in an internal document. This document includes date of creation, the type of license, and more, and is accompanied by a versioning history page for each book. Next, Lauri says that each book is updated for minor corrections and revisions. At BCcampus, they keep a static copy of the book available for use, while also giving individuals access to different editions (American and Canadian, for instance). The original edition of the book is always available for reference if needed. Similarly, Karen said that the Open Textbook Library has a dark archive in DSpace. Lauri ended by describing how BCcampus regularly polls faculty and staff to find out gaps and areas of improvement in certain books, and use this feedback to move forward with other updates.

Shane Nackerud, technology lead at University of Minnesota Libraries, discussed the process of taking Open Textbooks and revising them in Pressbooks. UMN has published three new open textbooks in-house, and is currently working on five more books. Their decision to republish a book, and update it in the process, is based on the hit count or the popularity of the book in the Open Textbook Library database. They also check to see whether the content of the book, such as images, is openly licensed. Another means by which they have been able to build the robustness of the Open Textbook is to ask institutions for supplementary or ancillary materials, and make this available to instructors. So far, responses to these calls have been limited, with only one institution providing supplementary material, but Shane hopes this will pick up as OER becomes more popular. Shane explained that these materials are placed in a restricted Google Drive, and are only shared with a faculty once their affiliation is confirmed. Since this process might get cumbersome with time, Karen suggested Proola as an alternative tool.

Kristen Munger, associate dean in the School of Education at SUNY Oswego, brought the author and editor perspective to this process. In her work with other authors using the SUNY system, she has found that even the most minor things in an Open Textbook require maintenance – for example, hyperlinks. Dead links are not helpful to students or faculty using the textbook, and need to be checked regularly. Any errors that are also flagged once the textbook has been adapted is helpful for updating the book. Kristen acknowledged that the Open Textbook provides a lot of flexibility to preserve its lifespan, meaning that it can be updated more easily than a traditional print textbook. However, at the same time, this poses certain challenges: How do you label a new edition of an Open Textbook? How is a new edition different from a revision of the book? Can you easily identify where you are in the process of updating the book?

Karen directed some of Kristen’s questions to the other participants. Alina Slavik from OpenStax jumped in, saying that for them, revisions refer to errata changes, while major content changes warrant a new edition. Alina pointed to an errata tool, allows people to submit suggestions for correction, displays a public list of errata that have been spotted, and allows individuals to see how errors have been dealt with. OpenStax also provide release notes accompanying each PDF that documents the changes made to that revision or edition.

Another participant wondered how best to deal with dead links, and how often these need to be checked.  Alina suggested a program called Spider, that crawls through links monthly and notifies them when it catches a 404 error. Further, she says that OpenStax uses a redirect to an external link (eg.: http://www.openstaxcollege.org/l/24detplaceval), which means that they can update the link internally when needed without having to update the content. Regarding frequency, Alina added that the subject matter of a textbook is a good indicator of how often it needs checking. Kristen brought up the idea of having the author involved to care for the book, and implement changes like these, over a span of 5 years after the book’s release. Lauri said that BCcampus doesn’t have a system in place as yet, but just corrects the dead links as they are reported.

Other questions from participants included: How does an instructor ensure that students are using the most up-to-date version? Kristen said that instructors who are adapting the book can update it for their course, and in this manner, would be using the most “up-to-date” version. Lauri agreed, saying that it is up to the faculty member who adapts the book and in fact, this is a useful skill for an instructor to have. Participants asked if there are built-in versioning systems to track the life of an Open Textbook. Shane mentioned that an easier method of versioning is needed, and Hugh responded saying that a version control mechanism is in the works at Pressbooks, where the book’s metadata would capture and reflect information about its particular version.

 

The session concluded with the agreement that the driving force behind both the creation and upkeep of Open Textbooks are groups of willing and motivated people. It is critical to ensure the survival of Open Textbooks by working together, and thus ensure that OER creation is scalable in the long term. If you have any thoughts or resources you would like to share, please post them in the Rebus Forum.

Resources

August Office Hours: Metadata for Open Textbooks

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

Wednesday Aug. 30, 2 p.m. EST

Guest Speakers: Laura Dawson and Naomi Eichenlaub

What are best practices for open textbook metadata, in order to maximize discoverability and account for the utility and remixability of openly licensed materials? How might we standardize metadata across open textbooks? What attributes should be included? How should metadata be handled across multiple versions of textbooks?

RSVP for the session. (Note that the session will be recorded.)

If you have any questions, or have difficulty entering the call, email us at contact@rebus.community.

 

Office Hours Recap & Video: Accessibility in Open Textbooks

Are you a professor, librarian, or staff member looking for ways to prioritize accessibility in OER? This month’s Office Hours session on best practices for accessibility in open textbooks will help you do just that! Watch the video recording, or read a recap.


Accessibility in Open Textbooks was the subject of this month’s Office Hours, organized by Rebus Community and the Open Textbook Network.

Watch the video, or read a recap of this session below.

Hugh McGuire of Rebus Community introduced the guest speakers, who included Josie Gray, BCcampus; Krista Greear, University of Washington; Jess Mitchell, OCAD University; and Michelle Reed, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Each speaker presented a five-minute perspective on accessibility that included how they make open content accessible at their institution.

