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 & 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


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 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

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Office Hours Recap & Video: OER Workflows for Open Textbooks

In this month’s Office Hours, organized by Rebus Community and the Open Textbook Network, special guests and participants discussed their experiences with OER workflows.

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

Guests included Allison Brown, SUNY Geneseo; Rebel Cummings-Sauls, Kansas State University; Billy Meinke, University of Hawaii; and Anthony Palmiotto, OpenStax.

Karen Lauritsen of the Open Textbook Network introduced this month’s guests, asking them to briefly describe the processes they use when making open textbooks.

Billy Meinke, an OER technologist at UHawaii, works with faculty at his institution to shepherd them through the process of creating OERs. He shared an OER workflow diagram that he created, which provides a high-level view of the major steps involved in adopting and adapting an OER: priming, pre-production, design, development, and publishing. In order to make for more efficient workflows, Billy said, OER training at all UHawaii campuses also now includes Pressbooks training, to make individuals comfortable with the software they use for book production.  

Rebel Cummings-Sauls is the director for the Centre for Advancement of Digital Scholarship at Kansas State University and specializes in copyright and Open Access. KSU provides grant funding for faculty to create open access textbooks and resources. Rebel said KSU prefers faculty to complete the resources commissioned within a year, though projects can take longer. Payment is one incentive she uses to keep projects on track. Rebel mentioned that one factor that can cause delays is that faculty members often want more rounds of private feedback on their textbook before it goes public.

Anthony Palmiotto is the editorial director at OpenStax, which creates open textbooks that are competitive with market-leading texts for specific college courses and makes them available free on the OpenStax website, generally under CC BY licenses. The OpenStax workflow begins with preparation: collecting market research, competitive benchmarking, educational research, length requirements, and so on. OpenStax involves faculty in this process, reaching out to them via surveys and at conferences. Often those who get involved in this way will continue to work on the project in later stages. OpenStax selects a team of faculty to work on the book as authors and reviewers. Later stages of production include revisions, originality checking, art rendering, fact checking and accessibility checks, and XML production. Anthony said OpenStax books typically take 18 months to 2 years to reach completion.

Allison Brown joined us from OpenSUNY, and described the production process for SUNY’s open textbooks. After a manuscript has been received, the workflow includes peer review, author revisions, copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, and finally publication. She said pain points included transitions (when a manuscript moves between collaborators such as writers and editors; or across platforms, such as from Word to Pressbooks) and copy editing. She said it’s important to forewarn authors of the expectations of them post-copy editing. To make the workflow more manageable, OpenSUNY conducts a thorough needs assessment of each manuscript prior to production. Allison says one common thread that ensures successful book projects is healthy communication with authors. She is transparent with authors, staff and freelancers, and clearly outlines expectations at various stages of the production process. She also mentioned the importance of someone acting as project manager to ensure projects stay on track.

The ensuing discussion touched upon a number of topics. Among these, the group discussed how to involve students in beta use and testing of books post-publication. Rebel said her institution obtains feedback on the books through several methods–evaluations, surveys, quizzes and forms from students whose faculty use the text in their class–and that they receive the bulk of student feedback and input in the first semester of a book’s use. Participants asked how OpenStax operationalizes originality checks and incorporates ancillary resources. Anthony said they use iThenticate and conduct spot checks of sections of copy with Google. Participants asked whether proofreading, copy editing, and design is assigned to freelancers or done in-house. Allison and Rebel both said that it varies with project, with Allison adding that she sometimes outsources cover design to students. One of the major themes that came out of this discussion was the importance of educating faculty and students about CC licenses and their implications, as well as copyright and fair use guidelines. New Prairie Press’ Permission to Publish was shared as a resource. 

There was a lot of talk regarding guidelines for peer review and ways to standardize the review process for open textbooks. Many resources were shared, including Rebus’ Peer Review Working Group, OTN’s chapter on Peer Review in their Guide to Authoring Open Textbooks, OpenSUNY’s guidelines, OpenUMN’s rubric, and UHawaii’s guide. The Rebus working group on Peer Review will delve further into these issues (and hopefully formalize some best practices), and we encourage you to join!

If you have anything more to add to these discussions, please join the Rebus Community Forum to continue the conversation. 

A transcript of this Office Hours is available here.

Additional Resources:

June Office Hours: Accessibility in Open Textbooks

Monday, June 5, at 3 p.m. EST

Topic: Accessibility in Open Textbooks

Guest Speakers: Josie Gray, BCcampus; Jess Mitchell, OCAD University; Michelle Reed, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; Krista Greear, University of Washington

What are the best practices to ensure accessibility in open textbooks? In this session, we will talk about methods to ensure accessibility during authoring and post-authoring processes. We’ll also discuss how to audit the accessibility of existing open textbooks.

RSVP for the session. Click 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

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Peer Review Working Group & Office Hours Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Office Hours: OER Workflows for Open Textbooks

Monday, May 1, at 3 p.m. EST

Topic: OER Workflows for Open Textbooks

Guest Speakers:

Allison Brown, SUNY Geneseo; Rebel Cummings-Sauls, Kansas State University; Dianna Fisher, Oregon State; Billy Meinke, University of Hawaii; and Anthony Palmiotto, OpenStax

Is there a typical process and timeline for producing an open textbook? Where are the pain points? How could the process be made more efficient? How are staff and faculty working on these projects managing the tasks and timelines involved? How is progress tracked and momentum sustained?

