At Rebus Community, we’ve heard a lot about projects that involve students in the creation of open textbooks.
In many cases, these were classroom projects with robust learning objectives. In others, students collaborated with professors as research assistants, TAs, or a similar role. Some of these resulted in completely new OER; others expanded upon existing resources.
The more we learned, the more we got excited for the possibilities when students get involved in the production of open textbooks. We decided to share these stories, and some related resources, in hopes of both inspiring and equipping others to follow suit.
An introduction to open pedagogy from experts Robin DeRosa, director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University, and Rajiv Jhangiani, University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Project ideas, case studies, interviews with and first-person accounts from faculty and students engaged in open textbook projects in the classroom
Three sample assignments for creating or updating open textbooks from faculty who have done such projects
Resources such as a guide to CC licensing, an MOU for students and faculty
As with everything we do, this is a first edition that we plan to expand on in the future, so please let us know if you would like to see something added in future, or have something to contribute yourself!
You can leave feedback on the book using Hypothes.is, or let us know your thoughts by replying to this thread in the Rebus Community Forum.
We’d like to once again thank all the contributors that made this guide possible, and to all future open pedagogy explorers, we wish you luck! If you are embarking on an open textbook project with your students, please let us know in the forum as well — we’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.
We’d like to welcome Dr. Benjamin Martin, Dr. Beau Branson, Dr. Douglas Giles, and Dr. Heather Salazar as part editors on this open textbook. Would you like to get involved as an editor or chapter author? Join the project on the Rebus Community Forum.
It’s been almost a year since Christina Hendricks at the University of British Columbia decided to work with Rebus to create a new, open (CC BY-licensed) textbook for use in Introduction to Philosophy courses. The project has grown tremendously, with dozens of collaborators, and we’re pleased to announce that four new editors have recently joined the team to kick off four new subject parts; Logic, Philosophy of Religion, Social and Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Mind.
Benjamin Martin joins us from the UK, and will be working as the part editor for Logic. Since receiving his Ph.D. from University College London in 2014, Martin has held the position of assistant professor at Queen’s University. His current research interests include the philosophical implications of non-classical logics, responses to scepticism, and the relationship between negation and denial.
Beau Branson has taught in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Owensboro, Kentucky. He will be curating the Philosophy of Religion part. Branson received his Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in Ancient and Hellenistic Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Philosophical Theology. Branson’s current research focuses on the philosophy of the early Church fathers. By bringing the rigour of contemporary logic and analytic metaphysics to bear on deep historical questions in patristics scholarship, he hopes to show how both analytic theology and historical theology can benefit from a deeper engagement with one another.
Douglas Giles taught philosophy in the U.S. for twelve years, and will be compiling the Social and Political Philosophy part. He recently completed his Ph.D.in critical social theory at the University of Essex, U.K.. Giles plans to continue teaching at the university level. His research interests include political philosophy and phenomenology.
Heather Salazar is an associate professor at Western New England University. Salazar will join us as the editor of the Philosophy of Mind part in early January. Her specializations within philosophy of mind include substance dualism and externalism. Salazar’s current work focuses on enlightened self-interest both within Western perspectives (neo-Kantian constructivism and philosophical psychology) and Eastern traditions (Yogic philosophy and Buddhism).
These part editors will be responsible for:
Creating and sharing a part outline with a summary and short chapter descriptions
Soliciting & incorporating community feedback on the outline
Helping to recruit authors
Working with Christina Hendricks to answer questions from chapter authors
Helping to edit contributed chapters
We’re so pleased to have these incredible individuals onboard and thank them for their willingness to contribute! We’d also like to thank Christina, and our first two part editors Dr. Scott Clifton (Aesthetics) and Dr. George Matthews (Ethics) for their leadership to date, guiding and moderating debates on the Rebus Community Forum, shaping the direction of the content, and helping to work out the process for bringing the project to fruition.
The book is beginning to take shape, with chapters from the Ethics and Aesthetics parts beginning to come in. We are excited to see more content coming together in the upcoming months. Head over to the project volunteer page to sign up for updates or get involved!
