Follow that open educational resource!

This morning I was taking a look at some of the Piwiks website analytics for the Geography open textbook we created 2 years ago as a textbook sprint project. For me, the really interesting data is always the referring website data as that can give you a glimpse of how the content is being used and by who.

The BC Open Textbook Project tracks adoptions of open textbooks with an eye to reporting back student savings. But there is much more value in open resources than just a displacing adoption where a commercial textbook is replaced by an open one. When you create open resources, you may have one specific group in mind, but you often find there are unexpected audiences using your resources.

This is a big value proposition of open resources. Once you make an open resource, it is available for others to use and refer back to. Each open textbook in the BC open textbook collection contributes to improving the knowledge available on the open web.

This is one of the major reasons I love open resources created by smart people in higher education. Every time an edu contributes resources to the open web, we make the web a better, more informed space for all.

I like to think of it as making the web more educational, less Perez Hilton.

Onto the Geography open textbook.

First, there is a lot of evidence that the book is being used by the intended audience of BC post-secondary institutions as there are referring links back to sections of the book from post-secondary domains at KPU, UVic, Langara, VCC, UBC and VIU. Most of the referring links I follow back take me to a landing page for an LMS at that institution, telling me that the content is being referred to from inside a course. This may not be a full adoption of the resource by the faculty, but it does indicate that the resources are being used by the intended audience.

But use of the resources extends beyond BC higher ed. A large source of referral traffic is from the Oslo International School, which appears to be an International Baccalaureate primary school. Again, when I follow the referring link I am met with an LMS login screen. It’s crazy to think that a regionally specific resource aimed at a first year Geography student in British Columbia is finding use at a primary IB school in Oslo, Norway. You never know where you’ll end up when you go open.

It is not the only K-12 school referring to these resources. Teachers from School District 43 in BC have recommend (Word) the section on Residential Schools to their students as a resource for students doing a research project.  Teachers in School District 63 are using the section of the textbook dedicated to the BC Gold Rush as a learning resource in their classes.

Those two resources have also found use outside of education. The Royal BC Museum Learning Portal has included a link back to the textbook section on the Gold Rush as a resource on their learning website dedicated to the BC Gold Rush, and Vice included a referential link back to the section on Residential Schools in an article it published on the Canadian Truth Commission on Residential School.

The textbook is also showing up on some kid friendly search engines. A referral from a KidRex search on the Hope Slide led me back to the search results page for the search and shows that the Hope Slide case study in the textbook comes up as the second result (behind the Wikipedia entry).

None of these uses save students a penny, but show the value of an open resource beyond the financial. No doubt that the student savings are important as the financial barriers are real. But to me, seeing this kind of usage of OER shows the benefits extend beyond students. These resources make the web better for all. It is higher ed freely contributing knowledge to the world. It is higher ed making the world much less Perez Hilton.

Addendum: Gill Green, one of the original book authors and current Open textbook Faculty Fellow sent me this tweet about a resource we created for the book.

 

This thing called the internet: part 2 of a post #opened15 textbook brain dump

This is part 2 of my post #opened15 brain dump on the role of open textbooks in higher education, prompted by many discussions about textbooks in the wake of #opened15.

In my first post, I touched on the role that open textbooks can play in bringing new people into the open community. This one is a bit more technology focused.

There is the tension around why we are even talking textbooks? Those static, information transmission devices of yesteryear. The textbook (like Powerpoint) is becoming a flashpoint symbol for bad pedagogy. That we should be post-textbook, even post-content, and that textbooks – even open ones – are prescriptive devices that enforce existing power and authority structures endemic in our education system. Textbooks are a barrier to truly progressive pedagogies, and open textbooks set up the the illusion of being progressive when really they are regressive and represent a content-centric view of learning.

Okay, that is likely just me heaping a lot of representational baggage on the poor old textbook. But this isn’t the fault of the textbook any more than a bad lecture is the fault of  Powerpoint. Poor pedagogy is poor pedagogy, regardless of whether a textbook is involved or not.

As I stated in my last post, the real problem (at least here in North America) is that, we have embedded a culture of textbooks so deeply within our education systems that it is almost impossible for many to imagine there are other ways of doing things.

And here is where I think open textbooks (and more broadly OER) are playing a crucial role, because they create an opportunity to see one different way of doing things, enabled by the internet.

See, I have this crazy belief that this thing called the internet has changed things, and I see OER and open textbooks as beautiful examples of what the internet enables. They certainly are not the pedagogical be all and end all of living in a networked world. I drank the networked learning kool-aid long ago.

the internet

But OER and open textbooks do represent one of the ways that higher education has responded to the new affordances of living in a digital, networked world where we can create, copy and distribute stuff with relative ease. And if it takes people using OER’s and open textbooks to help people see that the internet enables new ways of doing things, then that, for me, is progress. This is what brought me to open education. Open education is something the internet made possible.

So, to the innovators – keep on innovating and please don’t pull away from the community. Push the edges, do cool stuff, bring it and share it and show people that there is an open world post-textbooks (open and closed). We are all at different open paths along the spectrum, and in order to continue growing the community we have to have spaces for those on the edges to join – the legitimate peripheral participation places that allow people to build their own bridges into both open, and the net.

 

The (open) future is here, it's just not evenly distributed

This is post 1 of a 2 part #opened15 brain dump about open textbooks (part 2 here).

I’m post-conference OpenEd15 metaphorically hungover, so forgive me if this goes astray or meanders.

Textbooks. Ugh. Who needs them.

The one hazard of organizing a conference is that you don’t actually get to attend a number of sessions, so my context here is from the backchannels, the post conference wrap up blog posts and hallway conversations.

The one overarching narrative strand I have come away with is that open has grown to the point where pathways diverge as the nuance and details of actual on the ground projects begin to reach a certain state of maturity.  No longer are we talking of “the promise” or “the potential” of open. There is much “doing” of open in many wonderful ways.  The multitude and variety of projects flying open banners is impressive to see as the field matures.

But there is tension in the community around open textbooks. This tension that there is too much emphasis placed on both the “textbook” as pedagogical tool, and the financial savings to students.

Additionally, there is a divide as to whether open textbooks mark an entry point into open education for new people (and there was a massive number of people at OpenEd for the first time), or whether open textbooks are the beginning, middle and end of the open journey for some.

From my own perspective after working on an open textbook project for close to 3 years, all of the above are tensions I negotiate with myself constantly.

My experience with this project has shown that, for some, open textbooks represent a starting point into open. None of us who are working on this project want the open textbook to be the be all and end all of open. But for many  faculty it will be. For some, they will simply swap closed for open and that will be  innovation enough. And frankly, I’m ok with that. If, at worst, open textbooks saves students money and lowers the cost for access to higher education, that is a fine and worthy application of open that is a very student-centric solution to a problem, as Amanda nicely points out. Cost, in many jurisdictions (especially in the US and Canada) is a major problem that we can solve with OER, and as a community we need to recognize that open textbooks are one pragmatic and practical application of open being used to solve a real problem. There is no “potential to” or “promise of”. This is real and it is happening, and that is a wonderful thing.

