An Update from the Team: Part I

A lot has been going on here at Rebus headquarters in Montreal, and we felt like it was time to give you an update about some of the exciting things that are happening. Over the coming weeks, keep your eyes on our Twitter feed and on the Rebus Community Newsletter, where all the details will be shared.

For now, we’re overdue for an update on the progress of our platform, including how new projects can get involved! As you might have seen, our team has been growing, and we’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our experiences over the past couple of years. We’ve also been checking in against our long-term mission to support collaborative open textbook publishing at a large scale, and in a sustainable way.

In service of this mission, we started at a small scale, working closely with around 30 open textbook projects. Though this may seem counter-intuitive, it was very necessary to develop and deepen our understanding of the publishing process, from start to finish. Throughout this time, we have been carefully documenting that process in such a way as to make it replicable, adaptable, and accessible for anyone working to create OER. The continuing mission now has us focusing on how to support even more projects, which means figuring out how to remove the biggest barrier to doing so: the limitations on capacity that came from our initial high-touch, hands-on approach to project support. Luckily, with what is coming next for the Rebus Community, we think we’ve blown open those limits!

Importantly, the renovations we are making will enable the immense expertise, knowledge, and experience that exists in the OER community to become even more widely shared. To date, we have been responding directly to questions and challenges raised by the projects with which we have been engaged, and working closely with them to find solutions. Now, we want to continue that exchange, but with more projects and more people coming together to find the solutions we need as a community. And, by doing this work openly, our collective resources, tools, models, and practices can be accessible to all those involved in OER—both new and experienced alike—to use, reuse, revise, and redistribute!

One of the key resources on our platform is the documentation of our accumulated, collective publishing experience, The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). Now that it is out in the world and continuing to grow, it has become a living repository of knowledge. We are adding to it over time, creating content a number of different formats.

In terms of tools, we released a new version of our projects software in May 2018, which gave open textbook projects a public presence online, well before release. Importantly, it enabled project teams to structure their work processes and publicize what was happening. We recruited an intrepid and brilliant group of project teams to test it out, which has led to a few key improvements. It also helped us see that there was a significant need for robust communications features (e.g., likes, replies, user tagging, direct messaging). After all, the people who come together around a project need ways to talk to each other—it’s a key part of turning a project team into a project community!

So this brings us to 2019, and an exciting next step in the evolution of Rebus Community. To build up a little suspense, we’re going to wait a week to share the second installment of this blog post. Suffice it to say, it has to do with the ways we think about open publishing models and practices, and the ways that we (all) can put them to use in expanding the OER universe, while sustainably honouring the inherent value of openness.

January 2019 Office Hours: OER Policy Redux (Audio Transcript)

Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. Huge thanks to Mei Lin for producing the captions and transcript for this recording.

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in this transcript, please contact Apurva ( as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Billy Meinke-Lau
  • Jessica Norman
  • Michelle Brailey
  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Jonathan Poritz
  • Mark McBride
  • Anita Walz

Zoe: So, we will be picking up on some of the threads out of that conversation and then also exploring a few new things as well. There’s an awful lot to talk about on the topic, so I’m excited to see how this goes and where we end up. Partly as well ’cause I did miss the first one. So, I’ve just been recapping myself on really interesting conversations coming out. So, for those of you who don’t know, my name is Zoe from the Rebus Community.

And we are delighted as always to partner with the OTN on these Office Hours sessions. And so, now I’ll hand you over to Karen to introduce our speakers for the day.

Karen: Thanks, Zoe. My name is Karen Lauritsen I’m a managing director with the Open Textbook Network, and like the Rebus team we are delighted to partner on these monthly Office Hours sessions, when we talk informally about issues related to open textbook publishing. As a reminder, these conversations are really community driven, and so if there are topics that you would like to cover in the future, things that you think of, please let us know, either in the chat or drop us a note in the future.

Today, our guests are going to share details about working within their campus, system, state, and regional context to develop OER policy. Today, we’re going to hear about other experiences, developing publishing policy, rolling out institutional OER policy via training, developing institutional goals to support open pedagogy, and pushing back against the collection and use of personal data along with other topics that will emerge.

We have three guests today, Billy and Jessica are returning from the July session and then, Michelle is new to join us. And then, I’m sure there’s many people who are in this call who can also share their experiences. So, I’m going to go ahead and give a brief bio of our three guests, and then turn it over to them. Our format here today is as always brief and informal. Our three guests will share three to five minutes about their experience, and then we’re going to open it up to all of you to drive the conversation with your questions and comments.

So, joining us today are Billy Meinke, he’s the open educational resources technologist at Outreach College and the Dean’s Office at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. We also have Jessica Norman, she’s the e-learning librarian and library liaison in construction, hospitality and tourism at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. And then, we have Michelle Brailey, who’s digital initiatives projects librarian at the University of Alberta. We’re going to start with Billy, so I’m going to turn it over to you.

Billy: All right, good morning, or good afternoon everybody. My name is Billy Meinke-Lau. And I am the OER technologist for the Outreach College at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. So, I’m just going to give my spiel right now about open policy, okay. Great, so a lot of my work has to do with building textbooks with faculty and supporting technology that allows that and looking at processes that support that. But what has come into play inevitably is policy.

And so, at two levels, I’ve had to work with policy at the institutional level. When I dug in and started to look at the existing textbooks that faculty were using and the shift towards inclusive access and textbook rentals, I found some problematic things. Having to do with the terms of service and the privacy policies associated with textbook rentals and the like. And so, I did quite a bit of digging and I’ve worked with counsel and I’ve worked with other policy makers to figure out what to do with this.

Essentially, at the first stage we are giving students more of a heads up in terms of what types of data collection, personal information is collected by publishers, when they do click through the terms of service, when they open their digital rentals. And the next step will be working with publishers to bring their terms of service and privacy policies in line. Because at the end of the day, data collection and extracting information about our students, about how they learn doesn’t really have anything to do with their learning.

And so, separating that and their business models associated with that from the learning itself and from the classroom experience has been really important. At a state level, here in Hawaii, things have been interesting. Last year, we had a surprise OER bill at the state legislature. And nobody saw it coming, and it was more or less the result of our students’ governments speaking with senators about what they really care about, and textbook affordability was one of the main items.

And so, we had a bill that we had to watch carefully as it made it through the legislature. That bill did not make it through and fell out of Senate. We’re not quite sure how it all happened, but I can drop a link into the chat if you’d like to read more about that. But the good news is that we have two fresh OER bills that were just introduced at the state legislature last week. So, both the house and the senate at the Hawaii State Legislature are interested in supporting OER, which is wonderful.

And after what happened last year, both chambers are now more or less in line in terms of knowing better how to support OER. Both bills at this point, they haven’t accepted testimony or anything significant yet. But both bills are calling for a taskforce or a council to be set up to assess the needs system wide, state wide here in Hawaii for OER. The University of Hawaii is the state university.

There are 10 campuses, I’m at the flagship campus, and the state legislation basically is to do a survey and say, “You know, if we want to do OER system wide how do we go about doing that? What’s it going to cost? Who has to be involved? What’s the nitty gritty of getting this done?” And so, having support at the top down level is really nice. And it’s giving us an opportunity to interact with legislators and open conversations about how they can support the university in a broader way, and how OER is part of that.

And so, I will drop in links to the two measures, if anybody is interested in actually getting in and taking a look. First one is our house bill and the second one is the senate bill. And if you look at the first link that I dropped in, there is a link from there to SPARC’s open education policy playbook. And inside that playbook they made a few recommendations as to at the state level what states might adopt in terms of legislation that support OER.

And one of the key pieces is setting up a taskforce, and another one is a grant program. And so, there is a possibility of that at this time. In terms of the two bills and the similarities and differences, those are calling for a taskforce assessment, about what would it take to do OER across the entire state. This senate bill is more specific in terms of specifying who is going to be on that taskforce.

And they’ve asked the vice chancellors of academic affairs from each campus, which is pretty hard to pull together. They did not yet add or designee to the end of it, which would be really nice. So, they specify who they want to be on the taskforce, but they actually have not included on that taskforce information technology IT people. They have not included a student voice, they’ve not included accessibility, or disabilities, that sort of expertise on the taskforce.

We may be asking for that at a later point. But at any rate, at the institutional level, helping students make better decisions, and helping faculty be more aware of data collection with regard to the kinds of textbooks that they may have been using, that they may be moving away from. That’s one part of it. And then, at the state level, on the policy front looking at the attention that the legislators are putting on OER as it approaches textbook affordability.

And helping make sure that legislation that goes through is actually useful, it’s actionable, it’s something that we can work with. And something that other states and jurisdictions might be able to model. Great. I will pass it along.

Karen: Thank you. Super. Jessica, I’m going to turn things over to you, if you want to unmute and turn your camera on, in case it’s off. There you are, we see you.

Jessica: Sure. So, hopefully the sound is okay. Excellent. So, as she said, my name is Jessica Norman, and I’m at the SAIT, otherwise known as Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, in Calgary Alberta Canada. We’re a two-year polytechnic, applied education institution with approximately 11,000 students enrolled, if that gives you a sense of our size. I’m currently the e-learning librarian, here in our library.

And OER is part of my position description, so it’s an explicit part of my job. So, when I was here in July, the discussion was around a newly adopted institutional policy. So, in May 2018, our board of governors approved an institutional OER policy here on campus. It clearly stated that our institution promoted the use of OER, which was a real change from previous culture.

It specified the type of open license that was preferred, clarified some of the other procedures around adopting, adapting, and creating OER. And also, clarified training and support measures, so that was really big for us. Since then, in the academic year we’ve really seen a transition on our campus from what is OER? To how do we do this effectively? So, the policy was really instrumental, at least for us to raise awareness with not only our faculty, but also our academic chairs and administrators and even with our students.

And it really shifted our culture to an answer of yes when administrators or faculty were thinking about new curriculum projects or developing content that OER was an option. What that means in a practical sense is we’ve seen an explosion of OER activity on campus. We had 13 small scale projects for adoption or adaption this Fall. And another five course textbook replacement projects, where the course went fully OER for all materials.

One of the projects that I worked on over summer and then Fall was to replace the traditional textbook in 88 sections of our communication courses. So, that was an immediate impact on 2,300 students this Fall semester. And we’re following that up with an assessment project on student perception and the use of materials. We’ve got approval to share the results from that afterwards.

And then, from a student perspective, we saw our first student association campaign to really educate and promote to the students the value of OER. It riled some people up on campus, it got some interesting rumors going. But it also really opened up some conversations, too with faculty, that we may not have seen otherwise. But the other interesting thing about all this activity, at least from my perspective, is that there was finally an acknowledgement on campus that for OER to be sustainable in the future, it can’t be a one-woman show. (Laughs)

So, I’m the only person on campus with OER in my title, or in my description on campus. And I’ve spent a lot of time this Fall talking to folks about how all aspects of our program so, advocacy, training, project management, content creation, assessment, renewal projects, how we can integrate those into institutional practices in other departments on campus. And one of my main projects starting this Fall is the development of a strategic plan for campus.

So, that we can document how we as an institution are going to support these activities going forward. And that we can distribute out the workload and the time required to make this successful. It looks like that I’ll be able to have those approved by March of this year and be able to really put that out there and start promoting those activities on campus. And also outside of campus with folks to help them better understand what we need to do to make this a really comprehensive program.

So, one of the first examples is simply going to be that we need to have a training program that will allow faculty and staff to have access to information on a scalable platform and it’s not just me giving workshops (laughs). ‘Cause there comes a limit to how many places I can be at once. So, that and several other areas that we’re going to be focusing on will hopefully set a foundation where we’ll have a long-term successful development project here at SAIT. That’s what we have been doing.

