Category: Resources

Resources for people producing open textbooks.

New Resource from the Rebus Community: Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students

Are you interested in doing an open pedagogy project to have your class create an open textbook or open educational resource? This new Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students, from Rebus Community, will help!

At Rebus Community, we’ve heard a lot about projects that involve students in the creation of open textbooks.

In many cases, these were classroom projects with robust learning objectives. In others, students collaborated with professors as research assistants, TAs, or a similar role. Some of these resulted in completely new OER; others expanded upon existing resources.

The more we learned, the more we got excited for the possibilities when students get involved in the production of open textbooks. We decided to share these stories, and some related resources, in hopes of both inspiring and equipping others to follow suit.

The result is the Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students, developed in collaboration with students and faculty who have been at the forefront of such projects.

This new resource contains:

  • An introduction to open pedagogy from experts Robin DeRosa, director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University, and Rajiv Jhangiani, University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Project ideas, case studies, interviews with and first-person accounts from faculty and students engaged in open textbook projects in the classroom
  • Three sample assignments for creating or updating open textbooks from faculty who have done such projects
  • Resources such as a guide to CC licensing, an MOU for students and faculty
  • And more!

As with everything we do, this is a first edition that we plan to expand on in the future, so please let us know if you would like to see something added in future, or have something to contribute yourself!

You can leave feedback on the book using, or let us know your thoughts by replying to this thread in the Rebus Community Forum.

We’d like to once again thank all the contributors that made this guide possible, and to all future open pedagogy explorers, we wish you luck! If you are embarking on an open textbook project with your students, please let us know in the forum as well — we’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

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.

Best Practices: Making Open Textbooks With Students

In our January Office Hours, special guests Robin DeRosa, chair of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University, Steel Wagstaff, instructional technology consultant at UW-Madison, and Amanda Coolidge, senior manager of open education at BCcampus, spoke about their experiences working with students to create open textbooks.

Robin spoke about her experiences working with students to develop The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature as well as an open textbook for a first-year seminar looking at student retention from a student perspective. Steel discussed two UW-Madison projects where faculty and students have engaged with local community organisations to create open resources. In one case, architecture students created an open textbook on local examples of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and in another, museum studies students worked with a local museum to create an open catalog for an upcoming exhibition. Amanda and her team at BCcampus have overseen a few projects where students have contributed to everything from adapting an OpenStax economics textbook to contributing to a psychology question bank.

The three talked about pedagogy, faculty responsibilities, student rights and agreements when students work on open textbooks and OER projects.

One of the key threads that emerged was the need for students to have agency over their choice of license–meaning they’re not forced into an open license without understanding what it is, and the alternatives.

Robin said she handles this by giving her students choices: They can choose whether to openly license their work or not, and if they do choose an open license, they can choose which license to use. (But if their chosen license is not compatible with the other licenses, their contributions may not get into the finished book, she said, citing the more restrictive CC ND license as one example.)

Students also get the option to use a pseudonym.

“You might have people who want to be in the open but they don’t want to develop their own digital identity attached to their real identity,” Robin said. “But if you’re going to allow that as an option you just have to understand enough about how privacy works on the web and data so that you’re not offering them some false sense of privacy that isn’t actually authentic.”

Robin said over the three courses in which she has focused on open, she has only had one student keep their coursework fully private inside the LMS.

“I don’t think there’s any problem giving them all of that choice. It only works to reinforce the open pedagogy, which is that you are in the driver’s seat and you have control over what you do,” she said.

Steel said he has several considerations when faculty work with students to build an open resource. The first is the students’ right to privacy under FERPA. He suggested several options to protect this federally mandated right of students.

  1. Get FERPA waivers from the students.
  2. Make the open resource and credit the students who contributed, but without identifying that they were part of a specific course.
  3. Allow students to use pseudonyms when building the open resource.
  4. All of the above.

He also mentioned the students’ intellectual property rights (i.e. copyright) to what they create. “In part I think open pedagogy is empowering them to say, ‘hey this is your content. What do you want to do with it?’” Steel said.

When publishing an openly licensed book, he said, “our strategy was that we wanted to obtain consensus on the license.”

He also talked with students about the attribution component of the license and encouraged students to think about how they wanted their work to be cited and attributed.

He noted that students should be able to choose not to use the open license and still get credit for the course and meet its educational goals.