However, for some, their switch to an open textbook will mark a deeper journey into open. I look at faculty like Rajiv Jhangiani, who started with an open textbook and found a like minded community at people. Open textbooks were an entry point for Rajiv, as they were for Gill Green, the UBC Geography Faculty that participated with us in the textbook sprint, who came away with the moment that really synthesized what we hoped would happen with that sprint project.

One of the most powerful lessons for me was that I should not simply be focusing on using open textbooks in my courses; I should be encouraging students to build open textbooks as course activities. By doing this, we teach not only discipline specific content, but also increase students’ ability to engage in the democratization of knowledge.

Sure, we created a textbook. But more importantly, an open textbook helped to create space for that moment to occur. For me, this moment was what the booksprint was all about.

Problematically, textbooks are so deeply ingrained in our education systems that trying to find others ways of doing education for many is very difficult, especially in an education world where we continually remove capacity for those faculty who DO want to change and experiment and try different things. Rarely will you ever find a faculty member who says they have enough time to do their job, let alone undertake a radical overhaul of their pedagogy. Often faculty are p/t, or only brought in at the last minute to teach a course and grab at that teacher-proofed course-in-a-box (which I’ve written about before).

But there are faculty out there who do want open who don’t even know that we, the open education community, exist. Or that what they are doing, or want to do, has a name and support and community. Open textbooks have created the space to allow others into the community who may not have even known this community existed. And we shouldn’t undervalue the importance of this.

Part 2.

 

An idea for sustaining accounting open textbooks

It happens often enough that I think we in the open education community need a special copyright irony icon for those times when you come across research articles about open education locked away behind copyright paywalls.

Ironic sign post for company called Copyright

Copyright? by Stephen Downes CC-BY

Here is another one (U.S. accounting professors’ perspectives on textbook revisions, Journal of Accounting Education) that contains a great suggestion on how the accounting education community can create & sustain open accounting textbooks.

The paper is a research study on publishers textbook revision cycles, and while it contains some interesting information about how publisher textbook revision cycles are too aggressive for most accounting faculty, the real meat of the article is at the end where the authors present a potential sustainable open textbook community publishing model  along the lines of the NOBA project.

The study was done through the lens of textbook cost and how textbook revisions are one of the major contributing factors to high textbook costs for students. Quicker textbook revision cycles benefit publishers as new editions undercut the used market. The quicker new editions of a popular textbook are released, the greater the opportunity publishers have to sell new books. Since publishers make no money off of used textbooks, there is a strong economic incentive for them to have new editions hitting the market every few years.

How often? The researchers looked at the revision cycles of 69 accounting textbooks over the course of 28 years and found that the time between textbook revisions is shrinking from a mean of 4.2 years in 1988, to 2.4 years in 2016.

While there are changes that need to happen to textbooks over time, it appears that faculty who teach the subject think this cycle is too aggressive. The researchers conducted a survey of 998 accounting faculty, and showed that 54.3% of faculty felt that this revision period was “too short” or “far too short”, preferring a 3.15 year revision cycle. As the authors note, “there is a disconnect between publishers’ current practices and faculty perception of the frequency with which new editions are needed.”

But the recommendation at the end of the paper for accounting educators to establish a Free Textbook Initiative is a fantastic one.

The authors would like to suggest another version of open-source textbooks, a Free Textbook Initiative (FTI) whereby a non-profit entity is created (led by a university, a major accounting firm, the AICPA, or the AAA) to oversee the collection and distribution of funds for writing textbook materials. This would be accomplished primarily with summer writing grants which would be awarded on the condition that all materials created would be put into the public domain and distributed electronically to students and teachers free of charge. For instance, five different professors might write chapters on accounting for leases. Teachers could then choose which chapter they prefer and assemble textbooks on a chapter-by-chapter basis with one chapter authored by professor A and perhaps another by professor B. Those professors with high usage rates for their material would be prime candidates for additional future funding. In this way, the FTI and the absence of frequently revised commercial textbooks would materially lower the cost of education for accounting professionals and create a role model for other disciplines.

Initially, the FTI model could be maintained and periodically updated by faculty in lower-level, static courses, such as principles of financial and managerial accounting, as our survey results indicate that professors teaching in these disciplines prefer longer periods between revisions. Many of the concepts covered in accounting principle courses have changed very little over time (e.g., transaction recording, preparing budgets, etc.), and any initial efforts to develop and compile new course material will potentially be useful for many years.

This does strike me as very similar to the model that NOBA uses in psychology, with individual faculty authoring and submitting openly licensed chapters on specific topics of expertise that other faculty could then mix and match to make their own custom textbooks.

Where the models are different is in the funding structure. NOBA is also a non-profit with sustaining funding coming from the Diener Education Fund. The authors in the accounting example propose a different source of funding.

Accounting education is uniquely placed to be at the vanguard of change in the creation and distribution of textbook materials because of the unique funding opportunities that are available from the profession. The AICPA (American Institute of CPA’s), individual accounting firms, and many businesses are capable and interested in funding initiatives that benefit accounting education. This is almost unique in higher education.

While I am not as keen about having commercial enterprises fund the development of educational material (see Canadian Geographic),  I do think that professional organizations like AICPA (or CPA Canada here) who already have an established interest in maintaining training and credentialing for their profession are well positioned to take on the task of financially support the development of open educational resources specific to their profession. Indeed, the AICPA in the U.S. already supports students through a scholarship program that gives $32,000 in scholarships to 4 students each year. While $5000 and $10,000 scholarships makes a definite impact for those 4 students, imagine the thousands of students who would be financially impacted with lower textbook costs if some of that scholarship money was turned into sustaining an open textbook initiative?

Source: Hammond, T., Danko, K., & Braswell, M. (2015). U.S. accounting professors’ perspectives on textbook revisions. Journal of Accounting Education. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaccedu.2015.06.004

 

What Pressbooks EDU means for BCcampus and Pressbooks Textbooks

Open Textbook Summit 2015

Hugh getting ready to talk Pressbooks and LibriVox at the Open Textbook Summit

A few weeks back at the Open Textbook Summit, Hugh McGuire from Pressbooks announced a new hosted Pressbooks offering aimed at institutions called Pressbooks EDU. Since that announcement, I’ve had a few emails from people asking what this might mean for BCcampus and our work with Pressbooks Textbooks.

In a nutshell, Pressbooks EDU does not change the work we at BCcampus are are doing with Pressbooks. BCcampus is still actively involved with development of the Pressbooks Textbooks platform, and will continue to contribute our code back to the core Pressbooks code base. This means that much of the work we (and by we I mean Brad) do in BC on Pressbooks Textbooks could eventually trickle down to this new hosted Pressbooks EDU instance, however individual decisions about what features and code we develop get merged back into the PB core are made by Hugh and his development team.

While we do share our work openly for the wider community to use, our primary mandated area is to serve the post-secondary institutions within British Columbia. BCcampus will continue to support faculty authoring and adapting open textbooks in Pressbooks as part of the BC Open Textbook project and, later this summer, we will be piloting a self-serve instance of Pressbooks for faculty and staff at BC post-secondary institutions to use.

