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.



The #otsummit in Vancouver next week

Busy week next week. We are hosting the 2nd annual Open Textbook Summit in Vancouver. Last year I had been on the job for only a few weeks when this event rolled around & remember feeling very n00b-ish in a room full of people from well established projects like OpenStax, Siyavula, CCCOER, and Open Course Library (along with others like Creative Commons & student advocates). There were about 30 participants and it proved to be a great introduction to the open textbook community.

Me in full gesticulation at the 2013 Open Textbook Summit in Vancouver. Image from Creative Commons & used under CC-BY license.

This years event has scaled up. There are over 130 people registered. Many are from those same projects & groups, but there are also many new people in attendance. We have more faculty attending. Librarians will be well represented, as will senior post-sec administration. Students will again make up a good portion of the crowd, including some from Saskatchewan, where that province (along with Alberta) have recently announced their own open textbook initiatives. There has been a provincial agreement (pdf) signed between the 3 western provinces to work collaboratively together on OER projects, which is a really wonderful development in terms of encouraging further use and development of open educational resources in Canada. Because of that agreement, there will be some pretty high level government officials from BC and Saskatchewan in attendance.

That is a lot of people representing different stakeholders in one room talking open education.

Brad and I will be speaking for about 20 minutes on some of the technology we are using for the Open Textbook project. Much of my short piece will be built around some of what I have written about before about the decisions we made when architecting our sites to reach some specific goals, like findability of the resources (a long standing complaint of many faculty that we wanted to try to alleviate with our project as much as possible), the public display of reviews of the books, and the ability to enable choice of format for students. Brad is going to dig into PressBooks and the work he has done extending it for open textbook authoring (and I am happy to see that Hugh McGuire, the developer of PressBooks is going to be attending)

This year, I am heading into the 2 days with some clearer conversations in mind, and the biggest one that I am looking forward to is with David Wiley & Bill Fitzgerald around their work developing a new OER publishing platform called Candela. This is very exciting because Candela is being developed on WordPress, which is the same DNA that PressBooks has. I am eager to find out about their roadmap and see where the connections between Candela and PressBooks Textbooks may intersect.

I am also eager to connect with some of the faculty members who will be participating in our open textbook sprint in June as I know they will be in attendance. So far, I have only conversed with this group of faculty via email, and I know some will be in attendance.

I am also looking forward to conversing with faculty in general around a very specific issue we continue to grapple with – enabling customization (or remix or adaptation – pick your term). As we head into this phase of the open textbook project, we need to start making some very deliberate development choices to enable adaptation. So I want to take this opportunity to ask faculty questions about the best way to enable customization to happen. I am fleshing out some thinking around the ways we can enable customization of open textbooks to happen, depending on a number of factors. But much like the conversations I want to have with institutional IT staff when I am at BCnet in a few weeks, I want to hear from those that are on the ground what we can do to enable them to do the types of adaptations they need to do in order to adopt the material.

Registration is closed, but we will be live streaming if you want to join in virtually. Twitter hashtag is #otsummit.

See you in Vancouver next week.