Amanda said open pedagogy provides a great opportunity to teach digital literacy to students around the concept of openness.

“What does it mean to contribute back to the public good, and is that something you want to do or is that something you feel restricted by?”

One of the outcomes of the session was a decision that we at Rebus would organize the creation of a brief guide to practices and pedagogy when working with students on open textbooks and OER. Rajiv Jhangiani, senior open education research and advocacy fellow at BC Campus and Jeremy Smith, digital projects manager in scholarly communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst as well as Steel, Amanda, and Robin, volunteered to contribute.

If you have thoughts on what should be included or experiences of your own to share, please let us know by replying to the post about this project.

And if you missed the Office Hours session, you can catch the Q&A portion on video. Watch the replay of Office Hours.

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:

Office Hours Video: Making Open Textbooks With Students

In our first Office Hours session of the year, special guests Robin DeRosa, Steel Wagstaff, Amanda Coolidge spoke about their experiences working with students to create open textbooks.

Thanks so much to the 38 who attended.

And a hearty thank you again to our speakers Robin DeRosa, Steel Wagstaff and Amanda Coolidge and to our partner on this series, Open Textbook Network.

If you missed part of the session or had to leave early, you may be interested in this video of the Q&A.


What is Accessibility?

At Rebus, we’re committed to ensuring that all Open Textbooks coming through the Rebus process are accessible. In fact, we are working on building accessibility right into the authoring process.

What do we mean by accessibility?

Accessibility is the term used for, roughly, “making it easy for people with disabilities (say people with visual impairments, people with learning disabilities, among others) to access content.” See:

In general the web is good at this … there is markup “behind” the text that you see on a webpage, and that markup (if done correctly) is semantic, meaning it tells you things about the kind of content you are reading. (This is not the case with, for example, a paper book, many PDFs, and some EPUBs).

For instance, in Pressbooks, you get markup that looks something like:

<h1 class=“chapter-title”>Chapter  Title</h1>

<h2>Section title</h2>

Some content.

<h3>Subsection title</h3>

More content.

Usually that semantic markup is translated into visual styling (bold text, etc.), so that a reader can distinguish different chapter/section levels, and this information is processed “automatically” as part of reading.

In the case, for instance, of a visually impaired user of content, who is using a screen reader (software that “reads” the text out loud to the user), the fact that the content uses semantic markup means that the screen reader tool “knows” that h1 is  a chapter title, h2 is a section title etc.

Another common use case is “alt tags” on images … which in good accessibility practice can/should describe the image so that someone using a screen reader can be told what is in the image automatically, even if they cannot see it.

Next: Read about what we’re doing to ensure the accessibility of open textbooks created with Rebus support.

Office Hours Recap & MOU Feedback

Last Wednesday, we met for our monthly Office Hours session to discuss MOUs between institutions and faculty undertaking open textbook projects, and to begin the process of creating a new template MOU that can be used by open textbook creators across the globe.

Out of the discussion came several key areas that an MOU must address:

  • Intellectual property rights
  • Remuneration
  • Liability
  • Timetables (with flexibility built-in)
  • Multi-university collaborations

With these general requirements in mind, we will be drafting a new MOU template that can be used and adapted by open textbook practitioners globally. But first, we are seeking feedback on some existing MOU examples that Amanda Coolidge of BCcampus and Billy Meinke of University of Hawaii kindly shared. As the first step toward the template, we invite you to read through their example MOUs and leave comments on the elements you find especially useful (or not).

We have also included a link to the recently launched Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship. This model is intended mainly for other forms of digital scholarship (monographs etc.) and to govern publisher/author relationships, but let us know in the document linked above if you think there’s anything worth adapting for a textbook-specific MOU. (Thanks to Anita Walz for bringing this one to our attention!)

Finally, we realised that broaching the issue of student involvement in open textbook projects raised more questions than it answered, and as a result, have decided to dedicate January’s Office Hours to discussing student involvement in open textbook projects. We have invited Open pedagogy superstar Robin deRosa, as well as several others who have worked with students on open textbooks, to join us and talk about best practices, student rights and agreements. We hope you can join us. That session will take place Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. EST and you can RSVP here.

A huge thanks to everyone who attended the initial meeting and we look forward to keeping the conversation going!


Zoe + the Rebus Team