Hugh’s new service now gives an option to institutions and organizations in other states and provinces who may not have the internal support or resources to set up and host their own instance of Pressbooks (and if you are from a post-sec in BC and are interested in Hugh’s hosted option, by all means contact him). Now institutions have a service provider to support them rather than have to take on the technical support of setting up an instance themselves which, of course, could happen as well as all the code is open source and institutions with the resources could set up their own instance of PB.

I see this as a great move by Pressbooks as it will likely bring some more interest to the platform in EDU now that there is a hosted option available. It will also provide Pressbooks with a source of funding to help grow Pressbooks, the business. In my opinion, a healthy business model for Pressbooks, the company, means a much healthier open source product in Pressbooks, the software.

We have worked closely with Hugh and Pressbooks in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Hugh and Pressbooks have been wonderful partners, and I am continually impressed with Hugh’s vision around what a book can be in a networked digital world, which he spoke about again recently at the Open Textbook Summit.

All in all, I see this as a wonderful development for Pressbooks in education, and for the open textbook publishing ecosystem as a whole.

 

Week 22 in review: the #otsummit edition

Keynote speaker with slide that sayse don't just adopt an open textbook, foster a textbook

Rajiv encouraging faculty to not only adopt an open textbook, but foster an open textbook.

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.

 

 

Embedding Interactive Excel Spreadsheets in WordPress using OneDrive

One of the projects we are funding is the development of a number of interactive Excel documents to support an open finance textbook in our collection. These types of projects are fun to do, and they enhance an existing resource by adding interactivity to the book. This makes the book more attractive for adoption by faculty.

The author has been developing a number of interactive charts using Excel. The idea being, you change a value and the chart changes. Excel is the software of choice in business, so it makes sense to develop these activities in Excel. Now, there is nothing wrong with having students download the spreadsheets and work on them on their own computer. But the author is  looking for a way to try to enable the interactivity to happen within the browser.

After a bit of digging around I discovered that Microsoft OneDrive has the ability to embed Office documents within a webpage. The instructions on how to embed content  also say that, “readers can sort, filter, and calculate data, right there in your post”. Sounds like the ticket to me.

So, I uploaded one of the interactive Excel spreadsheets the author sent me to OneDrive, followed the embed instructions and voila…

…an interactive Excel spreadsheet embedded into a post.

I tested this in Chrome, Firefox and IE and it seems to work. Change a value in the yellow column and the chart below it updates. The other columns stay locked, which is how the faculty coded them. So, the behaviour of the sheet seems to be intact.

The embedded interface also gives students the option to download a copy of the original file (so they can retain and work on it in Excel on their desktop, if they choose), or open up the document within Excel on the web using the icons in the bottom right of the embed window.

download

However, while it works well in the browser, the embedded spreadsheet doesn’t give me much love on my Nexus tablet or Android phone, and  the Pressbooks output formats (ePub, PDF and mobi) don’t like the embed code much, leaving big blank spaces in those outputs. So, there is still that hurdle to cross to find an elegant way to make those work. But so far, I’m pretty happy to have found this as it gives students the option to interact with the data in real time on the website version of the book, or download and keep the interactive Excel spreadsheet. All while allowing faculty to work in a tool that they feel comfortable with.

 

Effectiveness of Open Educational Resources (with update)

efficacy1

Much of this post has been cross-posted at the open.bccampus.ca website, but I wanted to repeat it here because I think that the work that John Hilton III and others are doing at the Open Education Group is important work for the entire OpenEd community. It helps build the case that open resources are viable resources for educators who are concerned about the efficacy of their teaching resources which, as the recent Babson survey tells us, is the most important quality faculty look for when choosing their resources: proven efficacy (a problematic point which I’ve talked about before).

John Hilton III is one of the leading researchers in the area of efficacy of open educational resources (which includes open textbooks). Recently, John has been gathering empirical research on the efficacy of open educational resources compared to traditional publishers resources and publishing the studies at the Open Education Group website. The Right to Research Coalition sponsored a webinar with John where he presented some of the findings comparing the use of open resources with closed resources.

Here are the slides from the presentation, and the archive of his webcast is below.

The “big picture” takeaway from John’s presentation came in a slide he shared early on (see above). The aggregate result of eight different studies he examined shows that 85% of students who use free open resources in a class do as well or slightly better than students using traditional publishers textbooks. (updated May 14, 2015: John left the following comment about this post over at the open.bccampus.ca site that reads “Thanks for this post – one quick clarification. The “50-35-15? breakdown in the image is actually about student and teacher’s perceptions of OER. That is about 50% say the OER they have used is as good as traditional texts, 35% say it’s better, 15% say it’s worse. 10 different academic studies have focused on whether students who use OER do better or worse than their peers using traditional resources have largely found no significant differences. See http://openedgroup.org/review for more details.” So, the empirical evidence from 10 research studies actually shows an even more compelling argument).

Students performing as well or even slightly better while saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in textbook costs is an important finding. However, a John notes, this is just eight studies and there needs to be more research done to be able to see if this result can be replicated in other cases. But still, it does beg the question that if students are doing as well or even slightly better in classes that use free open resources, then how come we still are asking them to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks when the outcomes are the same?

Here is the presentation.

 

 

Making WordPress Accessible with FLOE

I’ve installed the FLOE WordPress plugin on this site.  FLOE (Flexible Learning for Open Education) is a project out of the  Inclusive Design Research Centre   at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) in Toronto.

The plugin adds accessibility feature to any WordPress site, and is designed specifically to address the needs of those using WordPress to develop and deliver accessible Open Educational Resources (OER).

If you look at the top right of this site, you should see a box that looks like this:

showdisplay

Click on that and you will see a number of options appear that let you change the display of the site to address some common accessibility issues, such as text size, line spacing and contrast.

somePreferences

Amanda Coolidge (along with our partners at CAPER-BC and Camousn College) has been doing a lot of work on accessibility with the BC Open Textbook project. Recently, this culminated in the addition of some accessibility features to the Pressbooks plugin, developed by our co-op student Ashlee Zhang. The accessibility features developed by Ashlee match some of the work done by FLOE (like increasing font sizes and line spacing).

I first became aware of FLOE in February around the same time that Amanda, Tara and Sue were conducting our accessibility workshops with students. Unbeknownst to us, while we were doing this in BC, there was a similar sprint workshop on accessibility being held concurrently in Ontario. In retrospect, I wish we had been aware of the Ontario event as it would have been a great opportunity to combine forces and collaborate as we work towards the common goal of making OER the most universally accessible resources available to students.

That said,  Amanda has since made contact with the project. Considering that Pressbooks Textbook, our platform, shares the same DNA as WordPress (it is a WordPress plugin), it seems to me that there is a lot of benefit by connecting with the FLOE project and working together on making OER’s as accessible as possible.