Are you a professor of Hispanic literature? We need you and your students to help us expand the Antología abierta de literatura hispánica! We’re looking for instructors to run a critical edition assignment in their classrooms (with support) and submit the results to the second edition of the anthology. If you’re interested, head to the project homepage and let us know!
We’re pleased to share that the Antología abierta de literatura hispánica (AALH) is now available for use in classrooms! The AALH is a collection of public-domain texts from the Hispanic world, accessible to students of Hispanic literature as a free, openly licensed resource on the web, in PDF or as an ebook. It proposes an inclusive, broad, and evolving definition of the canon, and in so doing reimagines the ‘Anthology’ for a new era.
This project is spearheaded by Dr. Julie Ward at the University of Oklahoma, who ran an Edición Crítica assignment in her Introduction to Hispanic Literature course to produce the first edition of the anthology. Over the course of the semester, students prepared critical introductions and annotations that came together to become the AALH.
We are now looking for instructors to replicate this assignment (or something similar) in their Fall 2017 course, and contribute their own student-created critical editions to the next edition of the anthology. As these editions are collected and compiled, we see the AALH becoming a robust, accessible, and valuable resource for students, instructors, and researchers in the field of Hispanic literature.
To support faculty who will be conducting the assignment, Dr. Ward has prepared a comprehensive implementation guide, complete with assignment materials, student guides, and instructor resources. She and others running the assignment will also be available to consult on questions or challenges that may arise.
The AALH is unique in its incorporation of student voices and perspectives, drawing inspiration from the highly regarded Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature (first produced by Robin deRosa and now being expanded by new lead editor Tim Robbins & the Rebus Community). These projects redefine conceptions of an Anthology from a static collection put together only by faculty to a dynamic, accessible compilation of both faculty and student work.
If you’re excited by these developments, and want to participate in this project, sign-up on the Rebus Community Forum and leave a comment on the discussion thread!
Guest Speakers Maha Bali, Tara Robertson, Susan Doner, and others TBD
We have an opportunity to leverage open educational values to create a vibrant publishing culture. How do we increase diversity, equity and inclusion in OER publishing? How can we work together to ensure that diverse voices are equally valued? What barriers may exist in open textbook publishing that inhibit this vision? Join us for a discussion about how we can best move forward.
Are you an instructor, staff member, or librarian using Open Textbooks at your institution? Do you want to know how you can keep this resource updated over the years? This month’s Office Hours session on keeping open textbooks relevant will help you do just that! Watch the video recording, or read a recap.
During this session of the monthly Office Hours event organized by the Open Textbook Network and the Rebus Community, special guests Lauri Aesoph, BCcampus; Shane Nackerud, University of Minnesota Libraries; and Kristen Munger, SUNY Oswego discussed the challenges of keeping Open Textbooks up to date.
Watch a recap of the session, or read the full summary below.
For host Karen Lauritsen, of the Open Textbook Network, the topic of updating Open Textbooks is especially pertinent to their Open Textbook Library initiative – which acts as a database for reviewed and published Open Textbooks. Hugh McGuire, founder of the Rebus Community, also emphasized the importance of revising open textbooks to ensure that they remain a relevant resource in the post-publication years.
Following a quick introduction to Rebus from Hugh, Karen invited our special guests to describe their experiences.
Lauri Aesoph, manager of Open Education at BCcampus, explained some procedures that they perform, beginning with a comprehensive record of their collection in an internal document. This document includes date of creation, the type of license, and more, and is accompanied by a versioning history page for each book. Next, Lauri says that each book is updated for minor corrections and revisions. At BCcampus, they keep a static copy of the book available for use, while also giving individuals access to different editions (American and Canadian, for instance). The original edition of the book is always available for reference if needed. Similarly, Karen said that the Open Textbook Library has a dark archive in DSpace. Lauri ended by describing how BCcampus regularly polls faculty and staff to find out gaps and areas of improvement in certain books, and use this feedback to move forward with other updates.