Josie Gray is an Open Textbook accessibility editor with BCcampus. She performs post-publication edits to open textbooks to ensure the content conforms to Web accessibility guidelines. Josie uses a screen reader, which uses markup of a web page to make things accessible to non-sighted users, to test the accessibility of the textbooks. She stresses that fluency in HTML is not needed to make open content accessible, especially in Pressbooks. She mentioned some accessibility best practices for markup, including adding link text, using table headers, adding captions and alt tags for images, and including long descriptions for images that would need this detail to understand if you weren’t able to see them. Josie advised authors to avoid conveying information through colour. She suggested BCcampus’ Accessibility Toolkit as a good starting point for those new to thinking about basic best practices to implement for accessibility.

Jess Mitchell, senior manager of research and design at IDRC, OCAD University, said there are a number of ways to make content accessible, including the best practices Josie mentioned. Jess pushed participants to go beyond checklists, and also think about the ecosystem that is required to make a piece of content accessible. “We want to start to think about pedagogically, how do you think about presenting materials in a way that can make them accessible.” She also talked about creating not just accessible materials, but accessible materials that “create an opportunity of discovery for the learner.”

Michelle Reed is an open education librarian from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. She encouraged attendees to think of ways to prioritize accessibility in their institutions. Michelle said she aspires to limit or eliminate the need for commercial textbook remediation by making high-quality OER alternatives that are innately accessible. She mentioned that the use of materials remediated to be accessible is limited to students with a registered disability, when in fact making content more accessible and multi-modal could benefit all students.

Krista Greear is the assistant director for disability resources for students at the University of Washington. She has been working to make course materials accessible for the past five years. Krista works mainly with the remediation side of things, and manages a unit that provides closed captioning for course videos and other support for students with disabilities. “Accessibility is really giving students with disabilities the same right to succeed or fail as any other student,” she said. She talked about creating materials or retrofitting materials to be device agnostic, ability agnostic, and access to technology agnostic–or at least materials that can be easily turned into something that is readily usable by anyone. Krista reminded us about the various contexts in which students might use open textbooks, such as reading a textbook on the bus, or on a mobile device, and how these environments should be taken into consideration during their production. She said she believes the line between video and document content formats will blur further as textbooks become more interactive. Krista also advocated for accessibility practitioners to work alongside faculty and content creators in order to make accessibility possible as materials are created, not after the fact.

Karen Lauritsen of the Open Textbook Network mentioned that OTN had accessibility resources available in the recently released Authoring Open Textbooks Guide.

Hugh invited participants to join the Rebus Community Working Group on Accessibility to collectively build both checklists for accessibility and ways to integrate best practices into the authoring process.

Participants wanted to know whether speakers had a sample intake form with accessibility questions that professors/instructional designers could use when authoring an open textbook–something that would help authors think about accessibility considerations as they create content. Karen shared the intake form from the Authoring Guide, but cautioned that it may need revising for individual circumstances.

Participants talked about accessibility and interactive STEM content, especially for translating interactive visual models from an HTML5 canvas to a tactile learning experience. Jess pointed towards PhET, and Krista suggested the ITACCESS group and the ATHEN listserv as additional resources. Other questions were about accessible design in Google Docs – Grackle came up as a popular resource – and the community response to efforts to make OERs accessible. Our special guests agreed unanimously that response was positive, while they mentioned that convincing professors to devote time to remediating documents or recruiting volunteers was challenging.

Hugh inquired how much time our guests spent remediating textbooks. Michelle ran some numbers, and found that from April 1 to date, she and her students had spent 1,800 hours remediating 109 textbooks and 100 hours captioning videos. She said that it takes them 100 pages/hr to remediate non-STEM materials, while it takes 10 pages/hr to remediate STEM content. Michelle also stressed that due to copyright and funding restrictions, their work is not shareable with other universities. (So if another student needs the same textbook remediated, their institution would have to start from scratch, a key reason why she said accessibility should be built into textbooks from the get-go.)

The Rebus Working Group will continue the conversation around accessibility. Front of mind will be ways to make open textbooks accessible in the creation process and educate authors/faculty and institutions about why this matters. Interested in taking part? Join the Working Group on Accessibility.

July Office Hours: Keeping Open Textbooks Up to Date

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours: Keeping Open Textbooks Up to Date

Guest Speakers: Lauri Aesoph, BCcampus; Shane Nackerud, University of Minnesota Libraries; Kristen Munger, SUNY Oswego

Wednesday, July 26, 2 p.m. EST

RSVP

Technology enables open textbooks to become living documents with longer lifespans than traditionally published textbooks. With that in mind, how do we care for open textbooks in the long term? How do we systematically ensure that new editions are created and that instructors know up-to-date versions are available? This session will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities of maintaining open textbooks.

RSVP for the session. Click https://zoom.us/j/382553244 to join the session day of. (Note that the session will be recorded.)

If you have any questions, or have difficulty entering the call, email us at contact@rebus.community.

Office Hours Image