Karen: Thanks, Jessica. I’m sure there are several people out there who can identify with the idea of it needing to move beyond a one-person show. (Laughs)

Jessica: Sometimes you get caught by your own success.

Karen: (Laughs) Thank you. I would now like to turn things over to Michelle.

Michelle: Hi, can you hear me okay?

Karen: Yes, we can hear and see you.

Michelle: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for having me here. And thank you Jessica and Billy for sharing your experiences first. So, I’m at the University of Alberta, Canada. So, to give you an idea of the size, this is a large institution. So, there are six campuses, 40,000 students. So, practices and policies are often at a department level and they get quite complex.

So, I don’t have really an institutional wide policy to speak to, but what I thought I could speak to is some of our library publishing practices and how policy fits within that. So, specifically my role is on the library publishing and digital production team in the library. And on campus we also have an existing OER awards program, which is a partnership between the library and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

So, through these funded projects we started to see some needs emerge for OER publishing infrastructure. And that’s something a program we’ve been working to publish and build on our campus. So, working alongside that pilot project, the portfolio I’m in also has a strong existing open publishing program. So, we’ve been working on building our open publishing program, mirroring those existing practices that are already working as best that we can.

So, as well as working on things, practical things like technology, planning, workflows, all that practical stuff. We’ve also been developing memoranda of understanding, so MOU, really just a document that outlines the responsibilities of each partner. So, as the content creators know each other’s responsibilities and it creates an effective partnership. So, where the MOUs within other service is content creator is required to put the MOU before access to our publishing tools.

So, the kinds of things that are included in the MOU so some of our responsibilities are things like providing access to Pressbooks and establishing a unique account, allowing them to transfer content to our servers. We will be updating the software, providing OER hosting across, assigning DOIs, assisting with disability. And it allows for discontinuation of the services with six months’ notice.

For the content creators they’re required to, of course, make their content freely openly available with the CC license, that allows to create derivatives. They must be fully responsible for all aspects of creation and transfer and updating their OER content. They must provide us with contact for one designated contact for their project. And they’re responsible for obtaining if their party permissions are seeking copyright so that’s required.

And of course, they’re also able to discontinue the service with notice, as well. So, policy kind of fits within defining our goal within the libraries and how we’re supporting OER in our campus. Just speaking from what Jessica had mentioned, kind of a latter shift from those one-off workshops all the time, of going in and doing the OER show to being able to have a defined bubble for the services we can provide and where we fit within the OER spectrum on our campus.

Karen: Thank you, Michelle. And if you have examples of the MOU or some of the other resources you were discussing, I’m sure people on the call would really appreciate those links. Okay, now is when we put it to all of you to engage with our guests and ask questions about what they’ve shared so far or add your own stories. So, feel free to do that in the chat, or to unmute.

I think we’re doing okay with our audio and thank you for turning off your cameras, I think that really helps with what we’re all trying to do here in this big group together. So, I have not been monitoring the chat perhaps as closely as others. So, let me know, are there questions outstanding that we should start with here?

Zoe: We did have one in the chat that came while Jessica was speaking, from Cathy asking whether you have provided financial incentive for those projects that you were talking about that have been kicking off at great speed on your campus?

Jessica: So, that is a good question. The answer to that would be that no, we currently do not have a separate funding process or mini-grant process for OER. At our particular institution, the way that we’re currently looking at it is that OER is built into the ongoing curriculum development processes that already exist. The institution felt like their first step was simply to encourage folks to use OER while they’re developing new materials for classes.

And they’ll support that work, so if they get a contract to do a new course development and they develop OER as part of that, then obviously they’re being compensated. But, at this stage at least, they aren’t having a separate grant just for OER development. It is part of our strategic plan, so we’re looking at it as a phase two. But right now, they’re focusing more on existing processes and existing funding.

And then, just the big thing for us is putting the word OER into current grants, so we have curriculum development processes, and we have an in-house grant that’s really interesting. It’s called a Cisco e-learning grant, we offer up to five a year. It’s a $20,000 development grant plus a full semester of off-load time. And OER is now allowed to be one of the possibilities for that. So, I’m trying to be creative with current funding models, rather than getting new funding that we can apply.

Zoe: Thanks for that, that sounds like a great approach working with what’s already there.

Karen: Jessica, just to follow up on something you said in your intro, you mentioned that there is a preferred license, there’s some language around that. Can you talk a little bit about the preferred licenses at your institution?

Jessica: Sure. So, one thing that I should definitely highlight is that being at a two-year polytechnic we have a different model for IP or for intellectual property than maybe at a four-year university. In that our current policies and our faculty contract with our institution state that all work that’s developed during your employment is owned by the institution and not by the faculty member.

So, if we do create content during curriculum development, or other activities that relate to class, the material itself and therefore the license is held by the institution and not by the instructor. The reason why that’s significant for us is because historically that meant then, that the institution or its designee, so someone in our curriculum development group or maybe a dean would declare this is copyrighted, and we can’t or won’t share it.

The policy then, for us, in the Fall or last year was really significant, because it meant that our institution had a declared statement that said the default would be open and not traditional copyright. And therefore, the designee, the curriculum development person or the dean was allowed to then say, “Yes, we will license this through creative commons, and yes, we can make it available.”

So, the language we use right now says that in consultation with their dean or other designee the faculty member will apply the appropriate creative commons license. We as an institution have said that we promote the use of CC BY unless there is some outstanding reason not to. So, we’re not going to say it has to be a completely open license, there might be a few instances why we need it to be non-commercial or something.

But we have it clearly stated that we want it to be CC BY unless there is a compelling reason. And then, there’s a nice statement that says they should consult with me, if they’re not sure what to do and I will help them choose the most open possible license.

Karen: Nice. Billy, there’s a question for you in the chat from Rob, who’s asking about some of the benefits and challenges of getting legislature involved with OER.

Billy: That’s a great question. So, as I mentioned, last year’s OER bill at the state level, it was a surprise, nobody saw it coming. And at first glance, some people were saying, “Well, do we need a bill to make OER work here?” And that was the question we were grappling with this whole time, like is it going to help or hinder our progress with OER? And as the OER bill, as the waves of news spread out across the entire state a lot of people were like, “What’s OER? This is new, what are you guys doing?”

And a lot more people became involved and interested in it. And so, for that reason it was good to have something even just a proposed bill out there for OER. But still the question that we’re struggling with is do we need an OER bill at state level to make OER work here? And I’m leaning towards yes. And mainly it’s because University of Hawaii is a state school, we’re funded largely through the state. We have reporting duties to the state for this funding that they give us. And so, there’s a higher level of accountability.

And this isn’t to say that the state is going to give us funding directly for OER, but there is some oversight of the university’s activities with the state, and we need to improve that relationship, if we can. So, that said, I think setting up a formal taskforce, which is a part of both bills that are on the docket this year, I think that’s a good thing. And I think it will again, raise the accountability level and get more folks at the administration level involved and aware.

And having them help move their resources, people resources, too around to make sure that we have a report, we have a plan, we have a better idea at the system level. Because my work primarily is focused on my campus, but like I said, we have 10 campuses and OER expertise and OER leadership at each campus is a little bit different. And so, if we’re working at the system level top down, and if we can have the grassroots and bottom up support where they meet in the middle, I think that’s the sweet spot.

So, they can look up or over if you will, and say, “Okay, look, we have support from legislators.” And they can look over to the side and say, “Oh our peers are really interested in this, too.” And where they meet, I think that’s where we’re going to see most blossoming, the most blooming, the most really interesting work. But having that accountability and the support and maybe some funding down the line from the state, that’d be really neat.

But yeah, it’s still a toss-up, and not everybody’s in agreement over whether or not we need an OER bill for this to work. I know personally a few folks I work with they don’t think that we need a bill at all, and they’d rather see it move on, and not get passed. But at any rate, just having a bill, having policy at a high level around OER really just brought it to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

And now, they’re more closely associating OER with online learning, as opposed to OER being this amorphous abstract thing that’s on its own. Now, it’s like, “Oh, well, you can do online learning how you would like to do it anyways, and just have the content be open. And it’s a lot of what you want to do anyway.” But yeah, I hope that answered the question.

Karen: Thanks Billy. In the chat, there is a continuation I think Jessica, on your comments about licenses. So, Alexis is asking if a professor doesn’t want others profiting from their work, would that be considered a valid reason to make something NC, for example? Do you see that as taking away academic freedom if the answer is no? Have you ran into any case studies like that, yet?

Jessica: That’s a really interesting question. I just saw that in the chat. Give me a second, I’m reading through that twice. Let’s see. Profiting off the work a valid reason to make something in NC license. I see. And I have to give full props here to Cable Green, Creative Commons, and the rest of that crew, because I took the Creative Commons certificate this past summer. And one of the things that I learned there is that NC doesn’t mean what you think it means necessarily.

And so, I’ve actually spent a decent amount of time on our campus trying to clarify for folks why we want to be as open as possible. How labeling something as NC can really sometimes cause issues with using current material as well as sharing it back out. Because when you start applying an NC SA license, that share alike element can sometimes cause some issues in ways that people don’t expect.

I’ve also at least on our campus had several conversations around what it means to be non-commercial in terms of creating copies and providing students access to print and things like that. We actually did a small revision to our policy, it was officially approved in May with a statement that said that our institution would not print copies for students. Because some of the legal information they had previously was that somehow that would violate an NC and they didn’t want to go near it.

And luckily, I got some information through Creative Commons, in fact it may have been an email from Cable, along with some of the new outcomes from some of the court cases. And we were able to have our copyright officer write a statement in support of printing and providing access to the students in print. And we got a legal brief basically that officially said, “Yes, we can do this, this is still acceptable under NC.”

And so, we were able to have them revise our policy and open that part up and have it republished under the new language that says, “We can print things and that NC doesn’t eliminate that option through say a Xerox center or something.” So, I can’t really answer the question of taking away academic freedom or not. I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that off the top of my head right now.

What I would say though, is that it’s really important to understand clearly what non-commercial really means. And that by locking things down under non-commercial I’ve found that it actually has a much bigger impact than you would originally think of.

Karen: Thanks, Jessica. And I invite anyone else to chime in, if they would like to. I’ve also had similar conversations lately about NC with Cable. So, I’m sure this is a big part of your life, Cable. I’m pausing to see if anyone would like to unmute and speak up.

Billy: I can speak a little bit to the licenses. So, I used to work at Creative Commons with Cable, and so I just want to reemphasize the point that the licenses are the lynchpin of why this is all working, why OER is so impactful. And so, the NC license debate and the case law some of which is still being mulled over, it’s very, very important. You shouldn’t be afraid of copyrights. Not every campus, not every institution has a copyright librarian, or a copyright specialist, we don’t at our institution.

But I’m not sure if we do throughout our entire system. But fortunately, the CC licenses are easy enough to understand, and when folks do have complex questions, there is a community to reach out to to get those questions answered. They usually come with a little disclaimer, like this is not legal advice, I am not your lawyer, but that’s just what they have to do to protect themselves, which is great.

Just to finish that thought, so we do an OER grant program at UH Manoa as well, and there are OER grant programs that are happening at the community college level as well. And we do prefer CC BY as what the license that the folks put on the outputs of their grant. But we do allow other licenses, if there is justification. In one, possibly two cases we did allow NC licenses, when there was content being developed and it hadn’t previously been OER, but they’re making a new version of it, and they wanted to make it OER.

And so, we funded them to do that, and they did choose an NC license, because there was some pressure from a publisher that was considering borrowing in big ways from the work. And they wanted to put that on hold, until they solidified their position and made sure everything was all good to go. And they’re looking at a later point licensing with a more free and more open license. But they’re doing a more tempered approach in the beginning with an NC license, with plans later on to revisit that conversation and to license it more openly.

