Last week was all about the 3rd annual open textbook summit in Vancouver.
The summit was bigger than ever this year and marked a number of firsts for us; the first time we have done a more traditional conference format, soliciting presentation proposals from the wider community for concurrent breakout sessions. For the first time, we hosted a pre-conference event celebrating our authors, adapters, reviewers and project partners, and it was also the first time we charged a modest conference fee ($150) to help offset costs. This last bit had me especially worried as I have always seen a free event as a way to attract the interest of those on the periphery of open textbooks. I wasn’t sure we had hit a kind of critical mas in interest to justify charging just yet for a conference. I didn’t want to put up any barriers, and cost to attend a conference can often be a barrier.
Boy, was I wrong. Over 170 participants (40+ more than last year) joined us in Vancouver to talk open textbooks. In the end, we had 31 sessions and 2 exceptional keynotes from KPU’s Rajiv Jhiangiani on day one, and students Chardaye Buekert (SFU) and Erik Queenan (Mount Royal University) on day two. And the BC Minister of Advanced Education came by to share a few words with the attendees.
We’re just in the process of gathering all the slides and keynote videos and will post them on the OT Summit website in the coming weeks (we’ve started posting some photos on our Flickr site and here is the hashtag archive). My own takeaways in scattered, bullet form…
- The keynotes. I could not have been happier with both. I have glowed many times about Rajiv, and he bowled me over with his keynote that was equal parts gracious, thought provoking, challenging and funny. The man is truly an all-rounder, clearly and passionately engaged with the scholarship of teaching and learning and his discipline, plus a formidable researcher. His framing of open textbooks as a social justice issue resonated with many in the crowd.
- It is not an easy task keynoting a conference, let alone being a student asked to speak in front of a room full of faculty (and the Minister of Advanced Education), but our student keynote went even better than I hoped for, thanks to our extremely eloquent, passionate, informed and charming student keynotes. They both did a superb job in presenting a student perspective on how OER and open textbooks can address inequalities in education.
- We had a strong student turnout. In addition to the keynotes, there were 18 other students from various post-sec’s in attendance.
- Both Jessie Key and Christina Hendricks (who, along with Rajiv, make up our trio of Faculty Fellows) were busy presenting, meeting and connecting with others at the conference. Along with Beck Pitt from the OER Research Hub, we set aside some time to talk about writing a report with recommendations based on some of the findings from our faculty OER survey from last fall and this spring. We’ll be co-writing and releasing a report looking specifically at institutional barriers faculty face when using OER and open textbooks, and try to make some recommendations on what institutions can do to help remove those barriers.
- My colleagues Amanda Coolidge, Lauri Aesoph, Christy Foote and Barb Murphy did most of the heavy lifting to make this thing happen. Thank you. I work with exceptional people.
- Met with Janet Welch (eCampus Alberta) and Trisha Donovan (the Alberta OER project) to talk about the OER initiative in Alberta and how we may collaborate on some specific initiatives under the tri-provincial Memorandum of Understanding around OER’s that was signed by BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan 2 years ago.
- Gill, Barb (who got up at the ungodly hour of 3am to co-present live via Skype from Tokyo) and I did a presentation on the BC Geography Textbook Sprint. We’ll be doing this again at OpenEd in the fall. This caught the attention of some BC institutions who are intrigued by the model and have asked me to follow up with them. Adam Hyde from BookSprints was at the summit and I finally had a chance to meet him f2f and hang out. The way he thinks and talks about information, knowledge production, ownership, authorship, books and communities resonates strongly with me, and I am happy to have made the connection.
- Speaking of progressive thinkers about the future of books, Hugh McGuire from Pressbooks attended and made an announcement about a new Pressbooks EDU hosting service he has set up specifically for educational institutions who are interested in using Pressbooks, but may not have the internal IT resources to set up an instance themselves. Hugh has been a terrific partner with the open textbook project, and I am really happy to see him launch this initiative as it provides another way for faculty and institutions to engage with open textbook creation and hosting.
- Met with our print on demand service providers, SFU Document Solutions, on some new initiatives around print books that we have in the works. SFU is big on Bitcoin, and we are exploring the possibility of making Bitcoins a payment method for students who order the low cost, print on demand open textbooks. As well, we are exploring alternative ways of shipping physical books using the existing inter-library transfer system. KPU and SFU have been testing this out as a way to reduce the sizable shipping costs of open textbooks, especially around the lower mainland where there is a concentration of institutions and students sometimes pay up to $15 to have a physical textbook shipped just a few blocks away.
- Post-conference, I met with the BC Earth Sciences articulation committee. We have funded the development of a Geology textbook (being created by Steve Earle from VIU/TRU-OL), and the articulation committee has been involved with the development of the book by acting as the peer reviewers on the book. As a result, the interest is high among this group in adopting the book once it is released. I think including the provincial articulation committee in the development of the resource is a fantastic move as this is the community that will make the book stronger and be the group who ultimately has a lot of influence in the adoption of the textbook throughout the province.
Finally, I had some fun last week getting ready for the conference riffing off some of the themes in Rajiv’s keynote. A few weeks ago when I was at TRU-OL for their faculty event, Rajiv and I had lunch together and had this fun idea of making an infomercial around the current textbook sales model. We had a laugh and I thought nothing of it until later on in the afternoon, Rajiv emailed me a script he wrote. I put my old hardsell radio voice on, went digging around Flickr and had some wicked fun making this to close the conference.