RSVP. Click to join the session day of.

(Note that the session will be recorded.)

If you have any questions, email us at

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Office Hours Recap: Peer Review for Open Textbooks

In this month’s Rebus Community & Open Textbook Network Office Hours we were joined by special guests to discuss peer review for open textbooks.

Anthony Palmiotto, Editorial Director at OpenStax, discussed the OpenStax approach to peer review, the first part of which follows a traditional in-development review model, similar to that of the major commercial publishers. During this process, they work to ensure a mix of different types of reviewers, profiles and representation of different regions, especially for disciplines where geographic and political balance is important. The second part of their review process involves a post-development feedback mechanism where anyone can submit feedback on a book. This feedback is then reviewed by faculty, with minor revisions being made monthly, and major revisions yearly. OpenStax aim to be as transparent as possible with these processes, listing reviewers at the beginning of each book, which also helps to establish credibility.

Karen Lauritsen of the Open Textbook Network shared the OTN review process, in which faculty who attend an OTN workshop are asked to complete a review of a textbook of their choice in the Open Textbook Library. Karen indicated that this process reassures faculty of the quality of available open textbooks, and encourages adoptions. She also noted that because the Library brings together texts from a wide range of sources, they have all undergone differing levels and methods of pre-production review. This highlights the current variability of open textbook review processes. Later in the session it was suggested that there might be an opportunity to standardise this in such a way that is useful for everyone working on open textbooks, similar to the Creative Commons licenses (i.e. providing a shorthand indicator of the type/level of review done to a book).

Deb Quentel from CALI (The Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction) shared her approach to finding reviewers, which is to call on authors for suggestions first, then on CALI’s editorial board of about 60 faculty and librarians, all with different areas of expertise. Deb gave some great advice for finding ‘strangers’ to bring in as reviewers, looking online for those writing and teaching in related areas. Once found, reviewers are given some guideline questions and two weeks to produce a 1-2 page memo, and are offered a small honorarium in compensation. Deb also mentioned that CALI often asks subject matter experts to proofread chapters as well, adding a second layer of review that can catch other errors or make additional suggestions.

Jon Udell joined us from Hypothesis and gave a short demonstration of how the current Hypothesis annotation tools can be used to review content. He also indicated a strong interest in engaging with the Community and finding test cases for Hypothesis’ current and future tools, so that those using them can be involved with the development.

Hugh McGuire of the Rebus Community capped off the session by framing the Rebus approach to the question of how best to manage peer review for open textbooks. He reiterated the Rebus objective to develop community-driven processes, and leveraging collaboration as the key to making open textbooks successful at scale. He discussed the different kinds of review we might expect to see develop, from a formal/traditional peer review, to an open review later in the publication process, to ongoing feedback from users of the book to the author. Last, he closed with an invitation to all who are interested in the topic to help us figure out what this should all look like by joining a working group.

The discussion continued on once the speakers wrapped up, touching on compensation, building community around books, the importance of transparent processes and the possibility of creating standardised measures or levels of peer review, similar to the Creative Commons license, where there’s a widely recognised ‘badge’ as a shorthand. The working group will pursue these questions and ideas and we encourage you to join us!

You can see the full video of the session here:

Next Office Hours: Peer Review for Open Textbooks 

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

Wednesday, March 29, 10 a.m. PST / 1 p.m. EST

Guest Speakers: Karen Lauritsen, Open Textbook Network; Daniel Williamson, OpenStax; Jon Udell,; Deb Quentel, CALI; and Hugh McGuire, Rebus Foundation

What should peer review look like for open textbooks? Guest speakers Karen Lauritsen of Open Textbook Network, Daniel Williamson of OpenStax, Jon Udell of, Deb Quentel of CALI, and Hugh McGuire of Rebus Foundation will talk about their organizations’ approach to peer review for open textbooks. What does / should the peer review process look like in this space? Why is it important? How can we ensure quality of open educational resources?

RSVP with this CORRECTED LINK and join the session at

(Note that if you had trouble with the RSVP form earlier, that issue should now be fixed.) 

Office Hours Video: Recruiting Open Textbook Authors

In our February Office Hours session, we talked about Recruiting Authors for Open Textbooks with guest speakers Kevin Ahern, Oregon State University; Karen Bjork, Portland State University; Caitie Finlayson, University of Mary Washington; and Amy Hofer, Open Oregon.

Guests included both faculty authors and open textbook program managers. The conversation covered tenure, promotion, stipends and other ways universities. and related organizations can incentivize the creation of open textbooks.

Thanks again to our speakers and those who attended.

If you missed the session, you can watch the video here.

Next Office Hours: Recruiting Authors for Open Textbooks

Recruiting Authors for Open Textbooks

Feb. 22, 11 a.m. PST

Guest Speakers: Kevin Ahern, Oregon State University; Karen Bjork, Portland State University; Caitie Finlayson, University of Mary Washington; and Amy Hofer, Open Oregon

In this Office Hours session hosted by Open Textbook Network and Rebus Community, we’ll talk about recruiting authors to create open textbooks. Guests include both faculty authors and open textbook program managers. We’ll discuss tenure, promotion, stipends, and other ways universities and related organizations can incentivize the creation of open textbooks.

RSVP for the session. You can join the call here: