New Guide to Authoring Open Textbooks is Here!

Melissa Falldin of University of Minnesota and Karen Lauritsen of Open Textbook Network have just released the first iteration of their guide to Authoring Open Textbooks.

The guide is a resource for anyone involved in making open textbooks–faculty, librarians, instructional designers and others–whether for higher ed or K-12. It includes materials designed to simplify the process for new open textbook creators as well as tools, resources and case studies that even the most experienced practitioners will find useful.

Authoring Open Textbooks cover imageThe book covers textbook organization, academic editing style recommendations, open textbook licensing, institutional considerations and author intake questions, among other aspects of open textbook creation.

This guide reflects the experience of many people working in open textbook writing and publishing, including authors and librarians. “Authoring Open Textbooks features case studies from several institutions in the Open Textbook Network, as well as adaptable materials that users can customize for their own institutional contexts,” said Karen Lauritsen, director of publishing and collections for the Open Textbook Network. Together with co-author Melissa Falldin, an instructional designer at the University of Minnesota, they plan to update the guide as community experience continues to grow.

Contributors to the first edition include:

  • Karen Bjork, Head of Digital Initiatives, Portland State University Library.
  • Caitie Finlayson, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Mary Washington.
  • Dianna Fisher, Director of Open Oregon State.
  • Linda Frederiksen, Head of Access Services, Washington State University, Vancouver.
  • Ralph Morelli, Professor, Computer Science, Emeritus, Trinity College.
  • Shane Nackerud, Technology Lead, Library Initiatives, University of Minnesota Libraries.
  • Deb Quentel, Director of Curriculum Development & Associate Counsel, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI).
  • Cody Taylor, Emerging Technologies Librarian, University of Oklahoma Libraries.
  • Anita R. Walz, Open Education, Copyright & Scholarly Communications Librarian, Virginia Tech.

Authoring Open Textbooks was built on the Rebus Press and received support from the Rebus Community to find contributors.

We hope you’ll check out Authoring Open Textbooks, and help us spread the word about the guide to others who might benefit from its insights.

Want to make #opentextbooks? Here’s what you need to know! @mathsandarts @melissafalldin

Help Build Ancillary Materials for Principles of Social Psychology

Ancillary materials are often tipping point for open textbook adopters.

At Rebus Community we will be supporting a new, collaborative way of creating not only open textbooks but also ancillaries, and eventually, test banks and similar components.

Our first example of such an effort is this project, led by Rajiv Jhangiani of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, to help create materials to support Principles of Social Psychology.

The book already has large adoptions at UBC, Ohio State, and a few other smaller institutions (including KPU). Our goal is to develop ancillary materials that will enable even more students and faculty to benefit from this great open textbook.

The first materials we hope to compile are 12 decks of CC BY-licensed powerpoint slides, one for each chapter of the book.

If you’ve already adopted, we hope you’ll chip in a little–the materials will benefit not just you but the community of faculty using the book. And you may be able to adapt resources you’ve already built to benefit the broader community of your colleagues in the social psychology discipline.

If you’re interested in claiming a slide deck, join the Rebus Community Forum and reply to the project post.

Hooray! 12 Open Textbooks in Process

We’re pleased to share that we now have a total of 12 open textbook projects in process at The Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation!

These open textbook projects receive support from Rebus Community in the form of project management; help finding collaborators including authors, editors and proofreaders; peer review coordination, and support for design and formatting; as well as help getting the books into classrooms and libraries. This initial batch of projects will be used to develop transparent processes, software and tools to support the publishing open textbooks.

The Rebus Community plans to help publish many new, high-quality open textbooks that can be freely used and remixed by students and educators worldwide.

“Working on open textbooks provides an opportunity for individual creators to leverage open design principles, but even the most experienced of us can benefit from a shared infrastructure and guiding documentation,” said Billy Meinke, an OER technologist at the University of Hawaii who is participating in Rebus projects. “The Rebus project is connecting a network of creators and helping catalyze ideas around collaborative OER content development.

The Rebus Community is a project of The Rebus Foundation, a Canadian not-for-profit organization with a mission to build new models and technology for open book publishing and reading on the web. The foundation was created in August 2016 and its work on open textbooks is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, leaders in supporting Open Education initiatives.

About the open textbooks in process:

If you’d like to contribute to any of these projects, please follow the link to the Community forum and sign up with your interest! Please also feel free to gently (or firmly) suggest joining a project to any friends, colleagues or students who might be interested. We’ve listed the most pressing needs for each project below.