Zoe: And I wonder if Michelle, you want to jump in? I think you mentioned that you’re allowing licenses, any of the CC licenses apart from ND? And so, I wonder if you could talk maybe about how you came to that position? And I was thinking from what Billy mentioned as well about who’s involved in the shaping of these policies, was that done with consultation with faculty? Or with others within the library system? How do you get to that within your arrangements at the moment?

Michelle: So, we’re fortunate on our campus that we do have a copyright librarian. While building our memorandum of understanding we worked very closely with copyright librarian. Our copyright librarian often our OER community, knowledge of the community. We were also looking at our of understanding we were already using for our OS program, the open journal publishing. And really, just adapting that as possible to fit with our—

So, giving them the freedom to select an appropriate license, but of course, to be an OER in my opinion, it has to not have that ND license. So, the understanding that with each project there will be some consultation to educate and determine the most appropriate licenses. That answer your question? Perfect.

Zoe: It does, thank you. And I think we’ve had another one from Cathy in the chat. And I’m not sure if this is targeted at anyone in particular. But she’s asking to what extent do you expect your creators, grant recipients, etc to participate in subsequent OER advocacy? Do you request it formally or informally? And then, for you Michelle, do you include in the MOU? Anyone want to jump in on that one?

Billy: I will jump in. So, I will say that we’ve had a little bit of a challenge in terms of turning our OER grant recipients into OER champions. And that’s not because they’re not enthusiastic, it’s because they have very little time. So, we’re an R1 research institution, and these faculty, our grants are up to $5,000 to adapt or create a new OER textbook. And in comparison to the other research grants that our faculty might be working under, that’s a drop in the bucket.

They have lots of duties, they have teaching responsibilities, they have to be publishing and this, that, and the other thing. So, what we did was build into the grants that they would be blogging about their experience. And that’s a way to put a marker and document their experience, and even if they’re not necessarily going to be the ones walking down the hallway talking to all their companions about OER, we at least have something to point back to.

And initially, I wanted to have all the faculty who received the OER grants blog on our site, and I realized that they don’t always want to do that. Sometimes they want to have more ownership over it, and that’s totally cool. I’m a huge fan of domain of one’s own, and those sorts of things, owning your own web space. And so, in some cases, we’ve had faculty that deferred to blogging on the Math Department blog, and we can just link to it, that’s great.

And we asked that they openly license that as well, so I can scrape the copy and keep it, in case that ever goes away, that sort of thing. But allowing people to be champions and support others in the departments in their own way, as long as it does sort of fit with the greater vision of having more people involve openness into their practice, and have OER be something they regularly work with, even if they’re not getting grant funding right away or at that point. That’s been our approach.

Michelle: I can jump in as well. So, for our OER awards program, it is part of that program that they’re required to share about their work. So, not as strong as advocacy, but just be open to sharing about their experiences with those projects. And as part of our OER publishing program, we don’t have anything formally established in that regards, yet. But we do have a strong relationship on our campus with our students’ union.

So, they’ve been actually the strongest advocate to pull in those faculty who are involved with OER projects and getting them to share their experiences with students’ union planned events. So, that’s how it’s fit in with the OER creation and advocacy. Actually, our OER advocacy committee is actually chaired by our students’ union. And they actively recruit members across campus who are involved with OER.

Jessica: So, I’m not sure if this is up and running, but I could share from our perspective what we’re doing, kind of like Billy said. We don’t want to formally set the requirements for advocacy, because it can look different to different people. We’re also very aware of the time commitments. I’m at a teaching institution, where our faculty are typically coming from a non-traditional background. So, they’ve been practicing in their profession, they’re plumbers, they’re welders, they’re bakers who are coming to teach.

And so, interesting enough what I find is I have a lot of enthusiastic folks who are adopting or creating content. But when I ask if they’re interested in being more of an advocate or speaking publicly, I often find I run into a lot of concerns about their expertise, and I have to spend time kind of reassuring them from perspective that well, the whole concept of being an impostor syndrome, right? That they’re saying to me, “Well, I’m not good enough at it, yet.”

Or, “I just wrote a video, I’m not really wanting to talk about it from a larger theoretical.” So, what we’ve done is we’ve gotten permission from folks to either record them talking about concepts, so that they can feel comfortable with the content, prep their conversation, maybe even if we need to edit the responses, so that they are okay with that. We’re also asking them not to blog necessarily but to either create a reflection piece, or in some cases we interview them and then write up the results from the interview.

And then, I can use that content to craft posters that we can use around campus with their image, or we can use the video clips during events and presentations. And we find that people are more comfortable doing that kind of work than being live in front of a group and talking about the process or having to find time outside of a class teaching schedule to come to an event. So, those kinds of activities have worked a little better for us.

Karen: Thank you all for sharing your comments. Cable is pointing to Jonathan. Jonathan Poritz, if you’re willing to share what Colorado is doing regarding the open education statewide council and how they’re working with their state legislature? That it could be useful since Hawaii is considering a statewide council, too.

Jonathan: Can you hear me? No.

Karen: Yes, we can hear you now.

Jonathan: Okay, great. There we go. So, yes, so what Billy describes is interesting to me that it came out of the blue. I guess it came a little out of the blue in Colorado as well, the committee of the state legislature got interested. And apparently it was a legislative aide who told the legislators, “Hey, don’t just jump into creating a program, do a little study first.” And so, the first bill they passed, which had a tiny budget just got a bunch of people from round the state to sit on a council and make a proposal.

We proposed a grant program, and an ongoing council to help coordinate efforts in the state. And now, we got into that legislature like that, and jumped on that. And so, we are now in our first year. We gave out grants of about $500,000 and supposedly we’ll have another $1 million in year two and another in year three. We’re trying to organize activities. I think we haven’t had as much student input as some people have said.

I don’t really know why, but we did a survey and there was a lot of student involvement in our survey. The state, the council is very active, and I think we’re meeting a huge amount of interest. And I think I really feel like there’s a critical threshold, once you cross it and it becomes on people’s radar, everyone starts talking about it, and everywhere you go. I can’t walk across my campus without faculty members stopping me and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, could you help me?”

Literally, people see me, and they stop me. I’m thinking of wearing a disguise when I leave my building. But the state is, I think state efforts can be nice, it’s nice to have some money. I think as one of the previous speakers was talking about, we all have a lot of demands on our time. And the amount of money that typically is available for OER stipends or some kind of little bit funding, honorary almost, of funding to induce people to be involved or whatever.

It’s really it doesn’t it’s not a minimum wage job, if you do the computation of how much time you spend. So, my feeling is that the money is nice, but what really matters is a community and a support structure, if there are OER librarians or if there are people in the community that know, that can answer questions and do some of the work. I have colleagues who say, “I’m not going to spend the time.”

And I say, “Listen, I will come to your office, you will give me the content, I will type it into Pressbooks, I will do it all for you. Just use it when I’m done.” And they say, “Well, okay.” So, I think if I were redesigning things, I might give less money as direct grants to people in the project and provide more a well supported infrastructure. Anyway, I don’t know. I think it’s good to move forward, and I think it’s nice to have support from the politicians.

We have a new governor in Colorado, who was one of the co-authors of the United States Federal Appropriation that was spent and funded the Libre Texts thing. So, we’re hoping that we’ll get— I still haven’t a chance to meet him, but I supposedly we will have more input from the governor’s office. Anyway, thank you.

Karen: Thanks Cable for the suggestion, thanks Jonathan for hopping on and sharing your story. Cathy has a question in the chat. In any of your policies, do you include having the cost of textbooks stated clearly in the registration system, or is this more an institutional decision and not part of legislation? The students are working on it now at UConn, University of Connecticut. So, I put that to anyone who’s here.

Billy: So, I’ll just say, so our librarians at a number of campuses did a lot of work to at their own campuses standardize a way that zero textbook costs courses were marked in banner, which is our system for course registrations. And so, they worked on that for a year and a half, even two years, we talked about it for a while. But there was no system level change that would make that possible. And part of that had to do with the folks at the top, in IT, just not being able to do it right away, not having the bandwidth to it.

And part of it had to do with some pushback from faculty. You have the same courses taught by different instructors, and one of them maybe is using OER or a free textbook that presents some tension there. Tension also exists when you have the same course, one OER and one not, that’s taught at two different campuses because that can pull students from one to the other.

We have a lot of students take courses online, a lot of students who commute between campuses. They take courses when it fits their schedule. And so, there were some obvious, real reasons why folks did not necessarily want to have the cost of textbooks marked immediately. Obviously, we thought it was a good idea as part of the SPARC’s open education policy playbook.

And so, just back in November, December our ITS system level and a few librarians got together, and they made a dropdown menu inside a banner. Some courses are entered into the system, it makes it very easy to just select a marker and say this is zero textbook cost course. They integrate ZTC, but at the same time, because there are folks who are already using the comments section, using a somewhat standardized marker that way to mark zero textbook cost courses.

Then, the question came up of okay, cool, so we’re going to be doing this. But at each campus they can do one way or the other or both, which one do we choose? And so, we’re still having conversations about that. My thing is about giving students the most information as possible, to help them make an informed decision about which courses to take. And it maybe that they know the next semester the prof that’s going to teach this course is going to use an OER book.

And so, they may want to delay, they may not want to take the course now. They may want to do things a bit differently. But then, they need to make an informed decision and having the textbook costs, or a zero textbook cost marker on the course at the time of registration is huge. And so, if you’re at all able to do that, I highly, highly encourage it. Even if you come up against some bumps in the road in terms of how that is implemented, and how it’s done.

Anita: So, this is Anita Walz. I wanted to jump in and say that Virginia had legislation last year that was passed about OER and low cost commercially published course materials, which is something that was added by lobbyists in the first subcommittee and never taken out. And that there is another bill that is working its way through our general assembly which has to do with course markings.

So, I’m curious to know if other folks have had experiences where they think it’s valuable to mark OER instead of low cost or no cost. And then, how are you defining low cost? Because that’s pretty ambiguous (laughs). I think it’s unfortunate that it’s in our law, because it is really ambiguous and I’m just wondering if anyone has the silver lining on that, please.

Billy: So, I’ll just say so our administrators, their idea is that OER is one item underneath a larger textbook affordability umbrella if you will. And that is not necessarily how I think of it but that’s how they think of it. So, we have ZTC marking happening right now. We don’t have a low cost marking. I’ve heard— I don’t want to quote me, but I would have heard numbers of $30 per course, or $40 per course being a reasonable number to call it low cost.

And then, some cases you’re moving away from $150 textbook to a $30 book or set of materials is huge, that’s a big difference. That’s a big margin you’re gaining there. But at this time, I don’t see the value in doing that, I think that just sticking to ZTC or OER more specifically if you can, is a better route to go.

Mark: This is Mark, I’m from New York State, I’m part of the state university in New York system, SUNY system. I know one of the discussion points earlier was about state legislators and our state made a significant investment in OER two years in a row. And it looks like they’re going to make a third year of investment, which has really brought OER into full light here within the SUNY and in the CUNY system.

And we are really fortunate and trust us, we know how fortunate we are. But the one question that keeps coming up is about OER policies. And even though our state legislature has put money on the table, there has really been no discussion about policies. Within SUNY we’re kind of like a confederacy and so, our institutions all act essentially as their own institution, and though there are certain SUNY mandates that govern those institutions, for the most part they can govern themselves.

So, some campuses have gone through the process of putting OER into promotion and tenure requirements. Or acknowledging the acceptance of OER as worthwhile academic pursuit for faculty. And then, others have stressed the need to pursue OER to tackle textbook affordability, and then the discussion point that Anita brought up is exactly what we’re wrestling with right now.