As for the plugin itself, I’d appreciate your feedback on how it works. Play around with it and leave a comment. Click “Show Display Preferences” in the top right corner and get started.

If you want to add the plugin to your site, here’s the GitHub repo.

 

 

Week 13 2015 in Review

Bamboo sunset

A gratuitous photo that has nothing to do with the post, but one I took & like.

Yeah, I’ve fallen off the wagon. back on now. Thanks, Tannis. Ironically, I am on holiday next week so just when I get back on….

  • Meetings with Campus Manitoba and Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Ed talking open textbooks & other open education initiatives.
  • Open Textbook Summit. Finalized presentation proposals with Amanda and Lauri. Very happy with the response to the call & such a great bunch of people coming to Vancouver at the end of May to share what they know about open textbooks.
  • Prepping Pressbooks presentation for CCCOER webinar April 8th on publishing tools.
  • Budget meeting. That time of the year.
  • Site visit for our co-op student with her program. Can’t rave enough about the work that she is doing for us. Nice to have someone with some programming bg helping out Brad on Pressbooks development.
  • Wrapped up PDF project with FunnyMonkey to add an open source PDF output egine (mPDF) to Pressbooks. Watch for that option coming to PressBooks Textbook in the coming weeks. Brad is just doing some finishing work on our end and then it gets released.
  • Signed development contract with Pressbooks to create an ODT output for Pressbooks. This will mean that you will be able to choose an output from Pressbooks that is Word compatible (our goal to make adaptation by faculty just that much easier by making a format that they may feel more comfortable working in).
  • Project update meeting with the Ministry. I have to say, when I took on this new (temporary) senior role in the fall, the thought of these meetings caused me anxiety. I had no idea what they would be like, or who I would be dealing with, despite Mary’s reassurances. I didn’t sleep the night before my first one. What has actually happened is that something I dreaded so much ahs turned into one of my most enjoyable meetings. I feel very fortunate that we have such wonderful support at the Ministry and are working with a crew of very supportive people. I sleep soundly the nights before our meetings now.
  • Prepping another offering of EdTechOpen workshop with Commonwealth of Learning & Ministry of Education April 17-22.
  • We released 2 new books. Our Criminology book developed by JIBC and SFU, and a very interesting and unique open textbook on First Nations economics that came to us from the Tulo Center.
  • Happy & proud of the recognition the entire open textbook team got this week.
  • Faculty Fellows meeting with Beck Pitt from OER Research Hub to discuss preliminary findings of our faculty research project on open textbooks and open education. Some excellent findings already that will help inform our future direction for the open textbook project, as well as help others.
  • Bit of work on a draft budget for OpenEd 2015 (proposals now open).
  • Invited by Colin to attend a faculty development workshop at TRU in May. Submitted workshop abstract for the session I am doing on OER.
  • Booked travel to Open Education Global conference in Banff next month. Looking forward to connecting with many open educators I have yet to meet IRL.
  • What would the BC Open Textbook project look like in 5 years? I’m writing this now.
  • Reading: How Much Do College Students Actually Pay For Textbooks? and postscript by Phil Hill. Also The Remix Hypothesis by David Wiley. David’s post has really resonated and one I hope that gets further exploration by researchers. The case study I often talk about in presentations  (and one that I suspect helped David formulate the remix hypothesis) is the  Houston Community College example of Carol Layman  where remix appears to have been a contributing factor in improving student outcomes.
  • Picked up a couple tickets to the Women’s World Cup in Vancouver in June. Really looking forward to taking my son to the games. We’ve been to a few internationals (not many roll through our neck of the woods) with a hilight being Canada vs. Mexico at the 2013 Gold Cup in Seattle. Such an awesome memory for both of us.

2013-07-11 19.33.09 2013-07-11 21.35.22

 

 

Pressbooks Textbook development

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about Pressbooks development, and we have a couple of new development projects in the works that you might be interested in.

First, we are working with the excellent FunnyMonkey team to develop an open source PDF output engine. Right now, outputs of PDF in PB requires a commercial PDF output engine PrinceXML. Prince does a really fantastic job of creating PDF versions of the books created in PB, but the fact that it is a commercial license is a barrier for others who may want to adopt PB.

This project has been on our ToDo list for awhile, and I am really happy to see the work that Bill, Jeff and Brad have been doing to develop an open source PDF output engine based on mPDF.

The idea with the new PDF output plugin is not to replace Prince, but to provide an alternative for those who don’t wish to purchase a Prince license. PB will work with both.  mPDF won’t quite match the feature set of Prince, but it should still provide an adequate alternative for creating PDF’s without having to dish out money for a commercial Prince license.

Second, we are working with Hugh and the Pressbooks.com development team to develop an Open Document Type (ODT) output engine. This ODT output will also be suitable for use with MS Word (I can hear the sound of bemused puzzlement from some of you). Yeah, Word. I think that, if we are serious about making these books adaptable and editable, we need to make our content available in as many formats as possible, including formats that faculty are used to working with. And, for better or for worse, that is Word. I think that is what most faculty are used to working with, and if it means they will customize content and remix it and – ultimately – adopt it, then let’s make it available in a format that can be edited using Word.

The third bit of development revolves around the excellent work on accessibility that Amanda is doing with Tara Robertson at CAPER-BC and Sue Doner at Camosun College. We are going to be releasing an accessibility toolkit very soon that is targeted at faculty who are adapting and creation open textbooks to help them understand some of the basic design principles of accessibility. Based on some of the accessibility user testing Amanda, Tara and Sue have done, our new co-op student Ashlee from the SFU Computing Science program is working on baking some new accessibility features into PB to make the platform even more accessible for students.

Look for these to make their way into Pressbooks in the coming months.

* I updated this post after Brad informed me that these changes are not specific to Pressbooks Textbook, but will be submitted back to Pressbooks for inclusion with the core package.

 

 

Proven efficacy?

I am at OpenEd in Washington DC this week. Earlier today I sat in on a session by John Hilton from Brigham Young University called A Review of Research on the Perceptions, Influence, and Cost-Savings of OER In lightening sequence, Hilton presented 12 empirical research studies that showed that students who used open educational resources do as well and, in some cases, slightly better, in their class. 

Now, many of these studies were cautious in drawing direct conclusions that it was the OER alone that lead to the results of the studies (and I’ll post the full link of research studies he quoted here when the slides of the presentation are released), but 12 studies that all looked at classes using OER’s returning similar results is encouraging, even if that result is, in essence, no significant difference. Because if there is no significant difference between learning outcomes with students who use free open learning resources and a $200 commercial textbook, then why use the commercial textbook?

One of the interesting points in the presentation came at the end during the Q&A when David Kernohan asked John if he knew of any studies that looked specifically at the efficacy of publishers textbooks. John’s reply, essentially, that he wasn’t really aware off the top of his head, but he may have come across 3 or 4. But there isn’t much.

Which is a similar finding that I discovered this spring as I was doing some research on what makes an effective textbook as I was preparing for our Geography book sprint. There is not a lot of research on efficacy of textbooks, period. One paper I looked at was from 1996 titled Student’s Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids by Wayne Weiten, Rosanna Guadagno & Cynthia Beck which stated that

“virtually no research has assessed the usefulness of the numerous pedagogical aids that are now standard far in psychology texts”.