Shane Nackerud, technology lead at University of Minnesota Libraries, discussed the process of taking Open Textbooks and revising them in Pressbooks. UMN has published three new open textbooks in-house, and is currently working on five more books. Their decision to republish a book, and update it in the process, is based on the hit count or the popularity of the book in the Open Textbook Library database. They also check to see whether the content of the book, such as images, is openly licensed. Another means by which they have been able to build the robustness of the Open Textbook is to ask institutions for supplementary or ancillary materials, and make this available to instructors. So far, responses to these calls have been limited, with only one institution providing supplementary material, but Shane hopes this will pick up as OER becomes more popular. Shane explained that these materials are placed in a restricted Google Drive, and are only shared with a faculty once their affiliation is confirmed. Since this process might get cumbersome with time, Karen suggested Proola as an alternative tool.
Kristen Munger, associate dean in the School of Education at SUNY Oswego, brought the author and editor perspective to this process. In her work with other authors using the SUNY system, she has found that even the most minor things in an Open Textbook require maintenance – for example, hyperlinks. Dead links are not helpful to students or faculty using the textbook, and need to be checked regularly. Any errors that are also flagged once the textbook has been adapted is helpful for updating the book. Kristen acknowledged that the Open Textbook provides a lot of flexibility to preserve its lifespan, meaning that it can be updated more easily than a traditional print textbook. However, at the same time, this poses certain challenges: How do you label a new edition of an Open Textbook? How is a new edition different from a revision of the book? Can you easily identify where you are in the process of updating the book?
Karen directed some of Kristen’s questions to the other participants. Alina Slavik from OpenStax jumped in, saying that for them, revisions refer to errata changes, while major content changes warrant a new edition. Alina pointed to an errata tool, allows people to submit suggestions for correction, displays a public list of errata that have been spotted, and allows individuals to see how errors have been dealt with. OpenStax also provide release notes accompanying each PDF that documents the changes made to that revision or edition.
Another participant wondered how best to deal with dead links, and how often these need to be checked. Alina suggested a program called Spider, that crawls through links monthly and notifies them when it catches a 404 error. Further, she says that OpenStax uses a redirect to an external link (eg.: http://www.openstaxcollege.org/l/24detplaceval), which means that they can update the link internally when needed without having to update the content. Regarding frequency, Alina added that the subject matter of a textbook is a good indicator of how often it needs checking. Kristen brought up the idea of having the author involved to care for the book, and implement changes like these, over a span of 5 years after the book’s release. Lauri said that BCcampus doesn’t have a system in place as yet, but just corrects the dead links as they are reported.
Other questions from participants included: How does an instructor ensure that students are using the most up-to-date version? Kristen said that instructors who are adapting the book can update it for their course, and in this manner, would be using the most “up-to-date” version. Lauri agreed, saying that it is up to the faculty member who adapts the book and in fact, this is a useful skill for an instructor to have. Participants asked if there are built-in versioning systems to track the life of an Open Textbook. Shane mentioned that an easier method of versioning is needed, and Hugh responded saying that a version control mechanism is in the works at Pressbooks, where the book’s metadata would capture and reflect information about its particular version.
The session concluded with the agreement that the driving force behind both the creation and upkeep of Open Textbooks are groups of willing and motivated people. It is critical to ensure the survival of Open Textbooks by working together, and thus ensure that OER creation is scalable in the long term. If you have any thoughts or resources you would like to share, please post them in the Rebus Forum.
Are you a Canadian geographer looking for an alternative to the traditional human geography textbook? Help us build one! We’re looking for contributors to write chapters for an Introductory Human Geography Open Textbook,and you could help! Read more about the project below, then head here to participate.
The latest project to join the Rebus Community is Human Geography: Principles and Applications, an introductory textbook that the authors hope will serve as an alternative to the traditional human geography textbook and ultimately, become a replacement for it. Unlike the traditional textbook, this book will focus on applied human geography and help students build practical skill sets that complement core concepts.
In addition, this book will be a Canada-first textbook, written from the ground up to focus on Canadian human geography and human geographic perspectives, patterns, and conditions, but with a twist: while this edition of the textbook is Canada-focused, the content produced will be modular, so that instructors in different jurisdictions will easily be able to adapt the text to suit their regions. This modularity is exciting as it points to the ease of revision and adoption of this textbook in geography courses all around the world. Instructors can also adopt portions of the text as is useful for their classrooms.