And what Billy responded to is we have some campuses that really think that this is an affordability issue and that we should tackle student affordability with OER. And I don’t think anybody would argue against that. But we now have some faculty speaking up to say OER is more than just about affordability. And we’re in a unique spot where we think we can do some really decent analysis on the data that we’re getting from campuses.

So, that we can show what impact OER is really having on our classes, and especially our faculty, because our faculty are stating that it’s really helping them to customize the learning experience for students, that they traditionally could not do with commercial published textbooks. And I’m assuming everybody on the call is probably nodding their head, right?

Karen: (Laughs) Yes, behind all the turned off cameras, we can imagine many heads are nodding. Thanks for chiming in, Mark, really appreciate it. And Anita had actually the same question I did listening to you, which is do you know if any of the four years in the SUNY system have addressed tenure promotion or can you think of any campuses specifically that maybe we could take a look at what they’ve done?

Mark: So, one four-year institution, SUNY Delhi, it’s just a line inside the promotion at tenure requirements that comes out of their economic affairs office. It’s just kind of like an umbrella statement that OER should be considered a viable method for teaching and for scholarship. And I can share that link with the community, I wish I had it at my fingertips.

Karen: Super, thanks. And Jennifer is asking if you have a SUNY system OER policy?

Mark: No, we don’t, we just passed an open access policy at the system level, which means all our state operated campuses, because we’re a combination of state operated campuses and county controlled campuses. Our county controlled operations our campuses are what we call community colleges in the States. The state ops have to put an OER policy on their books by March 2020. So, we have the open access policy and maybe one day that’ll lead to an OER policy. We kind of hope so.

Karen: Nod, nod, more nodding. All right. We are closing in on the hour, we’ve got about four minutes left. So, if there are any last thoughts or questions anyone would like to try and fit in before we go? I think we also got a lot of ideas for future Office Hours topics, like on course markings, for example, perhaps revisiting tenure and promotion, and maybe hearing more from our SUNY guests and thinking about the statewide OER process. So, anything? Okay, I think we’re in a good spot here, I think we’re in a wrap up spot.

I see heads nodding, thank you. All right, so please join me in thanking our three guests and everyone else who chimed in today. We invited Billy Meinke, Jessica Norman, and Michelle Brailey. And we so appreciate hearing your stories, the ups and downs and where you think you may be going at your institutions. And thanks to everyone for joining us and asking your questions, sharing your resources. And we look forward to seeing you next month in our February Office Hours.

We’re Hiring!

We are currently hiring for two new positions at Rebus! If you care about books, technology, the web, and open knowledge, please consider applying!

Back-End Developer (for Rebus Community)

The Back-End Developer will work on the Rebus Community, where we develop tools and resources to support the publishing of free, open, and adaptable digital textbooks. See the job posting for this position for more details, including how to apply.

UX/Front-End Developer (for Rebus Community & Rebus Reader)

The UX/Front-End Developer will work on both Rebus Community and our Reader initiative. This new effort is about creating a web-based application that supports scholarly reading, research, annotation, and collections management. The posting for this position provides complete details, including how to apply.

Intro to Philosophy Welcomes Two New Editors!

The Introduction to Philosophy series blazes along, and represents a great example of what can happen when a community comes together around open textbook creation. To join the momentum, get involved as an author or reviewer, or join the project to add your expertise as a copyeditor or proofer, to help with formatting and design, or just to stay informed!

What started as a conversation between series editor Christina Hendricks and Rebus founder Hugh McGuire first turned into an idea for a single textbook. That idea expanded into a more robust range of subject areas, and from there into a full gamut of introductory textbooks that now cover nine major areas of philosophy. By the beginning of next year, three titles will be approaching their release dates, meaning that they will be available for adoption and use for courses starting in the 2019 academic year!

Melbourne, Australia, a view from above

A very gratifying piece of news is that, having welcomed two new collaborators, we now have a dedicated editor for each of the nine textbooks. Valery Vinogradovs is our new Aesthetics editor and replaces Scott Clifton, who had to step away from the project after making many valuable contributions to the project. Valery has started looking over the chapters written to date, and will shortly craft a revised chapter outline, which we will then use to seek out additional authors.

Valery’s background includes a PhD from LaTrobe University, and his areas of specialization cover Kant’s aesthetics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of education. He has a particular interest in the work of Nietzsche, Montaigne, Aristotle, and Plato, and currently teaches in Australia at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy.

Our new editor for the Philosophy of Science textbook is Eran Asoulin. Eran’s first contact with the project was as an author, havingcontributed a chapter to Philosophy of Mind (edited by Heather Salazar). That sparked an interest in becoming more deeply involved with the project, which has now led to his appointment as one of our nine editors. Having just started in his role  this past week, Eran is coming up to speed on the status of the book, while learning more about our processes and resources.

Sydney, Australia, a view from above

Eran is an accomplished author and teacher, with scholarly work spanning linguistics, philosophy, and cognitive science. His focus is the study of language and mind. In 2012, he earned his PhD from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and he currently lives and works in Sydney.

Count on hearing from Valery and Eran as their books take shape. Congratulations to both of them, and to the entire team as a whole, for their dedication and accomplishments—both past and yet to come!

The series will continue to roll along, and there will be new calls for participation, both in the form of writing as well as the all-important phases of editing and peer review. We’ll keep you informed, but you can always join the project now and sign up to the Forum to stay current.

And, as we mentioned, look out for the release of Philosophy of Mind, Ethics, and Logic early in the coming year!


Sydney photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash
Melbourne photo by louis amal on Unsplash

November Office Hours: License to…? (Audio Transcript)

Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. 

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in this transcript, please contact Apurva ( as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Robin DeRosa
  • Maha Bali
  • Amanda Larson
  • Cable Green
  • Jennryn Wetzler
  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde

Zoe: Hi, everyone, it’s such a joy to see so many people joining us for this conversation. It’s one we’re really excited about. I’ll hand over to Karen in a moment to introduce our wonderful speakers. But I’ll start with one practical point, because we have quite a few people on the call, I have to say this a couple of times, but those who just joined us, if people could please leave their video off for the moment, so that we can make sure that it’s stable for the speakers.

And then, if we get really patchy, if you let us know in the chat, then we might look at turning off cameras for the speakers as well. But we’re hopeful that it’ll hold. So, I think there are forever conversations to have about licensing, there’s no end to them. This one in particular was really sparked by an exchange that happened on Twitter a while ago. But these are kinds of things that we see around the place all the time.

And so, when we approach these Office Hours sessions, what we’re trying to do is give space for some of those conversations that people are having and hoping to have. And someone’s trying to call in and have one of those conversations right now, maybe (laughs). So, we wanted to give some space to it, to pick it up in a different context, and really invite an amazing group of people who we’re really excited to have been able to get in the same place as the same time, ’cause they’re all very in demand.

And so, we’re hoping to have as I say, a conversation about licensing, about what role it plays in our ecosystem and then, see where it goes, as well out of in response to the perspectives that our guests are bringing. So, again, thank you. We’re really pleased to be here and doing this. And so, now, I’ll hand over to Karen to introduce our guests.

Karen: Great. Thank you, Zoe. My name is Karen Lauritsen, I’m with the Open Textbook Network and we are delighted to partner with Rebus on Office Hours and any other things we can come up with. So, as Zoe said, we’re really excited about this conversation today. We had a robust RSVP and so, we expect many people to join us. And we’re really happy to have four featured guests, each bringing their own perspective and role to this conversation around licenses.

So, we’re going to start hearing from Robin DeRosa, professor and director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University. Then, we’ll hear from Maha Bali, associate professor of practice, center for teaching and learning at American University in Cairo. Next, we’ll hear from Amanda Larson, open education librarian at Penn State University. And finally, we’ll hear from Cable Green, director of open education at Creative Commons.

If you’re new to Office Hours, our format is to hear briefly from our guests, from three to five minutes to give an orientation to their perspective and experience. And then, we really like to open it up to you and your questions and have a conversation as much as we can. Sometimes, when it’s really big, it’s a lot to juggle the conversations, so be patient with us. If we miss a comment in chat, and it seems like we’re moving on, please raise your hand again, just let us know.

And we’ll facilitate as much as we can. So, without further ado, I will hand things over to Robin.

Robin: Hello. Some waves. So, this is my favorite thing about working in open, is that you model your befuddlement on Twitter, and then before you know it, there’s a webinar, (laughs) in which you are starring with all of your befuddlement, so I think putting me at the front, to open this is really less about me telling you what I think than more explaining the source of my confusion about this.

And I’ve been working in open for a pretty long time, so my confusion is not actually about the terms of the licenses, per se. So, I feel pretty adept enough at figuring out what license goes with what artefact in order to let that artefact do what I want it to do in the world. The question that I started getting interested in was really about what license goes with the ecosystem that I’m most excited about teaching and learning inside of?

And is that a different license than might go on any particular one artefact that I’ve designed? So, I’m influenced in this question by things like the care framework, which maybe somebody can drop into the chat the link for that, if people haven’t seen it. But this is a framework basically for the kinds of ethos I think that we might hope to permeate open in order to produce a certain kind of ecosystem and a certain set of behaviors.

So, the care framework talks about the four pillars that surround open being about contribution, attribution, release, and then empowerment. And it’s that last one that I become most interested in, that’s where they talk about inclusivity and diversity. And how to get new and non-traditional voices into open. And I’ve been affected by folks like Tara Robertson in this work, some of the work that she did about, I think one of the things I remember was about “On Our Backs”, the lesbian porn work.

And the awesomeness of having that whole collection digitized and made public. But also, when that artefact first existed in whatever it was, probably like the 70s or something, people did not anticipate where that sharing might go. And we see this a lot with work that people are doing around indigenous communities and open. The question of whose knowledge it is to share and what the politics of sharing are might mean that open, fully open all the time, right?

My go to CC BY is maybe not always the best way to steward the ethos of inclusivity and empowerment in that care model. So, there was that, and then, the other piece that was really affecting me was the model of the commons, from people like David Bollier and Jim Luke who have talked about when the commons has been dismissed because some of the older research about the tragedy of the commons, which is really kind of about when things are open.

What happens if really aggressive and powerful people are able to exploit what’s open in order to do things that aren’t in that sharing model? And I see that happening, honestly, in open. And I worry about the co-opting of open, by really powerful, especially for-profit corporate entities. And I feel like I’m less interested in the sharing of a particular artefact than I am in if we wanted to build a system that truly worked for the public good, what is the public good?

And what kind of licensing do we need to do? So, I was actually asking a question about should I switch to NC? And by the time I finished this Twitter conversation, not only did I realize I was way more confused than when I started, but also, that I was leaning much more towards SA then NC. The main reason so far, I’ve stuck with CC BY is simply because I feel like when I get into SA territory, it gets a little harder for the remixing, which is really how I tend to participate most in open.

So, I have some concerns about the practical on the ground work that happens with SA. But in terms of the ethos of open, I think that’s where I’m leaning right now, but that was the conversation I wanted to open is what’s the ecosystem? And what’s the long vision for what we’re trying to build with open beyond any particular one artefact? And I think that’s what I got.

Karen: Thanks, Robin. Maha, I’ll turn things over to you.

Maha: Sure, thanks. And thanks for this Robin, ’cause I think when I was part of that Twitter exchange, I didn’t really get the part about the ecosystem as much as I got it now, when you said it now. I’m going to try to be very brief about mine, and hopefully we’ll have a discussion about this later. First thing, I just want to say is I think one of the most important things to think about what Catherine Cronin talks about in terms of open educational practice in general, being contextual cultural, continually negotiated.