Meaning that, in the views of these researchers, the features of a textbook that have been put in place to help student learn weren’t put there because they have been shown to help student learn.

Now, I noted at the time of that post that the research I was looking at was 20 years old, but the scans I did at the time showed something similar to what John Hilton had discovered – there are not a lot of research studies showing that publishers textbooks help students learn better (and if you know of studies, please point me to them).

Contrast this lack of empirical research on the efficacy of publishers textbooks with what the recent Babson report on OER’s said is the most important factor faculty consider when selecting teaching resources – proven efficacy. And not just a few faculty, but 59.6% of faculty said “proven efficacy” is the number one consideration for them when choosing teaching resources. Which is a huge disconnect for me. You have faculty saying they pick resources because they are proven effective, but yet reviews of the literature don’t show a lot of “proven efficacy” of publishers textbooks. Which should start to make educators reframe the question from “show me the proof that open educational resources are effective” to “show me the proof that publishers resources are”.

Weiten, W., Guadagno, R. E., & Beck, C. A. (1996). Student’s Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids. Teaching of Psychology, 23(2), 105-107. doi:10.1207/s15328023top2302_8

 

Introduction to Sociology: An Open Textbook Adaptation Story

One of the promises and potentials of open textbooks that has always intrigued me the most is the ability to customize and adapt the book, enabled by open licenses. To me, this is a powerful pedagogical tool that, in the right hands and used effectively, can contribute to better student learning outcomes as some research suggests*.

When the opportunity to work on the BC Open Textbook Project came up, I made a conscious effort to try to promote adaptation over creation of new resources and try to work on how adaptations might work beyond the theoretical promise. This is why our first funded projects were adaptation projects of existing open textbooks.

Here is one of the adaptation projects that, I think, shows how open licenses combined with some fairly informal connections can lead to a type of autonomous collaboration (oxymoron?) to create customized learning resources from a single root source.

OpenStax Introduction to Sociology

Our first adaptation project was released earlier this week, Introduction to Sociology: 1st Canadian Edition. The original Introduction to Sociology textbook was released by OpenStax College. We added it to our collection and solicited reviews from BC faculty on the book. From these reviews, we determined that the book needed to be revised to fit our local (Canadian) context.  Some comments from the reviews:

This is a text that I would use, if it was adapted to the Canadian context. It is very clear and understandable, and all of the sections lend themselves well to illustrations, discussions, and other activities. So, while I do like the text, the issue of using a text with American content in a Canadian college course is very problematic.

and

a) The context is American: Substitute the American context with a Canadian context.
b) There is no single “feminist theory”. Therefore this textbook defining and applying the feminist paradigm as “feminist conflict theory” or simply “feminist theory” limits the contributions of the feminist paradigm to the development of sociology.

From these reviews, we developed a call for proposals to adapt the textbook based, in part, on these reviews. Dr. Bill Little (University of Victoria & Thompson Rivers University) with Ron McGivern (TRU) undertook the adaptation process. Dr. Little was our first textbook adapter and lived on the bleeding edge. This was no small undertaking. You can see for yourself all the changes made in the adapated textbook, but here is a small sampling to show you the type of work that went into this revision. These are the changes made to a single chapter (of the 21 chapter book).

Chapter 1

  • Figure 1.1 changed
  • Added new figure 1.2
  • Added figures 1.5, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11, 1.15
  • Added information about Vancouver hockey riots
  • Enhanced definition of Sociology with Dorothy Smith reference
  • Enhanced and expanded  with micro- and macro- definitions
  • Enhanced and expanded section on to include reference to C. Wright Mills, obesity rates in Canada.
  • Added information about rectification
  • Removed information about U.S. housing crisis and Food Stamp Use in the U.S.
  • Added in reference to CBC program The Current and information about aboriginal incarceration rates  in Canada
  • Removed title Studying Part and Whole and merged with Studying Patterns section
  • Removed reference to the practice of religion
  • Removed section on Individual- Society Connections
  • Enhanced section on Greek philosophy
  • Enhanced section on Eastern philosophy to expand section on Khaldun
  • Enhanced section on 19th century sociology to include contributions to discipline by Mac Weber and feminist contributions by Mary Wollstone.
  • Enhanced and expanded Comte section
  • Renamed, expanded and enhanced section on Karl Marx
  • Broke apart the Creating a Discipline section and added separate and expanded biographical sections for Harriet Martineau, Emile Durkheim, Max Webber, and Georg Simmel
  • Expanded Working Moms section and replaced American references with Canadian
  • Rewrote and expanded the section to include Positivism and Quantitative Sociology
  • Expanded Structural Functionalism and criticism of sections
  • Added Interpretative Sociology, Historical Materialism, Feminism & criticisms of each
  • Added Farming & Locavores case study
  • Removed Conflict Theory
  • Replaced Elizabeth Eckford introductory example with Canadian health care system example.
  • Rewrote and expanded introduction to include reference to feminist movement and aboriginal perspectives.
  • Expanded the “Please Friend Me” to include data on smartphone use
  • Updated Key Terms, Section Summary, Quiz, Further Research and References to reflect new chapter content

You can see the amount of work that Bill, Ron and the entire project team put into adapting this book to make something that was more regionally relevant to Canadian faculty. But as a result, we now have a Canadian edition of an OpenStax textbook.

During this adaptation process, I kept in sporadic touch with David Harris at OpenStax, informing him of the progress of the adaptation. I worked together with David to devise the copyright and Creative Commons attribution statements to satisfy the CC licensing requirements, which ended up reading like this:

Unless otherwise noted, Introduction to Sociology is © 2013 Rice University. The textbook content was produced by OpenStax College and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, except for the following changes and additions, which are © 2014 William Little and Ron McGivern, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Changes to this book, as a whole, were made to achieve the following goals.

  1. Replace U.S.-centric content with Canadian content. This included examples, case studies, significant figures, perspectives and, more pragmatically, spelling, idioms, measurements and grammatical structure and style.
  2. Add feminist theory and feminist perspectives throughout the text.
  3. Add Canadian aboriginal perspectives and content.

Key Terms, Section Summary, Quiz, Further Research, and References in each chapter have been updated to reflect new chapter content.

For a detailed list of the changes and additions made to this book, see “1st Canadian Edition Changes”.

Under the terms of the CC-BY license, you are free to copy, redistribute, modify or adapt this book as long as you provide attribution. Additionally, if you redistribute this textbook, in whole or in part, in either a print or digital format, then you must retain on every physical and/or electronic page the following attribution:

Download this book for free at http://open.bccampus.ca

For questions regarding this license, please contact opentext@bccampus.ca. To learn more about the B.C. Open Textbook project, visit http://open.bccampus.ca

You can scroll to the bottom of this page to see the final wording of the CC licensing statement we came up with in context.