Introduction to Philosophy With Christina Hendricks, professor of teaching at University of British Columbia as lead author, this text will be built for first-year (college or university) students taking introductory survey courses in philosophy, and will touch on the foundational ideas in philosophical inquiry. The book will cover core concepts in Western philosophy as well as other traditions.
NEEDS: Chapter authors for Ethics and Aesthetics sections

The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature (2nd Edition) The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature was initially created by open textbook practitioner Robin de Rosa, chair of interdisciplinary studies at University of New Hampshire (Plymouth). Working with students, she collected public domain texts and created a narrative to form the beginnings of a new, definitive anthology of Early American Literature. Lead editor Tim Robbins of Graceland University will manage the development of the book’s second edition.
NEEDS: Feedback & text suggestions for TOC

The Science of Human Nutrition This project, managed by Billy Meinke at University of Hawaii at Manoa, will be used for high-enrollment undergraduate courses in the Food Science and Human Nutrition. It will cover elementary aspects of several biological sciences and nutrition issues of current interest.
NEEDS: Chapter reviewers and copy editors

Planning and Implementing a Digital Humanities Project Sarah Ketchley, University of Washington, is the lead author for this project, which will offer clear guidelines and best practices for planning and implementing a digital humanities project, following the workflow from initial planning stages through to completion.
NEEDS: Case study & tutorial contributions (watch this space!)

Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students Led by Linda Frederiksen, head of access services at  Washington State University Vancouver, this open textbook is designed for students in graduate-level nursing and education programs. From developing a research question to locating and evaluating sources to writing a sample literature review using appropriate publication guidelines, readers will be guided through the process.
NEEDS: Chapter reviewers

Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship Dr. Michelle Ferrier at Ohio University and Elizabeth Mays of Arizona State University are the lead editors behind this open textbook that includes activities, ancillary materials and faculty resources on media innovation. The text is designed to be a valuable resource for use in media entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial journalism courses across the globe.
NEEDS: Chapter authors (academics and professionals)

History of Applied Science and Technology A joint project of lead editors at the University of Maryland University College and University of North Dakota with support from The Digital Press at UND, this textbook is designed to meet the needs of History of Applied Science and Technology courses at colleges and universities around the world. Led by UMUC history capstone course chair Danielle Skjelver, the book’s central theme is the transformative impact of technological and epistemological changes on worldview and human behavior.
NEEDS: Section authors (~1000 words)

Ancillary Materials for Principles of Social Psychology Under the leadership of Rajiv Jhangiani at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, this project primarily involves bringing together social psychologists to develop ancillary resources to support Principles of Social Psychology. The book already has large adoptions at UBC, Ohio State, and a few other smaller institutions (including KPU). The ancillaries might include a question bank, powerpoint slides, and an activity manual.
NEEDS: Subject matter experts to create slide decks

Foundations of Biology Led by a team of authors at Greenfield Community College, this project will involve merging two existing texts–OpenStax Biology and OpenStax Concepts of Biology–to create a version suitable for the mixed levels of students that are taught in a community college setting.
NEEDS: Pressbooks wranglers/formatters

Global Regions: World Regional Geography for a Globalizing World Distinguished Professor of Geography Kris Olds of University Wisconsin-Madison is lead author on this book, which will take a contemporary approach to teaching geography, engaging students with rich visuals and moving away from the traditional encyclopedia format.

Financial Strategy for Public Managers Justin Marlowe at University of Washington is the lead author of this text designed for students in Master of Public Administration programs. It could serve as the core text for a comprehensive introductory graduate or advanced undergraduate course on public financial management. It could also complement university courses or continuing professional education on public finance, public budgeting, tax policy, and nonprofit finance.
NEEDS: Reviewers, beta testers/adopters

Author Guide Melissa Falldin & Karen Lauritsen at University of Minnesota are compiling a guide for authors or project managers/librarians working with faculty authors who want to write an open textbook. Content will cover author intake processes, timeline development, textbook organization and elements, writing resources and useful tools.
NEEDS: Anyone to help share the first edition!