And so, whenever I talk about a license, which is important, but not the key thing about why we’re open. We’re open and we use the license to fit our purpose. And yeah, the reason there are several licenses is that different licenses fit certain purposes. I think what happens is there happens some kind of license shaming in the open ed community sometimes. It’s like CC BY is the best thing, and why are you not doing that?

So, I think one of the first things that came to mind is we’re working with Rebus to create a textbook on sight reading for guitar. And the condition to get Pressbooks for free is that the book has to be CC BY. But the book is about sight reading for guitar, it’s got musical pieces by composers. And it’s not okay with them that someone takes those pieces of music and commercializes them.

So, what we eventually negotiated with Rebus was that those pieces would be CC BY NC. I can’t remember if we decided on no derivatives also, because maybe musicians don’t want that, ’cause it’s a different ecosystem (laughs) outside of what we’re trying to do as educators. They don’t owe us that. And their work can be commercialized, it can actually bring in a lot of profit in ways that sometimes our work isn’t.

And so, I thought that was a really good combination, is a work does not all have to have one license. Yes, it might confuse people, but that’s not the point. The point is we’re thinking about empowerment and exploitation. We want every person to feel like they’re getting what they deserve and what their rights are within that project. The other thing I think about is for example something like no derivatives, which not considered an OER.

And that’s fine not to consider it an OER, it’s like we decide what OER means. We decide what a planet is and that Pluto is or isn’t a planet. We decide, we construct these things. And I think some things would never be kept open if we didn’t allow people to say no derivatives, but you can access it. So, I think for example about my PhD thesis, I would not be comfortable with someone publishing a part of it without my permission.

It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t ever give my permission. But it means that I would need to know who that person is and for what purpose they were going to use it. And I would not be comfortable with someone taking a chapter out of it, putting it into a book, whether it’s commercial or not, without me knowing the context. I also publish a lot of stuff in different spaces.

And sometimes it gets republished, sometimes with and sometimes without my permission. But I am very sensitive about the images that they use as featured images for my articles. And even when I was an editor and a columnist for Hybrid Pedagogy, which is my favorite journal, I always asked them to check in with me about the image. They wouldn’t let me choose it, but they’d give me a choice among three or four of them.

‘Cause there are certain images like for cultural reasons I wouldn’t accept as images for my work. And so, that’s how a derivative can be taken out of—(silence). That part has been changed. One of the reasons people talk about the importance of allowing derivatives and commercial use and so on, often relates to allowing other people to translate your work. And a lot of educational work, yes, you want it to be open, you want other people to use it, you don’t want them to get back to you.

You want them to just translate it and use it and do whatever they want with it. But we forget that translation is also sometimes an act of violence. And that there is particular content that is sensitive and that could be translated incorrectly, and political problems happen because of poor translation or problematic translation. And it’s not a straightforward thing. So, sometimes you don’t want someone to translate it without your permission, without getting back to you, without you knowing that this is happening.

It’s not that you would never allow. It’s that you want someone to get back to you, yes, it’s an extra step. It decreases the openness of something but might be still in the spirit of what you’re trying to do more than that aspect of it. The last thing I want to talk about is cultural. I have a friend in Sudan, who once created her own science teaching textbook for her cousins and friends.

And when she found that it was helpful, she went to the government in Sudan, in the Ministry of Education, and told them, “I want to help you guys, I’ve got this textbook.” And do you know what she found? She found that someone else had sold it to the government. And now, she’s the person who created this, who wanted to give more of it for free, but they didn’t even want to talk to her, because they already had it. But that person who gave them that, a photocopy of it, couldn’t create more of it.

But what happened is there was a problem of attribution and copyright, you know, it’s a plagiarism and copyright violation. And all those violations. And the thing is when you’re in a culture where this kind of thing happens a lot, asking people to put stuff CC BY is like so far away from where they’re at. They’re not worried to just share something with their neighbor, lest the neighbor take it over and do something with it.

So, I think taking account of those things as well, is also really important. Like where you’re at, what kind of culture you have, what would someone do with something that’s given a very open license, when actually you’re in a culture where anything that’s put anywhere can be taken and anything can be done with it. So, those are my thoughts.

Karen: Thank you. I’m going to hand it over to Amanda now.

Amanda: Hi, so I spent a lot of time thinking about all of this. A large portion of my role as the open education librarian here is to help faculty think through what license is appropriate for whatever it is that their output is. And so, we talk not just about CC licenses but also about open software licenses, and then, the tribal licenses from local contexts. All of that is in the parameter of what I am thinking about when I’m talking to faculty about licensing materials.

And it’s really easy to be an open advocate and get on your high horse about CC BY being the best, and I started in that place. And have since moved into there’s a license for every context. And I really try to advise faculty to pick the license that they are comfortable with, for the material that they are generating. And if that takes multiple meetings and chatting about what they want to do with their work, what they want other people to do with the work.

And I’m fine with that, I’ve also advised people not to license their work openly, depending on how they answer questions about how they want it to be used. It might be better for them to have just like retain their copyright and have people come to them and talk to them about the materials that they want to share. Would I like them to make it open? Most times, yes. But that might not be what’s best for their context.

And I spend a lot of time walking them through the CC license chooser and showing them the differences between licenses and what that means. And a lot of times we do a lot of back and forth about what license might be best. And I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about vendors who are deciding to scoop up OER and put it inside proprietary systems and whether we should be advocating for an SA or an NC license.

Because if we go back to the thought about the commons, basically what they’re doing is enclosing our content within their system and adding a market value to it. And then, saying that they’ve added value, and then we have to question whether they are adding value that’s worth paying money for. And I’m in an interesting institution where OER is defined as not just open things, but also affordable things.

So, I have to also keep tabs of what’s happening in the inclusive access space and making sure that’s not going wildly awry here. And that is a very complicated ethical issue that I face daily. But so far, we have been able to say that affordable is a certain thing, and most inclusive access do not meet those criteria. But I would like for us to get back to the point where we are defining open as open content, and affordable things as educational content.

And so, that’s where I’m at, advocating within my institution now, is like can we go back and redefine how we’ve defined this? And I think that has a lot to do with also, the licensing component. I was reading the chat. And yeah, so I think that’s the best part of my work, though is working with faculty to talk about how they want to use their work and helping them figure out the best choice for them.

Every license has a purpose, and it’s important not to ignore those purposes, in the favor of one overall best license. I think it’s important to remember that these are nuanced situations. I think that’s about all from my context.

Karen: Thanks, Amanda. And to wrap up our featured guest comments, I will hand it over to Cable.

Cable: Hi, everybody, can you hear me okay? Good, okay. Well, thank you for inviting me, I really appreciate it. I think everybody knows Creative Commons is a global non-profit. And we’re in the business of helping everybody around the world share knowledge and creativity with these licenses that everybody’s been talking about. These simple, legal permissions really with the purpose of building a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.

We certainly work with the open education community but also with open access, open data, open science, we work in the glam sector with arts and culture, and even more. We work with the open source software community on their documentation. So, we have a very broad purview. Most people know Creative Commons for our broad suite of open copyright licenses, and certainly, that’s an important part of what we do.

We also have programs, so Jennryn’s on the line, she runs the CC certificate program. We’ve got a whole open education program. We’ve got a copyright reform program, where we’re trying not to create new licenses, but actually to go right at copyright and try to make it work better for educators and scientists around the world. We try and do things like expanding existing freedoms and permissions in things like fair use and fair dealing rights.

And we try to blunt expansion of copyright terms that keep things out of the public domain. So, we have a broad look on the work that we do. For this particular conversation, I think the reason I got invited in was that most of the OER that’s in the world is either in the public domain, or it’s CC licensed. We’re very proud of that, we like to say we put the open in OER. And so, Jennryn and I spend a lot of our time in the open ed space.

The standard definition that most people use for OER is important for the licensing discussion. And I’m just going to drop in the one that we use into the chat. So, Creative Commons uses basically the UNESCO definition, which comes from the Hewlett definition, so they’re all kind of the same. They basically say for something to be OER it has to have two characteristics. One is that it must be freely available, or available at no cost.

And second, that you have to be able to modify it somehow, to meet local needs. And so, that definition that I just shared is the one that we use and it’s basically the one that UNESCO and Hewlett use as well. So, what that means in terms of licensing is that we have six licenses, as everybody knows, we have two no derivatives licenses. And I want to say I completely agree with what people have said about there’s a license for different purposes and for different people.

And we are 100% supportive of that. And we regularly recommend ND licenses when the situation warrants it, or when that’s the wish of the copyright holder, or the author. That being said, the two ND licenses are broadly recognized as not being OER compliant, because you can’t revise or remix an ND license work and then share that revision out with the public, which violates half of the OER definitions that are out there.

Then, the last thing I’ll say is that even though we certainly do defend all the licenses in court, in fact, we’re defending the non-commercial license in court in the United States right now. There’s a big court case on that, and we’re in there fighting to defend for people to use NC and for NC to be interpreted in a way that we believe that we’ve written the licenses. And we strongly support any license choice that people have.

All that said, we do as an organization regularly advocate for CC BY in one particular circumstance, and that is on publicly funded resources. So, when we’re talking with a foundation, but mostly governments, when we’re talking about publicly funded resources, usually what the funders, as we’re asking them what their goals are, they’re trying to maximize the impact, the positive impact that their public investment has.

So, they’re asking themselves about stewardship of public monies questions, they’re trying to maximize downstream revision and remix opportunities for the public. And I’ll share this link in one more time, when Robin started talking, she was talking about SA and thinking about the different remix opportunities. There’s a link to the CC remix chart on our FAQ and one of the things, a big thing that governments think about is how can the work that I’m funding with public money be used by the most people for the most purposes?

And usually, where they come out in that discussion is to offer it either as a work in the public domain, which is always what we advocate for first. But where copyright needs to sit with the grantee for whatever reason, and there are several reasons, that we recommend the least restrictive license that they’re able to tolerate in their policy. And if we can get CC BY, great.

If we can’t, we usually go to BY SA or BY NC and then, we go down the line from there. But we do push governments pretty hard to put works out under the fewest restrictions possible, because fewer restrictions tends to equal greater opportunities for revision and remix, just at a very tactical level. Thank you.

Karen: Thanks, Cable. And thanks again to our four guests. So, as Cable was talking, the chat exploded with the conversation that I think really tries to get at the challenge of this conversation around as Robin called them artefacts or the stuff. And this ecosystem that we’re considering and the larger system dynamics as Jim mentioned in the chat. And how do we think about building a world that we want, when we have a very flexible environment with lots of different licenses?

And we want to have, as Maha mentioned, two-hour consultations with faculty about exactly what they’re trying to do with that particular artefact. I certainly do not have the answer, but I think it’s one of the challenges that’s in this conversation with us. So, we have half an hour left together, and so I wonder if that’s where we would like to start, or if there are other notes that were made in the chat that someone would like to pick up and run with together? So, I leave it to the group to direct us here.

Robin: I might just say one quick thing, which is my academic training is in literature, so this will not surprise you when you hear what I say. But I am also interested in the licenses working on two levels. One is this technical and legal level and the other is this symbolic and rhetorical level, which is always the level that’s the level that interests me. I could care less really, about, just personally, I care about other people’s legal situations. I don’t care about my own.

So, when I think more rhetorically and symbolically about licenses, I actually come up sometimes with different answers than I would come up with in a legal scenario, for the same context. And one problem I have sometimes working in open is just finding the symbolics to communicate the complexity of this kind of way of doing education. And so, I have found actually the Creative Commons licenses to be the most helpful way of talking with faculty in particular about my vision.

About like the flag, that kind of helps people understand what we might be trying to achieve in a broader sense. And I think that sometimes inflects the licenses that I choose, because I think about them more as rhetorical tools, rather than legal tools. And it might be worth talking with people, when you’re choosing licenses about that dimension, like what do you think the purpose of licensing is?

