I was invited to speak on OER and open textbooks to the Science faculty at Douglas College. This is the first time I have presented in my new role at BCcampus, and the first time I have spoken directly with a group of faculty at any institution about the open textbook project so I was very curious as to the types of questions I would get.
Overall, I think it went well, especially when I got to the bits about what students think about textbooks & the cost of textbooks for students. There were many nods of agreement and acknowledgment. And as I spoke about OpenStax College and their excellent open Physics textbook, a Physics instructor was busy downloading the textbook to check it out and declared at the end of the session that it looked “really good.” Positive stuff.
There were also some critical questions. While I was showing off some of the available textbooks, there was a question from an instructor about the sustainability of the textbook. She said that, while these textbooks may be good now, what guarantees are there that it will be good in the future? Who will update the textbooks, and how will a faculty know that the updates are legitimate and valid? I think this question was brought on because I showed an example of a Wikibooks textbook and the discussion page that included a plea from someone who had adopted the textbook asking editors to take care when editing the contents of the textbook because it was an authoritative text. While I saw that as a quality indicator sign for faculty (someone at another institution has adopted this and made it known to the community), it came across as a red flag for those in the audience because it underscored the point that the wiki can, technically, be edited by anyone. And if you are going to build your course around this wiki-based textbook, the fact that someone can edit it at anytime is a concern.
I didn’t have time to delve into the intricicies of wiki’s and how you can mitigate this. Or get into how an instructor who adopts a Wikibook as a text can actually take an active ownership role in the stewardship of that resource. But I think if I am presenting to faculty on this again, it might just be easier to remove the Wikibooks reference and concentrate on projects like OpenStax College and Open Textbook Catalog out of the University of Minnesota.
Another question came from a Geography instructor who was concerned about an American-centric perspective in the textbooks since most of the open textbooks I was showing were created by U.S. based foundations and organizations. My response to both was that these were examples of the beauty of open licenses – that we can take an American open textbook and Canadianize it. That we can update and maintain our own textbooks without waiting for a publisher to do it. That we can take ownership of these resources.
I don’t know if I got that point across really well. Something to improve upon for next time.
Here are the slides for the presentation.