Each of these textbook projects is in need of cross-disciplinary contributors, including writers, editors, peer reviewers, image and formatting wranglers and more. To get involved or learn about current project needs, join The Rebus Community at

Best Practices: Making Open Textbooks With Students

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

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

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

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

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

Students also get the option to use a pseudonym.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Office Hours: Peer Review for Open Textbooks 

Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours

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

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

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

RSVP with this CORRECTED LINK and join the session at

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

Open Anthology of Earlier American Lit: TOC Open for Comment

The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature is a great OER story. It began as a way to save students money in an American literature survey course, has turned into a project held up as a model of open pedagogy, and in its next phase, we hope it will grow into a genuine alternative to costly traditional anthologies and allow faculty and students more freedom to engage with the texts in new ways.

Since finding a new lead to guide this project, we’ve been working hard on the next steps. Lead editor Tim Robbins has been developing a draft table of contents with the help of his student assistant, Matt Moore. Tim explained some of the rationale behind the initial draft in a recent blog post:

I embraced the open project with Rebus accepting that my inclination towards social history would color the anthology’s roster, a case reinforced in the opening draft of our Table of Contents. As expected, the sections track roughly chronologically and feature representative authors and texts. Indigenous creation stories confront European colonial documents; the early texts of New England’s Puritan pulpits are met and challenged by the voices and pens of native peoples, African slaves, and women writers. The American Revolution gives way to an explosion of social movements and an expansion of the canon stretching from Thomas Paine’s republican propaganda to the birth of African-American letters in Phillis Wheatley. The selections from the early nineteenth century include the familiar names of the “American Renaissance”—Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville—in tandem with the literature of abolitionism. The post-Civil War sections aim to balance the significant social writings of the Gilded Age and Reconstruction era with the emergence of realist fiction.

We would now like to invite the community to comment on the draft and help select the texts that will represent each author. In particular, we are looking for:

  • Feedback on the sections and structure
  • Feedback on the authors selected for each section
  • Suggested texts for each author
  • Any other comments or suggestions

If you have some experience working or teaching with anthologies of early American literature, we welcome your feedback on the proposed TOC. You can access the document here and add your comments.

If you have any general comments or wish to discuss anything with other collaborators on the project, you can also reply to the project post in the Rebus Community forum.

Office Hours Video: Recruiting Open Textbook Authors

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

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

Thanks again to our speakers and those who attended.

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

Welcome our two new section editors for Introduction to Philosophy

From a glimmer in the eye of lead editor Christina Hendricks, the Introduction to Philosophy project has grown quickly, with a team of around 20 collaborators working to clarify the approach to and scope of the project. The team have developed a draft table of contents, with seven initial sections to be covered; Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science and Ethics.

In a big milestone, we are pleased to welcome aboard our first two section editors who will lead the way on developing and completing their sections, and also help to build out the process of starting an open textbook from scratch with the Rebus Community.

Dr. Scott Clifton is a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Miami University, and will lead the section on Aesthetics. Scott works primarily in ethics, analytic aesthetics, and philosophy of emotion, and is also interested in medical ethics.

Dr. George Matthews is a teaching lecturer in philosophy at Plymouth State University with 20 years experience teaching intro courses in philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, environmental ethics, and political philosophy. He will be heading up the section on Ethics.

The section editors will be responsible for:

  • Creating a list of around five chapters to be covered in their section
  • Working with Christina to develop a light author guide (e.g. desired length of each chapter, general guidelines for content structure)
  • Helping to organise and guide chapter authors (with support from Rebus project managers)

A huge thank you to Scott and George for agreeing to join us in this role!

As with the History of Applied Science and Technology project, our approach is to break a larger project down into manageable pieces and focus on completing one or two of those pieces at a time. You can read more about this approach in this blog post: “If We All Chip In, the Effort Will Be Minimal and the Benefits Great.”

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with this project, or might be interested in authoring a chapter in Aesthetics or Ethics, head to the forum project page and let us know!

History of Science and Technology Open Textbook needs you!

The Rebus Community is building a new collaborative model for open academic & textbook publishing, and we’re always looking for forward-thinking academics, students and citizens to come help us reimagine publishing.

Right now, we are looking for contributors of short sections to a new (open) History of Science and Technology textbook. Would you, or someone you know, be interested in contributing a 1,000-word section on any of the following topics?

  • Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy, Medicine & Mathematics
  • Mathematics, Astronomy, & Aristotle
  • Ancient Roman science, engineering, and technology

There are many more sections up for grabs, and also needs for proofreaders, reviewers and more. Find out about this project, lead by Danielle Mead Skjelver, from the University of Maryland University College & University of North Dakota.