There’s a lot of people who work in various contexts who are actually not that concerned about the legal trail of their stuff. What they’re really concerned with is what teaching and learning looks like after they openly license something. So, anyway, thought I’d throw that out.

Karen: Thanks, I wonder Amanda, do you have some thoughts on that, based on your variety of conversations with faculty?

Amanda: So, I actually start them with the why, why do you want to license it openly? And here, it’s still been largely about affordability, about it being able to make something affordable and open, especially at the Commonwealth campuses. And so, we just started our second round of our OER grant program, and we had some buy in this time from University Park, which is the flagship campus here.

And they’re way more interested in the rhetoric behind it. They want to make it free because information wants to be free. And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know about all of that, necessarily.” But I still always try to start that conversation with the why. What’s your motivation for doing it when it’s really easy just to make copyrighted stuff and not do that? But I think a lot of them are coming from a perspective of they do want to get back to the idea that education is a public good.

And they want to make their materials available to not only help their students, but also to share them back out with their colleagues. Because that’s something that has died a little bit, here, in higher ed. And that makes me feel a little misty and get all happy inside that that’s where they’re coming from. But also, it makes me think really hard about the license that I either recommend or that we come around to. I don’t know if that helps, but that’s what I got.

Karen: It does. This is a conversation, we’re probably not solving all of the problems in this conversation. (Laughs) So, hearing different perspectives is great, and I think like you, I tend to get misty when thinking about the public good and moving public education back to what we imagine it. But then, as one of our guests mentioned, I don’t remember who, how are we defining the public good? Public good is different in different contexts.

And here we are again, almost back at the starting point, it sometimes feels. So, again, there’s a lot happening in the chat. I encourage anyone to turn on your microphone and surface something in the chat, if you would like to get it going in voice. Or we can sit here quietly and type in the chat (laughs).

Robin: I saw that good question about resource sites. I don’t have one, with my students we actually just use that Creative Commons, choose a license, radio button site. And the more I talk about it, the more I realize as someone in the chat said earlier, we really need a different— I mean, that’s a great site for technically producing your license. But I’m usually just filling in the back story verbally to them, as we’re walking through that.

And it would be cool to have an interactive site popping out, Tara Robertson moments. Things like that, so that you could read a fuller accounting. Does anybody have, even if you’re not presenting, if you have something in the chat, put a link, it would be awesome.

Karen: Thanks, Robin. I agree. There’s probably a lot of resources out there, in the community from people in this call that they can share, including conversation starters with faculty. Questions to ask when sitting down and considering all the competing priorities and selecting a license. As Apurva said, you’re also welcome to drop questions in the chat and we can read them out for you.

Do we want to talk about the CC BY expectation? Or this pressure that a few people have mentioned around licensing CC BY in open education? Feelings?

Maha: So, in general if it was just a matter of rhetorical people preferring something over the other, I wouldn’t care too much. I think the problem is funders requiring it, means something. It means that if you have a very good reason [inaudible 0:31:41] OER and the definition of OER includes NC and SA. I understand why it doesn’t include no derivatives, but if it includes NC and SA, I don’t understand, I’ve heard this so often.

I’ve never sought funding for OER in a big way. But that I think is an important conversation. And publicly funded is different than other kinds of funding. And I think it is really important to think of people who are marginal or contexts where the culture is different, where maybe CC BY is not necessary. Okay, Cable, you go.

Cable: No, whenever you’re done, I was just putting my hand up for being next. Go ahead.

Maha: I was done, if you have an answer to that. Just a very quick question to Robin, also, when she says ecosystem, I was thinking ecosystem has the little components in it, anyway. And for me I don’t understand why I need a universal license for the entire ecosystem, as long as you can have little things for the little different things in between.

Robin: I want to talk about Robin Sitten too in the chat, here because that’s pretty interesting. But I think I don’t need a license for the entire ecosystem, but I really enjoy the marking of an ecosystem. And I’m trying to figure out how do you take something like a care framework or commitment to the commons and sign up for it? Like where? And so, I’ve been using the licenses that way for myself.

And partly as a way of now at this point, I’m working with a lot of institutions who are interested in making institutional commitments to open. And that’s really hard, because you have to encapsulate that in some way. And so, a lot of times I’ve been drawing on licensing as a way of talking about one way that we can represent what it looks like to commit to these ideals.

And that may be problematic, I know some people I really trust in open, when I start going this direction they’re always like, “Stop talking about licensing, then. Just stop talking about licensing, ’cause that’s not what you’re talking about.” So, and I get that, too. But I might just go back for a second, in the chat a little ways to Robin Sitten, my buddy, hi, Robin.

She says, “I’m really interested in the ethics of revising an open resource” and talks about Maha touching on this.

She’s interested in how much modification on an open resource is acceptable before it truly changes, like a game of telephone. And I think what she’s getting at there is what are the ethics of that? And in what context are there some real ethical challenges? In some cases that might be exactly what you want to happen, in other cases that might be more challenging. I don’t know if anybody wants to? Maha, if you want to speak to that? It’s a good question.

Karen: It is a great question, Robin. I’m sorry to insert myself here. But Cable has to go, and I know he wanted to make a comment about the funder question with open licenses. So, Cable, before you have to dash, do you want to pop in again about that?

Cable: Sure, thanks. And I can stay until I’m called (laughs), so if you lose my video, then Jennryn’s here and can answer questions as well. So, apologies if I have to jump out. Yeah, well, first Maha makes a really important point, right? These are not black and white issues, these are nuanced, and these should be nuanced issues. And part of the ways that Creative Commons tries to support the nuances is by having a full license suite.

Another thing we do specifically with vendors around the nuanced, and I’m going to share a resource in the chat, is that particularly with foundations there’s always nuance. Because they are working with grantees all over the world, in a whole variety of different contexts. And so, Hewlett’s a good example, where their default license requirement is CC BY. But all Hewlett program officers have permission and the full backing of their general counsel’s office to negotiate different CC licenses, when need be.

So, I’ll give you an example, well, I probably shouldn’t list the name of the grantee. I’m working with one of the Hewlett grantees right now, that doesn’t want to use CC BY. And they have some really good reasons. And so, the Hewlett foundation brought me in, they asked the grantee to list what their reasons were. And the grantee did that, and I read them, and I said, “Hey, I think the grantee’s got a really good case here, CC BY doesn’t work well.”

And the grantee wanted a mix of BY NC, BY SA on some stuff, and some BY NC SA on other things. And they had really thought about it, and they had good rationale and so Hewlett came back to me and said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Hey, I think you should let the grantee do what they want to do.” And so, the resource that I shared is a toolkit that we work with the Hewlett foundation to actually train their staff about these nuanced conversations.

Now, this grantee that I just worked with really, I thought was very thoughtful and had good reasons, and so got the licensing that they want. It’s also true that a lot of grantees will go to foundations and say, “Hey, I’m trying to sell what I’m getting the grant for, and so I want to put NC on everything. And I don’t want to do CC BY.” And a lot of times foundations will push back on that. And we tend to stay out of those conversations, to the extent that we get involved, we simply say, “Here’s how NC works, and here’s how it doesn’t work.

(Laughs) And here’s how it might protect your business interests, and here’s where it really doesn’t, where people can give away NC content as a loss later.” And so, we try to stay very factual, as a third party describer of the licenses, but we work with foundations. Now, governments are a bit different, governments don’t like nuance. Governments prefer a lot of black and white, they’re writing a policy, they want to do it once.

It’s not going to get looked at again for five or 10 years. And they also just don’t have the capacity to negotiate with grantees. So, for example, the US Department of Education, when they give out block grants, they’re giving out usually $4 billion or $5 billion at a time. And they have a CC BY requirement on that stuff, now. They don’t want to negotiate with a thousand different grantees about what license they want. They just don’t have the staffing for it.

And they also have strategic interests, it’s very interesting in governments, one agency or department in the government will give out grants and they want that to be reused and remixed by other agencies and departments. Sometimes within country, sometimes across countries. We’ve worked regionally with sets of governments before that want to have cooperation.

So, for example, Nepal and Bangladesh right now are talking with each other at ministerial levels of education and they want to, to the extent possible, use the least restrictive possible license that both parties will agree to, to make remix and revision easier across boundaries and regionally. So, it’s all very complicated, we try to encourage flexibility everywhere where flexibility can happen, as long as it meets the strategic goals of the funder and the needs of the grantees.

Karen: Thanks Cable. If you could maybe say a little bit more about the NC clause? Both Naomi and Diane in the chat just wanted to hear a little bit more about objections to NC conversations around it. Amada, you may also have some thoughts on how you talk to faculty around NC and just that definition generally.

Cable: Sure, so NC to be totally honest frustrates people because Creative Commons in the license is very vague about NC. So, we version the licenses, I think everybody knows. We’re on version four right now, for the international licenses. And then, we have the IGO ports for the International Government Organizations that if there’s a dispute they don’t go to court, they go to arbitration in The Hague, which is why we have to have a special license for IGOs.

Nevertheless, every time licenses get versioned, it’s an international conversation of the open community that everybody gets to chime in and say what they want. When we versioned to four, I’d say a third of the global community said, “Hey, you need to get specific about NC, say what it is, say what it isn’t.” The other two thirds of the community said, “No, we actually like the vagueness, because as communities of practice, we have as communities decided what the norms are.”

So, for example, many people in the open education community came forward and said, “Look, we actually like the vagueness of NC, because we take NC licensed work, we walk them into our college bookstore, we print them at cost. No profit, but we print them at cost, and we’re able to sell them at cost. And even though that’s a commercial transaction as a community, we’ve decided that non-profit means non-commercial.”

Now, would that actually hold up in a court of law? Nobody knows, it hasn’t gone to court, yet. But the community has made that choice, and so in that case, the community said, “Look, we like the vagueness.” Now, other people feel differently about NC. A lot of people misunderstand NC, so when people ask me what license should I choose? And they get down to a few and I say, “You should know how NC works in the community, and how it doesn’t.” So, a lot of people that say, “I hate the idea of a commercial entity using my work.”

Oftentimes, what they don’t understand is that a commercial entity could take an NC work and give it away for free, as a loss later. And so, I talk with big publishers all the time, just to find out what they’re doing with OER. And I always ask them, ” Why don’t you use anybody else’s OER?” Because for the most part, they don’t. There are some platforms which have brought OER in, but the big textbook publishers haven’t done a lot of appropriating of OER. And I ask them, “Is it NC?”

And they say, “Nah, if we wanted to use NC, we would give it away and we’d sell our textbook on the side. We give the NC away as a loss later.” Is it SA? Are you afraid of the viral nature of SA? Well, not really, we do that, we give it away on the side. And we’d sell something over here. What they’re really afraid of is attribution, because they don’t want to lose eyeballs.

They don’t want to send people out and they certainly don’t want to charge for something that Robin DeRosa created when they have to give an attribution statement and a link back to Robin. And now, they’re going to have upset customers, because they’ve paid Pearson and they could have gotten free from Robin. And Robin’s is the master copy, anyway, which has more credibility.

And so, the other confusion with NC that we see often, is people say, “Oh well, I work at either a private primary or secondary school that charges tuition, or a university or college that charges tuition. And because we charge tuition, that’s commercial, you can’t get into my class without paying tuition. And therefore, I can’t use NC licensed OER.” Which is not true at all, you just can’t sell access to the OER, so that confusion space it’s a little tricky.

And then, of course, I mentioned the court case in the US right now, which is a big deal, it’s in the ninth circuit court. This is a case where there was public money, there was the open policy, the open license requirement got screwed up, if we’re honest by the public governments. The copyright went to the commercial vendors that did the work. And then, the commercial vendors decided to put a BY NC SA license on the work.