Leading the project is Dr. Paul Hackett, an Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, whose interests cover historical and geographical patterns of the health of western Canada’s First Nations. Joining him is environmental geographer Dr. Arthur G.Green, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and college professor at Okanagan College, whose interests lie in natural resources, legal geography, GIScience, development and sustainability, and quantitative techniques. Heather Ross and the team at USask’s Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching & Learning have also be instrumental in the development of this project.
Both professors are committed to producing a resource that is uniquely and intrinsically Canadian, while still remaining adaptable for non-Canadian use. The long-term goal is to have an open lab manual with exercises related to human geography that accompanies the text and that will be freely distributed with an open license.
We are currently looking for chapter authors to join this project. In particular, we are looking for Canadian geographers who have advanced expertise in and and can author these sections:
You can indicate your interest in these roles by commenting on the forum discussion.
If you’re teaching geography at an institution in Canada or elsewhere and would like to participate in this project or if you would simply like to follow this project’s progress, you can head to the project page in the forum, sign up, and let us know you’re interested!
Open Textbook Network & Rebus Community Host Office Hours
Wednesday Aug. 30, 2 p.m. EST
Guest Speakers: Laura Dawson and Naomi Eichenlaub
What are best practices for open textbook metadata, in order to maximize discoverability and account for the utility and remixability of openly licensed materials? How might we standardize metadata across open textbooks? What attributes should be included? How should metadata be handled across multiple versions of textbooks?
RSVP for the session. (Note that the session will be recorded.)
If you have any questions, or have difficulty entering the call, email us at email@example.com.
We are very excited to share some of the progress we have made with the first volume of TheHistory of Applied Science and Technology Open Textbook. In the past few months, we have managed to secure contributors from institutions across North America, Europe and Africa for chapters ranging from the Ancient World to the Medieval Period.
Lead editor Danielle Mead Skjelver of the University of Maryland and University of North Dakota is delighted at the impact this textbook will have on students. She says,
“In the open access ecosystem, The History of Applied Science & Technology Textbook Project is well underway in producing a resource to fill a need that is as yet unmet. We are excited to contribute to the growing number of open access Humanities textbooks!”
This first volume should be available for adoption as early as January 2018. We are grateful for the enthusiastic response and support from members of the Rebus Community, and elsewhere.
What’s Next? Volume II!
Moving forward, we are looking for contributors for the second volume of the book. This project was conceived as a wide-ranging survey text that would provide instructors with content structured around a narrative focused on human transformation across time and geographic space. Volume II will encompass the following chapters:
The Medieval Period (500 to 1400 CE) — China
The Remarkable Fifteenth Century (1400-1500)
The Early Modern Period (1500-1600) — Europe Phase I: Breakthroughs in Scientific Thought & Technological Application
The Early Modern Period (1500-1750) — Global Technologies
The Early Modern Period (1600-1750) — Europe Phase II: The New Science of the Seventeenth Century & the Enlightenment
Interested in contributing to one of these chapters? We’re looking for ~1000 word section contributions on a range of topics. We invite you to sign up via our forum, or claim (or suggest!) your section in the more comprehensive Table of Contents.
If you’d rather contribute time as a proofreader, reviewer, or something else, let us know on the forum! At Rebus, we believe that collaborative publishing is the model for the future, and welcome faculty, students, and other participants to work together to build this new model.
Are you a professor, librarian, or staff member looking for ways to prioritize accessibility in OER? This month’s Office Hours session on best practices for accessibility in open textbooks will help you do just that! Watch the video recording, or read a recap.
Accessibility in Open Textbooks was the subject of this month’s Office Hours, organized by Rebus Community and the Open Textbook Network.
Watch the video, or read a recap of this session below.
Hugh McGuire of Rebus Community introduced the guest speakers, who included Josie Gray, BCcampus; Krista Greear, University of Washington; Jess Mitchell, OCAD University; and Michelle Reed, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Each speaker presented a five-minute perspective on accessibility that included how they make open content accessible at their institution.