We’re also supporting the publication of a dozen other open textbooks, including: Intro to Philosophy, The Science of Human Nutrition, The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, and Financial Strategy for Public Managers, working with faculty and staff from institutions including University of Hawaii, University of Washington, Graceland University, University of British Columbia, University of Arizona, University of Calgary, and many more.

Perhaps you’d like to help?

Note: The Rebus Community is a project of the non-profit Rebus Foundation, which is supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Open is More Than A License: Why File Formats Matter for Revising & Remixing

I once wrote a 2500-word essay on why PDFs are terrible, so it’s safe to say that I have some thoughts about file formats (and also that I’m great fun at the right kind of parties). However, it’s also safe to say that not many people give file formats as much thought as I do. We probably collect quite a few of those who do in the OER community, but for anyone who doesn’t, here’s a little primer on why they’re important to what we do:

There is an ongoing conversation in the Open world about what being “Open” means beyond allowing cost-free access, from accessible language to inclusivity to leaving open unknown future uses of your work. In the educational context, we’ve talked about what it means to us here, and most famously, David Wiley has encapsulated “Openness” in OER in the 5Rs – the right to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute content. Formats have big implications for all of these, and directly inform our approach to Openness at Rebus. Open content needs to do more than give permission to exercise the 5Rs (i.e. through open licenses); it also needs to offer the technical capability (and ease) to exercise them.

As an example, when it comes to revising and remixing, it helps if the content exists in a format that lends itself to editing. The Rebus Community is currently supporting a project that will see two OpenStax biology textbooks combined to create a new text. However, the books are only available in formats that don’t lend themselves to editing: web/HTML, PDF and OpenStax’s own format, CNXML. This means that before being able to work on the content, the team needs to figure out a way to turn one of those formats into something easier to work with.

BCcampus has been working on bringing the OpenStax books into Pressbooks (an open source book production software widely used for producing OER, including in the Rebus Press) and Rebus is working on converting OpenStax Biology in a similar way so it can be adapted (we’re currently doing this manually, but hope to build an automated process in the coming months).

While, in theory, we could have dropped the content into any editing software (e.g. Microsoft Word) for this current project, the advantage of Pressbooks is that it easily allows the work we do to benefit others; this, and many other Pressbooks books can be made available for download, in a range of different formats that each serve a different purpose, through a distribution option. Once activated, the distribution option automatically adds the most recently exported book files to the book landing page, where anyone can access them. The main formats available are:

  • PDF: This is best for print, and is preferred by some for digital reading (especially offline)
  • Ebook (EPUB and MOBI): Ebooks are another popular option for reading (but much less popular with those doing anything remotely technical with the files)
  • XHTML: The standardised nature of this format makes it very useful for moving content between systems & formats. HTML is the language the web speaks, and XHTML is the central source from which PDF and ebooks are created in the Pressbooks system.
  • Pressbooks XML: This is an extension of the standard WordPress XML output format, and allows a clone of the book to be uploaded to a new Pressbooks shell, with either all content or a selection imported. It makes revising and remixing in Pressbooks incredibly easy, with a new, editable version of a book able to be created in a matter of minutes.
  • OpenDocument Format (ODT): ODT is an open file format that is compatible with MS Word and similar word processors. While the ODT output produced by Pressbooks isn’t very pretty in terms of formatting, it does allow for content to be edited in a familiar system, which is sometimes a useful option.

One of our goals is to take the entire collection of OpenStax books and make them available in the Pressbooks format, so any Pressbooks-based network (, etc.) can host copy of the originals that can then be taken and adapted by downloading the XHTML, Pressbooks XML or ODT (with the disclaimers about formatting).

The OER refrain of not reinventing the wheel applies here, too — openness means that we share our work so that it doesn’t have to be replicated, and everyone can build on it. We usually think about this in terms of content and licenses, but we should also consider the practicalities of how we can (or can’t) work with that content. An open textbook that exists as a PDF available online and a Word document buried on someone’s computer just isn’t reaching its full potential!

We should also consider how this kind of openness applies to all the other work that goes into creating an open textbook. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do at the Rebus Community: engage with the people who are making open textbooks and leverage their experiences to create tools and resources that can be used by everyone in the community.

Want to be a part of it? Join the forum and sign up to one of our projects.

The distribution option is currently available or can be activated on any Pressbooks network except Infrastructure upgrades are in process in order to be able to support it at the scale required on the main network and it is expected to be available within the next couple of months.