Our Adaptations become part of next OpenStax edition

While our book was being edited and finalized, I sent a draft copy to David and the OpenStax team so they were aware of the changes we were making. It was at this time that David informed me that OpenStax was working on a second edition of the Introduction to Sociology book, so they were very interested in the changes we were making to the content. It is now looking like some of the changes we have made will find themselves into the next OpenStax edition of the textbook.

Adaptations building upon adaptations. Revisions building upon revisions. This is what is supposed to happen. This is the power of open licenses in action. Now, this is still not at the granular level of, say, a department modifying the book to meet the specific needs of their students, as was the case with the Houston Community College example (and which is where I would like to see our book go next – into departments). But this adaptation does illustrate how two projects working collaboratively, yet independently, can both benefit from open licenses at a more macro, system wide level.

So often when talking about adopting OER’s the conversation seems to focus on the single faculty who undertakes these types of projects on their own. The lone wolf. And there are certainly great examples of that kind of adaptation and authoring of open textbooks. But I think those types of adaptations are few and far between. Open wins cam also come from collaborative projects where groups of faculty combined with support structures in place work together to adapt and modify OER’s.

Our authors have never met the original authors of the OpenStax books, and vice versa. Yet they have, in effect, asynchronously and somewhat autonomously, collaborated with each other to create multiple resources based on a single shared resource with the OpenStax project team and the BC Open Textbook project team acting as mediators. Autonomous mediated collaboration. Is that even a thing?

To me, this type of collaboration connects deeply with the spirit of what OER were designed to do. You take my stuff, change it to work for you. Oh, you want it back? Sure. Here it is. Use the new stuff if you want. This is the spirit of open and, as a result, both of our projects and the students & faculty we serve, are benefiting.

* I should clarify with this example from Houston Community College that I think the improvement in learning outcomes occurs not just because the faculty used an open textbook & replaced it with an open one, but because faculty in the department full exploited the potential of the open license to customize the book to meet the specific learning needs of their students. It’s not just an open textbook that contributed to better learning outcomes, but an open textbook combined with faculty who took full advantage of the open license to customize the learning resource that, I think, made the difference in learning outcomes.

 

More open textbook remixing in the wild

you are awesome

You are awesome by Torley used under CC-BY-SA license

Earlier this week I was at the COHERE conference in Regina, talking about open textbooks. Open textbooks seemed like a hot topic of informal conversation at the conference with one of the student participants, USask student society president and open textbook advocate Max FineDay, diving right into the topic on the first morning during the student panel.

While I was there I met Sheila Hancock, an English instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. As we talked, Sheila told me about the open textbook she has been working on, inspired by the BC Open Textbook Project. Sheila and her partner, James Panabaker have taken two existing open textbooks and created their own customized English 1100 open textbook to fit their needs. They set up a WordPress site and, like Rajiv Jiangiani did last year, created a customized textbook. And they did this primarily off the radar of us at the project.

I love this so much. These are the types of examples that really make my day when I come across them. Here are 2 faculty who saw a need, found some openly licensed resources, set up a site, and then used that site to remix their own textbook. And they never asked for help! They did it on their own, quite autonomous from the project. Really, so wonderful to see faculty take the initiative, hear the message that they can take these resources and work with them to customize and mold them to fit their needs, and just go and do it. Because you don’t have to wait for us. You don’t have to ask anyone for permission. You can just do it.

This is the kind of action I always hope to see with this project. Open textbooks living without us. Ok, we did have some part in this by starting the conversation in our province and trying to address the traditional barriers to adoption of OER that faculty often face (where do I go, what is the quality, etc). But, in the case, of Sheila and James, we didn’t have to do much more than that. We set up the conditions, the executed their plan. Beautiful.

When we “formally” work on a book as part of our project (be it an adaptation or a creation from scratch), there is an administrative process that I often worry burdens us. There are contracts, timelines, project managers, people, etc. Adapting and creating a book is an entire “process” for us. And I think, at this stage, we have to do this to provide some guidance, instruction, and support for faculty we are working with. Every time we do an open textbook adaptation or creation project, we are building capacity within the system for people to be able to understand the concept of adapt. To see the realities of what an adaptation project might look like. At the end of the day, by doing projects in an open and transparent way, we are starting to tackle what it actually takes to do adaptations and, once people have had some guidance and support the first time through, they may not need as much for the second…and third…and so on. Every project we fund is a way to build capacity in the system to undertake open textbook initiatives without our involvement in the future.

But sometimes it feels like we are recreating a publishing process with the work we are doing. I think this is a necessary step for us as we push towards our goals of making open textbooks a reality in the target areas we have, but I know what we are doing isn’t scalable or sustainable. We always need to keep in the back of our mind that, our bigger goal with this project, is to build capacity within the system to ensure that adaptations and adoptions continue without us. Which is why I am so happy when I see these kinds of examples like Sheila and Rajiv, of faculty who have felt the open textbook project has empowered them enough that they are willing to tackle something like remix and adaptation on their own.

I don’t expect we will see a lot of faculty take this route right now, at this point in the evolution of our project. We still need to do a lot of work building more localized support structures at institutions to build local capacity within the institutions to help them support their faculty if they wish to pursue an open textbook project on their own. A distributed, localized support system with librarians, instructional designers and educational technologists in place at the institutions to support the work of local faculty at each institution seems like it could be one model of sustainability for open textbooks that I have been thinking more about lately.

Seeing faculty like Shelia and James undertake an autonomous adaptation of open textbooks is a powerful example that digital technologies have had a democratizing effect on the way we produce content. The barriers are being lowered, and people are taking advantage that we live in a world where, with a little technical know how mixed with initiative and an understanding of the needs of their students, anyone can create their own learning resources using the work of others as the base. And for that, I am doing my happy dance once again. Thank you Sheila and James!

 

 

Week 42: Week in Review

Yes

  • The BC Open Textbook project became a toddler this week, turning 2. I spent the early part of the week writing a lengthy blog post and working with our graphic designer Barb Murphy to create an infographic (see below) of how far the project has come in the 2 years since it launched.
  • Prepping for 3 upcoming presentations for Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) on Wednesday, the BC OER Librarians workshop on October 27th, and COHERE on October 28th.
  • Meetings with Camosun, OpenSchool and the Industry Trade Authority as we continue to work out the release of a major common core trades open textbook over the next year. This is a really exciting project, but intellectually draining as it requires me to do a lot of facilitating and get up to speed on long standing relationships between at least 4 different organizations. So far, everyone I have met and worked with have been positive, receptive, keen and eager to see this project happen. But facilitating these types of meetings really stretches the boundaries of my skills (definitely not in my comfort zone) and reminds me that I am an introvert. It was great having the meeting at Camosun as I spent many years working there and had not been back on the Interurban campus for probably 4 or 5 years. Over lunch I ran into a lot of familiar faces and old friends.
  • Met with Bill & Jeff at FunnyMonkey and Hugh at Pressbooks to talk about some potential collaborations in the very near future. We have some projects that we would like to knock of the Pressbooks “to-do” list and I think with the work that FunnyMonkey has done with Lumen and the deep knowledge that Hugh has with Pressbooks that we can get these done in the new year. Specifically I am hoping that we can get much more of the content we have in the open library into Pressbooks to make it remixable. Currently we only have about a dozen of the 76 books in our collection living in Pressbooks. The rest are in other formats and we want to change that. We also want to be able to build a Word exporter (I am still convinced that if we are really serious about giving faculty the ability to adapt OER content we have to give them content on their terms and, for the time being, that means Word). We also want to replace the proprietary PrinceXML PDF engine to make it a truly end to end open source package. Those are the goals.
  • ViaTEC, the Victoria Advanced Technology Council, named the BC Open Textbook Project their Techtorian of the Week, which is really nice recognition from our local tech sector of the work we are doing.
  • Backed 2 Kickstarter projects. BulletJournal is a productivity method I’ve been playing with the past 6 weeks or so. And the StandStand, a portable standing desk (thanks for the lead, Amanda).
  • A 4 day work week for Canadian Thanksgiving and I ate much turkey with my family, including my oldest daughter who traveled to Victoria with her 4 children to spend the night at our house for Canadian Thanksgiving. Our house was hopping.