Okay, fine, it’s still OER. And then, the school districts in the United States which were using this work in mass. 85% of the school districts in the United States are using this OER, it’s an incredible success story in terms of adoption. And then, the publisher, the copyright owner of the work, sued the printers, in this case FedEx and Office Depot, both of them, they’re two different lawsuits.

Because they said that was a violation of a non-commercial license, which we said it wasn’t, and the judges so far have said it wasn’t. But my point of telling this story is that in this case, NC caused a tremendous amount of friction in the ecosystem. To the extent that just anecdotal evidence that we have is that there are probably six or seven US states which have not adopted this OER.

And were about to, but because there was a lawsuit and they don’t want to get wrapped up in any court case. And their lawyers have said, “Stay away from it.” That’s been unfortunate. And so, this is a unique case, that NC has caused some difficulties, but nevertheless it’s real.

Maha: But can I just say that I think part of the problem is that NC is a vague license? Even when I talk to you or to David Wiley or someone. NC does have a lot of meanings. And someone in the chat, I think Diane Hamilton was saying, the distinction between non-profit and non-commercial. When we were discussing our textbook with Rebus, we were like, “Can’t we clarify what we mean, when we say NC?”

Because people mean different things. And we’re not allowed within those licenses to do a sub-license. I don’t mind if you use it for educational use, even if it’s a commercial educational use. But I do mind if you sell it, but I don’t mind. If we have this number of licenses, it’s confusing for people who are not us, anyway. Maybe a lot of people in this room understand the licenses relatively okay.

But if we’re going to then allow that nuance, maybe it’s nitpicking, and yeah, licenses are not the main thing. But if people are going to understand them differently, why not allow people to clarify what they want to do with the work?

Cable: Yeah, it’s a really interesting point. And people actually do, so they kind of started well, so there’s I always tell people there’s the legal answer, and there’s the community answer (laughs). So, in this particular case, the legal answer is you can’t adjust the terms of a CC license and still have it be a CC license. So, even though our licenses are all dedicated to the public domain, so anybody could take them and write new licenses if they want to.

What you can’t do is call them a CC license if you change them, because that’s under trademark and we protect our trademark. We do that so that the licenses work everywhere, and they’re recognizable and everybody knows that they work the way that they’re supposed to. So, I lost my train of thought. Maha ask me again.

Maha: I think it’s clear, you’re saying you can’t legally put a different license, but you could I think Jennryn’s also saying the same thing, you could write out something else.

Cable: Yeah, so what people…

Maha: Call this. [inaudible 0:46:39] Writing about it. That even though I’m saying that, I actually allow you to do this? Or the opposite? Yeah, I guess are the legal ones more restrictive? Promise not to sue them.

Cable: So, let’s take attribution as an example. Attribution, the license legally says that the user of the work can provide attribution in “a reasonable way”. So, reasonable says there’s lots of ways I could do it. Now, there are a lot of authors, or copyright holders that say, “Hey, here’s exactly how I would like to receive attribution.” So, Open Stax does that, for example. Open Up Resources says, “On every page of our work, we want to see this attribution statement.”

Is that legally required by the license? Absolutely not. Has the community accepted that additional condition? Yes, they have. And people say, “Hey, you gave a gift to the commons, we want to respect your ask.” NC is another example, so Robin was talking about the symbolic nature of the licenses. When people want to signal to the community that they really don’t want people to get anywhere near their work with anything that smells commercial at all, NC is a great way to do that.

Even though legally NC may not protect in the ways that they think it will, it’s certainly a signal to send to the community. Share Like same thing, so people think Share Like is more viral than it is. So, what I mean by that is a lot of people believe that if I take your Share Like work and I revise it, or remix it, that I have to not only license my work SA, which I would. But that I have to share it back publicly, or even that I have to share it back with the original author.

None of those are requirements in the license, I don’t have to share it back publicly, if I don’t want to. And I certainly don’t have to contact the copyright holder. Is there that community expectation that people do that? Yeah, there kind of is, especially when people ask. So, I think Robin opened with a really important point, which is what’s the world and what’s the ecosystem that we’d all like to build?

And let’s start with those values and principles, and I think that there’s a whole lot of licenses which we can use that get us to those principles. And Maha, to your point, it’s not one license, it’s a mix of licenses. And just personally, I’m very comfortable with what the OER open ed ecosystem has done over the past 15 years, which is to say, “Look, these four CC licenses and public domain really work for open education.

So, let’s all be flexible and yeah, there’s going to be reasons to pick one license over the other. But these four licenses plus public domain work really well.”

Karen: All right. Great conversation. So, we have about five minutes left. Diane asked how often we hold Office Hours? And the answer is monthly, we can certainly get you on a list, so you’re notified for the following topics. I think we’re taking December off. Do I remember that right, Zoe? So, 2019 Office Hours. Anyone want to continue this NC part, or do we want to bounce back to Robin’s comments several minutes ago, exploring the ethics of remixing and revising? Or where are we at here?

Robin: I can say one thing to the second question, to go back to Robin Sitton’s thing. I still find the question that I get asked all the time, a really interesting one my students ask me it all the time, which is like, “Well, what if I make this thing, and then somebody uses it to do the opposite of what I was trying to do with it? Like they use my work, especially politically to make the opposite argument, or in some way do an intervention that I completely find abhorrent.”

I don’t have the answer to that, but I know it’s one of the things that most interests new people when they’re in the situation of choosing a license. It’s why people drift towards ND, I think. And I think for me, being in open because of my political investments, that actually becomes a pretty interesting question. So, my on the ground answer is usually that’s part of open, is that it’s not a conflict free zone, and it’s tricky and troubling.

And the commons is not always pretty in order to be functional. So, I get that, but I also am very sensitive to that question. So, I don’t know if people have things to say about it, but I just to put it out there that it’s unresolved and interesting to me.

Karen: Yeah, it’s a great question to put out there. I’ll also point out Cable’s comment in the chat that all Creative Commons licenses have two protections, which include the copyright holder can require the attribution statement be removed. There are cases of this in the Open Textbook Library for example. And second, under no circumstances can the user of the work say the copyright holder endorses this new revised version of the work.

Of course, those two things may be true, but sometimes when someone’s skimming something or they see it quickly or it’s online, they may not take the care that we would all hope would be there. Jim is saying, “Robin’s raising a great point, especially as we’re moving into new territory with video and audio stuff that can mimic original, but entirely fake and opposite comments. Like fake Obama speaking videos, based off videos of him.”

Yeah, these are complex times, so much is possible with technology, that makes this especially murky. And these same topics are popping up in the news as well. So, there are frequently asked questions to that point it looks on the Creative Commons website. I think that with three minutes left, we should probably start wrapping up, unless somebody would like to pick up this thread, or have any last comments?

Zoe: I just want to say that the conversation ongoing in the chat as well has been really fantastic, and so we’re going to try to capture some of this to draw it out, ’cause it’s been two events happening that have been really, really wonderful. So, thank you to everyone, to our guests and to those of you who’ve been chiming in in the chat, it’s been a really wonderful conversation, thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you.

Karen: Absolutely, and we definitely pay attention to the community’s questions and interaction when we hold Office Hours, so we can continue elements of this conversation. Have a second part, somewhat based on your interest and demand and what you’re dealing with in your professional lives. That’s what we’re here to do together is talk through these sticky things and find best practices, if there are any.

So, thank you all for joining us, featured guests and community members alike. It’s really great to hear your questions and your perspectives and dig into some of these issues. I’d like to thank Rebus for partnering again with the OTN on these conversations. And if you have other topics that you would really like to see explored in 2019, you’re invited to put those in the chat, or contact one of us.

Let us know what you’re dealing with, that you would love to hear how others in the community are dealing with. We can do that. So, we are at the hour, and I think it’s time to thank everyone again, and say our farewells. So, farewell.

Surprise, surprise! What we learned while writing The Rebus Guide

As anyone who has contributed to the creation of open educational resources can tell you, there are often many surprises along the way! Here we share those that came up for us in the making of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), but we also want to hear back from you. What surprises you about making OT? Whether they are grim or good, let us know on the Rebus Forum.

Having worked with so many remarkable open textbook project leaders and contributors over the past two years, we thought we knew the lay of the land. But as we wrote and reflected, we learned even more about our own processes, resources, and infrastructure. Over time, the Guide will continue to evolve, and we will keep working to make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community.

A stitch in time saves nine
It’s an old saying, but still relevant in the digital age. Over and over, we were reminded how important it is to put plenty of time into project scoping, establishing content tracking templates, and building up the initial leadership team. Even if it seems like a lot of labor at the beginning, make sure these pieces are really clearly planned up front, because they make your work much easier in the long run. While it can be challenging to plan a textbook, determine its structure, and prepare to write content before you know what that content will actually be, it is nonetheless crucial.

Small sparks can grow into burning interest
Surprisingly, we found that individuals who were initially outside the core team could eventually get very engaged in a project. For example, reviewers who were ‘only’ asked to critique a given chapter often developed an abiding interest in the book as a whole. Given encouragement, volunteers may became much more involved over time, making contributions (both big and little) beyond their original commitment. In the Guide’s section on engagement, we talk about how to make this happen, and in turn grow community connections and support for the book after release.

Keep rigorous but stay loose
Innovation is always characterized by change, and collectively driven publishing is a pretty innovative process! While it’s important to reach objectives and keep your team focused, it’s just as necessary to stay responsive to change. Adapt, revise, and improvise. It’s okay to change course, even if you’ve put a lot of time into the upfront planning. Remember: every project is different, so even though the Guide puts forward a model for creating open textbooks, you’ll always be modifying and renewing that model.

People are your key resource
Again, this might seem obvious when talking about collaborative publishing. And despite our commitment to providing great online tools, we recognize that human beings are the best ‘software’ out there. It can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task to recruit contributors, but if you spread the word widely, like-minded people frequently come out of the woodwork, keen and raring to go. You still need to remember, however, that once they’ve signed on, the interpersonal work needs to keep happening. Managing volunteers involves a lot of emotional and mental support, but there are tools and tips aplenty to help you navigate your way through.

Your audience is everywhere!
The readers of the initial textbook release are not your only audience. Those who eventually adapt the book, and take it to its next iteration, are part of the ecosystem too. Keeping adapters in mind is just as important as thinking about adopters and readers. This makes the planning and production processes a little different from conventional publishing—and somewhat more difficult—but that is also what makes open textbook publishing exciting and rewarding.

So these are a few of our happy surprises along the way. What has not been surprising in this experience is how much we learn and grow through collaboration with the OER community. None of these unexpected lessons would have come to light had we not had so many people share their voices and experiences. Thank you!


photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Media, Society, Culture and You — The Backstory on Our New Release

Media, Society, Culture and You by Mark Poepsel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) is a highly approachable text that introduces a wide range of mass communications concepts, including their complex histories and compelling contemporary realities. What’s more, the backstory of this project is just as intriguing—an example of how making open textbooks can help change the way we produce and share knowledge.

Kyoto street view by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Mark’s work on this textbook began as part of a broader OER project initiated at SIU Edwardsville, one that challenged community members to explore the value of offering open texts in classrooms. Having decided that he wanted to create a more in-depth tool for examining such themes as the network society, the digital economy, and media entrepreneurship, Mark initiated the project with the help of instructional designers at his institution. In time, both the analysis of his subject and his reasons for creating an open textbook in the first place became more profound.

“I probably did a deeper dive than other professors in the original project,” says Mark. “I stayed with this text, and continued iterating it because I think our students are burdened enough with the costs of higher education.” A preliminary version of the book was created using Apple’s iBooks platform, which Mark found fun to use, but lacking in support for the academic editing process. Eventually he transferred the project over to Rebus’s Pressbooks instance, the Rebus Press, which he found simple-to-use, open to customization, and less limiting than iBooks Author.