Josie Gray is an Open Textbook accessibility editor with BCcampus. She performs post-publication edits to open textbooks to ensure the content conforms to Web accessibility guidelines. Josie uses a screen reader, which uses markup of a web page to make things accessible to non-sighted users, to test the accessibility of the textbooks. She stresses that fluency in HTML is not needed to make open content accessible, especially in Pressbooks. She mentioned some accessibility best practices for markup, including adding link text, using table headers, adding captions and alt tags for images, and including long descriptions for images that would need this detail to understand if you weren’t able to see them. Josie advised authors to avoid conveying information through colour. She suggested BCcampus’ Accessibility Toolkit as a good starting point for those new to thinking about basic best practices to implement for accessibility.
Jess Mitchell, senior manager of research and design at IDRC, OCAD University, said there are a number of ways to make content accessible, including the best practices Josie mentioned. Jess pushed participants to go beyond checklists, and also think about the ecosystem that is required to make a piece of content accessible. “We want to start to think about pedagogically, how do you think about presenting materials in a way that can make them accessible.” She also talked about creating not just accessible materials, but accessible materials that “create an opportunity of discovery for the learner.”
Michelle Reed is an open education librarian from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. She encouraged attendees to think of ways to prioritize accessibility in their institutions. Michelle said she aspires to limit or eliminate the need for commercial textbook remediation by making high-quality OER alternatives that are innately accessible. She mentioned that the use of materials remediated to be accessible is limited to students with a registered disability, when in fact making content more accessible and multi-modal could benefit all students.
Krista Greear is the assistant director for disability resources for students at the University of Washington. She has been working to make course materials accessible for the past five years. Krista works mainly with the remediation side of things, and manages a unit that provides closed captioning for course videos and other support for students with disabilities. “Accessibility is really giving students with disabilities the same right to succeed or fail as any other student,” she said. She talked about creating materials or retrofitting materials to be device agnostic, ability agnostic, and access to technology agnostic–or at least materials that can be easily turned into something that is readily usable by anyone. Krista reminded us about the various contexts in which students might use open textbooks, such as reading a textbook on the bus, or on a mobile device, and how these environments should be taken into consideration during their production. She said she believes the line between video and document content formats will blur further as textbooks become more interactive. Krista also advocated for accessibility practitioners to work alongside faculty and content creators in order to make accessibility possible as materials are created, not after the fact.
Karen Lauritsen of the Open Textbook Network mentioned that OTN had accessibility resources available in the recently released Authoring Open Textbooks Guide.
Hugh invited participants to join the Rebus Community Working Group on Accessibility to collectively build both checklists for accessibility and ways to integrate best practices into the authoring process.
Participants wanted to know whether speakers had a sample intake form with accessibility questions that professors/instructional designers could use when authoring an open textbook–something that would help authors think about accessibility considerations as they create content. Karen shared the intake form from the Authoring Guide, but cautioned that it may need revising for individual circumstances.
Participants talked about accessibility and interactive STEM content, especially for translating interactive visual models from an HTML5 canvas to a tactile learning experience. Jess pointed towards PhET, and Krista suggested the ITACCESS group and the ATHEN listserv as additional resources. Other questions were about accessible design in Google Docs – Grackle came up as a popular resource – and the community response to efforts to make OERs accessible. Our special guests agreed unanimously that response was positive, while they mentioned that convincing professors to devote time to remediating documents or recruiting volunteers was challenging.
Hugh inquired how much time our guests spent remediating textbooks. Michelle ran some numbers, and found that from April 1 to date, she and her students had spent 1,800 hours remediating 109 textbooks and 100 hours captioning videos. She said that it takes them 100 pages/hr to remediate non-STEM materials, while it takes 10 pages/hr to remediate STEM content. Michelle also stressed that due to copyright and funding restrictions, their work is not shareable with other universities. (So if another student needs the same textbook remediated, their institution would have to start from scratch, a key reason why she said accessibility should be built into textbooks from the get-go.)
The Rebus Working Group will continue the conversation around accessibility. Front of mind will be ways to make open textbooks accessible in the creation process and educate authors/faculty and institutions about why this matters. Interested in taking part? Join the Working Group on Accessibility.
Technology enables open textbooks to become living documents with longer lifespans than traditionally published textbooks. With that in mind, how do we care for open textbooks in the long term? How do we systematically ensure that new editions are created and that instructors know up-to-date versions are available? This session will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities of maintaining open textbooks.