BC Open Textbook Project turns 2

Open Textbooks Turns 2

The BC Open Textbook Project Turns 2 by BCcampus is used under a CC-BY license

 

 

 

Remixing open textbooks redux

Out of all the blog posts I have written in the past few years, none continues to generate the type of traffic to my site as the post I did on remix and plagiarism 2 years ago.

In that post, I raged against Turnitin which sent out a poster that tried to portray some of what I consider important cultural acts of our time: remix, mashup, aggregation and retweeting, as acts of plagiarism.

Tonight I reread what I wrote 2 years ago. It was written right around the time that the open textbook project was announced here in BC, and before I joined BCcampus to work on the project. In that post, I talked about some of the challenges I thought the open textbook project might have working with faculty around adapting content created by others:

If this is the true and accurate sentiments of educators in general – that remix is, in fact a form of plagiarism – then it makes me realize just what kind of uphill battle we might face here in British Columbia as we move towards creating and modifying Open Textbooks. The challenge being that if educators have this underlying core value that remixing  someone else’s content to create something new is plagiarism, then they are coming into the open text book project with the preconceived notion that we have to build something from scratch; reuse is not an option because it is plagiarism.

For me, this is the wrong way to approach an open textbook project. In order for the open textbook initiative to be successful, I think we need educators to come to the table with an open mind about reuse and remixing existing materials; to modify already existing open textbooks and openly licensed content to fit their specific needs.

Little did I know that, 4 months later, I would be working on this project.

Fast forward 2 years and I am happy to report that we have had some successes in the adaptation/remix area with the Open Textbook Project. This week we released 3 textbooks that are significant adaptations of previously released open textbooks; Mastering Strategic Management, Introductory Chemistry and Principles of Social Psychology. All three of these books were previously available in the commons with open licenses, and all three have been heavily modified and adapted by British Columbia faculty.

I am very proud of the people who have worked on the adaptation projects. These have not been easy projects. These have not been easy projects. Yes, I just said that twice. And will say it again. These have not been easy projects. There is no template to follow for adapting textbooks on the scale that we are doing (and we are not done with some of the biggest adaptation projects still to come in the next few weeks).

Why has this been so challenging? Really, Amanda and Lauri (the two project managers responsible for the heavy lifting) and the faculty involved with adapting these books can fill you in in much more detail than I can, which is why I keep telling people who are interested in adaptation projects that the best BCcampus presentation to attend at OpenEd will be the hands on, nitty gritty adaptation session that Lauri and Amanda will be presenting. You want to get a view into the belly of the adaptation beast, that is where you will find out the work and the issues that are involved in an adaptation project. In a nutshell it boils down to the simple fact that there are not a lot of established processes for adapting an open textbook. If there was a process or a formula that others had developed, then these first projects might have been easier. But there isn’t a lot of operational material on how to actually adapt an open textbook. So, whenever we have an issue or challenge, we need to figure out/research how to solve this on the fly.

Emergent operations.

For example, we had this high level conceptual view (formed from the BC faculty reviews we received about the open textbooks in the collection) that we would have to “Canadianize” many of the textbooks we had found in the commons as they were written from a predominantly U.S. perspective. Great. Swap out a few case studies, replace some stats and we’re good to go.

Wait a second….all those descriptive measurements. Those are imperial units. Oh, wait, I guess we need to go through the entire book and replace all those as well with metric equivalents.

Spelling. They spell it labor, not labour. Oh. Guess we need to go through the entire book and search and replace those. Behaviour, too. Hmmm, there are a lot of those.

Wait. Are those copyright images in that book? We can’t release a book with copyright images. We need to find CC licensed replacements for those images. Crap, those charts are copyright as well. Isn’t this a CC licensed book? WHAT IS ALL THIS COPYRIGHT STUFF DOING IN THERE? Full stop. Content audit. Replace all those images.

Ok, time for copy editing. Oh, the copy editors want to know if there is a track changes feature in PressBooks.

<crickets>

Hmmm, okay, let’s try this plugin. It’s the friggin New York Times. If anyone knows about editorial workflo—–oh crap. Well, that plugin doesn’t play nicely with PressBooks. Ok, no, that’s not going to work.

And how exactly do we word the CC attributions again?  Where do we put them – within the caption of an image, or at the foot of the page, or in a separate document at the back of the entire book, like a glossary or index? How do we handle academic citations? What do we cite, and what do we need to attribute as per CC license requirements?

Ok, I know. I’ll stop because I am sure I am scaring people. Isn’t this supposed to be easy?

Yes, it is a lot of work. But ours is just one way. We are one project and are probably going to extremes because there is this intense desire among the people working on this project to be correct – to address these issues when they arise in a meaningful and thoughtful way. We have this opportunity to do something that, quite frankly, I haven’t seen done on this scale anywhere else. We are adapting a boatload of existing open educational resources for reuse on a system wide scale.

Which brings me back to the original post I wrote about the fear I had that the project would not be able to find faculty willing to remix the work of others. That was flat out wrong. The faculty we have worked with have been eager to adapt – to use others material. To remix. The have smashed those fears I had from 2 years ago, and have provided some tangible examples of remix and adaptation that rounds out the emerging picture of how educators are remixing open educational resources. These people get it. It has been hard work, but adaptation IS happening. And they are to be commended.

But equally commendable are the faculty who created the original material, and who had the foresight and understanding to release their content with an open license that allowed us to take their original material and rework it. They are the ones who set up the conditions to make our projects successful. For if they didn’t put the blood, sweat and effort into creating the original textbooks, or if they had and then decided to shop them around to a commercial publisher or release them with full copyright, then we simply could not do what it is we are doing. So, this post is really a long meandering thank you to David Ball, Dave Ketchen, Jeremy Short and Charles Stangor – the original authors of the three textbooks that have been revised by B.C. faculty Jessie Key (Vancouver Island University), Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Dr. Hammond Tarry (Capilano University) and Janice Edwards (College of the Rockies). For without their original work, adaptation would not be happening at all.