“It was eye-opening to work with Rebus Community. People were ready and willing to edit one or more chapters of my 45,000-word text. The book is only about 150 pages, but with the help of project managers, peer reviewers, and a copy editor, we made it a solid 10 chapters that focus on precisely what I want to share with students. In other words, Rebus Community supports a level of academic freedom not widely seen.”

To his department’s credit, the textbook featured in Mark’s tenure application, pointing to growing recognition for the academic legitimacy of open publishing. The work has also led to other positive impacts in his professional career. He has been invited to write for other open textbook platforms (ones that even pay a stipend!), and has given three conference presentations about the process of OER development.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Media, Society, Culture and You represents a start for new pedagogical outputs, new ways of writing and teaching, and new ways to keep academic work fresh. Mark has called the book a “stub,” meaning that it serves to prompt more work. He intends eventually to double the extent of the text, adding more content and historical perspectives to each section, as well as quizzes and discussion questions at the end of every chapter. In time, an online teaching manual may also be created by the community of educators who use the book.

For Mark himself, the experience has also been a kind of stub: “This effort in some ways guides my future plans. I want to stay on the edge of pedagogy and research into participatory and entrepreneurial journalism. Establishing this text as a pedagogical option for a community of scholars will go a long way toward my efforts to contribute to a community of practice. Working on this has created to a positive feedback loop between my research and my pedagogical work.”

Now that the textbook has been released, it is open for use, including adoption and adaptation. Already, it is engaging both faculty and students at SIU Edwardsville. Readers there have found it accessible and easy to follow, as well as provocative in just the right way. Mark says that he hopes the book “serves as a shot in the arm for facing the realities of digital disruption” and that it will prompt users of social media and those within the network society to reflect on and recognize their own roles in how political communication and action unrolls. In that way, perhaps, the publication of the book embodies its own theme as a whole!

A special thanks goes to copyeditor Leanne Page, who dedicated a great deal of time to the project, as well as her keen eye for details and an invaluable progress-tracking spreadsheet (making sure the book would be ready before Mark’s tenure dossier was due!)


Take a look at the book online, download it in multiple formats, and let us know how it works for you, your students, and your colleagues!


photo by Camille Villanueva on Unsplash

Collaborate & Create: Announcing the New Rebus Community Guide!

After two years of collaboration, thirty projects undertaken, and a dozen open textbooks released, we are thrilled to announce the publication of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). The book-in-progress is the result of innumerable conversations and exchanges within the Rebus Community, and represents a wide range of collective knowledge and experience. Keep telling us in the forum how we can make it easier and more sustainable for you to build books and community—that’s what we are here for!

Beyond our pleasure in sharing this outcome, however, we are enormously grateful for the many voices, perspectives, and helping hands that have made the Guide a reality. We also want to highlight those two little words in parentheses in the title: there are plenty of new learnings, knowledge, and reflexive revisions to come!

The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far)

The book (so far)… and what comes next

In its current form, The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) is for anyone thinking about starting or joining an open textbook project. It starts at the beginning of the process, with chapters on project scoping and building a team, and then moves on to content creation and editing, getting feedback and reviews, coordinating release and adoptions, and sustaining the book’s community.

Like all Rebus-supported projects, however, the Guide is and will remain an effort that evolves and grows over time. Through conversations, use, new writers’ and editors’ contributions, and ongoing reflection and revision, it will reflect our changing perspectives on how and why we make open textbooks. In this way, it shows where we have collectively gotten so far, while embodying the ethos of openness and the reality that innovation is always characterized by change. As the book is used and the project grows, we look forward to a lively series of discussions on the Rebus Forum, as well as continuing re-imaginings of how our ecosystem makes textbooks.

The project and book were initiated by Zoe and Apurva as a way to comprehensively document our approach to OER publishing. Over the last two years, we have worked in a very hands-on way with more than 30 open textbook projects! That means that there are many practices that we have learned to make more inclusive, and numerous insights to exchange with the broader community of OER users and creators. Capturing them in text, but in a way that can evolve, is our aim with the Guide. Of course, because every project is different, there is no single template for success. In fact, it is within those differences that we see so much potential for making the Guide a living and dynamic resource.

The Guide represents an important moment in the evolution of the Rebus Community, a culmination of two years of great, collaborative work. Moving forward, it will serve as a living repository of collective knowledge, equipping those who want to publish open textbooks with the resources they need. Just as the forum and Projects platform provide the tools that can make the community more self-sustaining, the Guide will help build long-term capacity. In turn, we can dedicate more time to refining and extending this infrastructure, and enabling more project teams, anywhere in the world, to create and share OER.

Walking our own talk

As we started working on this project, we realized what a learning experience it is to walk the talk of creating collaborative, open textbooks. Using our own tools and resources has helped us identify what aspects of the platform and process work well, what hiccups still exist, and what kind of solutions and improvements we need to work on next. It has also made us all the more grateful when project leads, contributors, reviewers, and readers (and everyone else!) tell us what they think has been successful, as well as what issues remain. We’ll keep working to resolve those issues and avoid new ones. With every new voice giving us fresh and different perspectives, the Rebus Community grows in diversity—in time, that leads to a more accessible and responsive platform.

In the meantime, and in the interest of prompting other insights, here are a few of the surprises we bumped into during our work on the Guide:

  • Managing and contributing to open textbook projects takes a lot of time and hard workWhile that might seem obvious, what isn’t so straightforward is remembering to look after your own well-being along the way. Be nice to yourself (and each other): get lots of rest, eat well, and ask for help as often as possible! Along the way, all that energy you’re putting into the project needs to be replenished.
  • The publishing process isn’t always linear—in fact, it rarely is—and that’s a good thing! Sometimes slowing down to deal with the curves in the road is exactly how you learn to see things differently. Our insight is that you don’t have to wait to finish one task in order to move on to another, and you can ‘complete’ a given phase even if all the content isn’t there. Keep things moving on a rolling basis, and stay patient when the rolling gets rocky.
  • We continuously learn that paying attention to accessible design, inclusive language, diverse forms of marketing, and equitable editing is critical. There are implications for additional work down the line, both during production and after release. In the long run, however, this attention is part of what makes open textbook publishing truly openbeyond just the openness of licenses and usage.
  • Nothing about OER is a solo endeavour, and it’s not just authors who “create content.” An open textbook is many things at once—collective processes and outcomes, a learning opportunity, a set of connections within a community. Building a strong team for your project is therefore critical, and thoughtfully nurturing those people will enable them to nurture the project in return. It’s all about the ecosystem, and the stronger and more enjoyable that network is, the stronger and more successful the textbook will be!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be shining a light on different parts of the content, development process, and insights that have gone into and come out of The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). We hope you’ll be a part of the project and follow its progress. Already there are plenty of discussions to be joined, templates and checklists to be used, chapter outlines to be reviewed, and updates to new content. Plus, lots of current and future reflections on why we believe so strongly in this model of publishing—including where it can lead. You’ll also soon be seeing three draft cover designs for the book, and we’ll be asking you for feedback on which ones are most appealing (and why). Stay tuned!

Like the Rebus Community as a whole, this book is an outcome of the collective generosity of many dedicated and creative people who believe in rebuilding the publishing ecosystem. We are humbled to have been able to work with our project leaders and contributors over these past two years. This is book is for you—for all of us, in fact—and stands as a promise to keep making (and re-making) the tools and resources that allow us all to create open textbooks. We hope you’ll be inspired by what we have collectively made—so far!


New Mass Communication OER! Media, Society, Culture and You

Media, Society, Culture and You by Mark Poepsel (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) is an approachable introductory text that covers major mass communication terms and concepts, including digital culture, social media, gaming, propaganda, and ‘sharing’. Take a look at the book online, download it in multiple formats, and keep reading to learn more!

We’re excited to announce the release of Media, Society, Culture and You, a new open textbook by Mark Poepsel from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Mark discusses various media, platforms, phenomena, and social implications, including their history and how they are evolving as information and communication technologies change. Mass media educators will find that this approachable text helps direct students’ attention to the current crisis in political communication and action, including the roles of social media and the network society.

Mark Poepsel HeadshotThis open textbook began as a larger, campus-wide project to explore the value, both to students and to the university, of offering open texts. Driven by the idea of reducing the financial burden on students pursuing higher education, Mark decided to dig deeper than other professors on the project. His motivations to author the book and share it openly also stemmed from his classroom experience: “After teaching an Intro to Mass Media and Society course for a couple of semesters, I wanted an additional text that focused a bit more on concepts like the network society, the digital economy, and media entrepreneurship. So, I wrote one with the help of instructional designers at my university.”

Unlike most texts in mass communications, Media, Society, Culture and You focuses largely on digital culture, the network society, and the information economy. As Mark notes, “while you can find the same topic areas covered in introductory media and society texts, you won’t find them covered in this depth or with this emphasis. I see it as a supplemental text for most teachers, and as a core text for me, since I expand on it in lectures by bringing in other academic readings.”

The book’s purpose is to dive deeper into ideas about how society and culture are rapidly changing in correlation with evolving information and communication technologies. Once students have a grasp of what the network society is and what the information economy is, hopefully they can plan mass media careers that can withstand change.

Book cover: Media, Society, Culture and You: An Introductory Mass Communications Text, Mark A. Poepsel, Ph.D.For Mark, it’s exciting that other professors can incorporate his text in whole or in part, and supplement it with other texts in their Mass Media and Society courses. Given that the book is free, another bonus is that students interested in other fields might find it and expand their knowledge of media. Mark imagines readers “sipping coffee across the table from me, discussing with some level of excitement what’s going on in the field, and then considering going into it.”

If you’d like to join the conversation with Mark, take a look at the book online, in multiple formats including PDF, EPUB, MOBI, or in editable formats such as XHTML, WXR, XML, and ODT. And if you’re interested in adopting or adapting the book, please let us know by filling out our adoption form!

Power, Publishing, and A Broader Vision for OER

Open licenses are a hugely powerful tool in education, opening the the door to a whole world of possibility and change. But if we expand our definition and understanding of openness beyond licenses, we potentially have an even more powerful tool to begin addressing systemic inequities in society. As Ethan Senack recently pointed out in his post, A Broader Form of Openness, “it’s unfair to expect open licensing alone to fix [problems of inequity], or for open advocates to tackle them all at once. Lack of access, inequity, exclusion: these power structures are too deeply ingrained in, and perpetuated by, our education system.” I would add, these power structures are just as deeply ingrained in the publishing industry that produces and delivers content into that education system. But they don’t have to be.

When I think of a broader form of openness in education, I think of an open, democratic, inclusive publishing ecosystem that enables students, faculty, instructors, librarians, instructional designers, postdocs, other educators, and others invested in the value of education to create and use the content they need. In other words, content that speaks to their contexts. With that as a different kind of foundation, I’ll be exploring these ideas during a panel discussion at #OpenEd18 in Niagara Falls, NY in a couple of weeks. I’ll be speaking about avoiding replicating the issues of the traditional publishing industry, and the importance of moving from considering publishing as an industry to considering publishing as an act. This is closely tied to the idea of who decides what is worth publishing—or more accurately, who should decide. Those choices are far from neutral, however, which has wide ranging consequences for students and instructors as the end users. I look forward to starting the discussion in our conference session and hope you’ll take the time to join us if you’re attending.

Session details:

A Broader Vision for OER
Speakers: Ethan Senack, Jess Mitchell, Rajiv Jhangiani, Dave Ernst, Zoe Wake Hyde
October 12, 2018, 2:45 – 3:45 PM