 

Our open Geography textbook is alive!

BC in a Global ContextWell, this is a few weeks later than I was hoping thanks to some last minute wrangling we needed to do with the PressBooks PDF output and image sizes, but it is finally ready for use.

British Columbia in a Global Context is a first year Geography open (CC-BY) textbook that was created by a group of faculty, designers, librarians, instructional designers and other open educators during in a four day book sprint held earlier this summer.

This first year Geography textbook takes a holistic approach to Geography by incorporating elements of physical, human and regional geography, as well as bringing in methods and perspectives from spatial information science.

The process of how this book came about has been well documented so if you are interested, you can check out the posts on the BCcampus Open Education site. For now, I just want to get the word out and start finding Geography faculty who might be interested in reviewing the textbook.

 

The BC Open Textbook Sprint – the afterglow

Note: This is a cross-post from our BCcampus Open Education blog.

48,420 words. 8 chapters.

Day 1

The first BC open textbook sprint wrapped up late Thursday night after 4 long days of collaborative writing, researching, editing and reviewing. We’ll have a more thorough debrief of the event in the coming days. For now, here is what is happening with the book.

Mapping!

Over the next 2 weeks, we will be moving the book into PressBooks Textbooks, the platform we are using as our primary book creation platform. For the sprint, we did not use PressBooks but instead used a collaborative writing platform called PubSweet, created by the BookSprints team. After discussing whether to use the BookSprints platform or our platform, we decided to use PubSweet as the authoring platform for the sprint because the facilitators were familiar with the platform. And, given the mammoth task ahead of us to create a 1st year Geography textbook in 4 days, we decided that rather than add a level of complexity onto the process, we would stick with what our facilitators were familiar with working with. So, our first task post-sprint is to transfer the book from PubSweet to PressBooks Textbooks.

This should not be a huge issue as PubSweet exports the book in ePub and PressBooks Textbooks (thanks to the work of programmer Brad Payne) can import ePub files. We had a few moments of concern with our first attempts to import the book into PressBooks due to the way that PubSweet packages ePub files, but a few emails back and forth to the PubSweet developer by Barbara our facilitators and we think the issue is fixed. So, task one is to get the book into PressBooks.

IMG_1175

After that, I’ll be undertaking a thorough review of the book looking closely at how the resources we used are attributed. During the sprint, attribution of resources was often noting more than a link to where we found it (after we reviewed to ensure that we could use them under the open license we wished to publish with). But these resources are not attributed correctly, so that needs to be reviewed and corrected.

We will also have copy editors review the entire book. We are still working on the details of the contracts with our copy editors so that has added a bit of a delay in the release of the book. But, with some luck, we should have the copy editing underway in July and completed early August.

Finally, we will release the book. It will be available for download and reuse immediately after it is copy edited (we hope this will be done in August). Once it is publicly released, we will be soliciting peer reviews from Geography faculty from around the province, like we are currently doing with all the books in our collection.

There are many people to thank for making the past week possible. First and foremost, the 5 Geography faculty who were brave enough to commit to locking themselves in a room with a bunch of strangers to write a book in an incredibly short amount of time. The first to sign on was Arthur Green of Okanagan College, followed by Britta Ricker (SFU), Siobhan McPhee (UBC), Aviv Ettya (UFV), and Cristina Temenos (SFU). These people worked incredibly hard, putting in 12-14 hour days, to create the book. Barbara  Ruehling from BookSprints facilitated the entire event, assisted for the first 2 days by Faith Bosworth. UBC librarian Jon Strang was a priceless resource. The BCcampus support crew of Amanda Coolidge, Hilda Anggraeni (who was our illustrator and created & contributed dozens of maps and graphs during the sprint), Brad Payne and Christy Foote. Each of these people gave tirelessly to see the book created in 4 days and make this project happen.

See photos of the 4 day sprint on the BCcampus and BookSprint Flickr accounts. We also tweeted about it using the #bcbooksprint hashtag.

Day 1

All photos from BCCampus_news used under CC-BY-SA license

 

Opportunity lost when government content isn't openly licensed

tl:dr  Publicly funded materials should be openly licensed materials

It is day 2 of the BC open Geography textbook sprint (follow along via blog, Twitter or Flickr). I’m hunkered down with some Geography faculty who are working extremely hard to create a first-year open Geography textbook in 4 days.

The book is very regional, using British Columbia specific case studies, and I’ve been working with our librarian and the faculty to source openly licensed BC specific Geography resources to use in our openly licensed textbook (it will be released with a CC-BY license). The problem is we keep finding useable materials on our own provincial government websites that are protected by copyright and not openly licensed.

Why is this a problem? Well, we can’t use it. We have made a commitment to release anything we create under a Creative Commons license to make it as reusable and shareable as possible.

Now, we could go through the hoops and hurdles and fill out forms and ask the government for permission to use the resources. And we just might get permission to use them for the context of this one book. But anyone who would want to reuse the book down the line would have to go back to the copyright holder (the provincial government), most likely fill out those same forms, wait, and then renegotiate the rights to reuse those resources. It’s not impossible, but a significant barrier to reuse.

Or, we could negotiate to use them in the book with the caveat that anyone down the road would need to remove the copyrighted content, which means that the book is not as complete as it could be. Again, doable, but a barrier for reuse that weakens the book.

We could ask the government to release the content under a Creative Commons license. They may or may not do that. But that will take time and there is no guarantee that it will happen. We need to make a decision about what resources we want to use now. 4 days.

But what bothers me the most is that here we have a project that would benefit the citizens of British Columbia by giving them access to a free learning resource and we cannot use resources that those same citizens have paid for. We have paid to create resources like the charts and graphs in this report, or this historical image from the BC Archives, or this one. And there is this map and this one – resources that would be useful for our Geography textbook. Yet these resources are virtually unusable because they were not released with an open license.

How much more bang for our buck could the taxpayers of BC get if these resources were allowed to be used in other contexts that benefited the citizens of BC?

So, what is the final result? The content is not being used. It is being passed over in favour of openly licensed content. The barriers worked, and that feels like such an unfortunate and unnecessary waste.

The opposite case: Government of Canada

For every frustration I have had with trying to use BC government resources, I have had nothing but success with the federal government. Every resource we have looked at using in the textbook has been openly licensed. We are able to use data, graphs and charts from Stats Canada, and maps from the Atlas of Canada, all openly licensed for reuse. There is a wealth of primary source information that our Geography faculty are using as the basis for the textbook. It has been hugely encouraging to see how much data and information our federal government is releasing and allowing reuse of.

Now obviously, there are important open government initiatives underway in this province, like, uh, well, you know – this little open project that I am working on and DataBC. But I hope that these open initiatives are just the start in British Columbia and that someday in the near future when we are creating more open educational resources that will benefit the citizens of BC, we’ll have the ability to freely use, reuse and redistribute content from our own provincial government.

Image: Day 1 by BCCampus released under a CC-BY-SA 2 license