September Office Hours: Starting an Open Textbook Project

Office Hours

Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. The chat transcript is also available, for those interested in reading the conversation that took place amongst participants and seeing resources shared.

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Audio Transcript


  • Karen Bjork
  • Kathleen Labadorf (Kathy)
  • Katie Kirakosian
  • Deborah Amory (Deb)
  • Allison Brown
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Karen Lauritsen 

Zoe: Hi everyone, and welcome to another round of Office Hours. Wonderful to see you here. I’m Zoe from the Rebus Community, if we haven’t run into each other before. We’re really excited today to have some guests sharing their stories of starting their open textbooks. This is really great bread and butter, we’ve all been there, and a lot of us are looking at doing this sort of work in the future. 

So, we’re really excited to hear a lot of practical experience and advice from folks who have been through this process already. And well, I’ll hand over to Karen in a moment to introduce our guests today. And I just wanted to take the chance to also encourage all of you to be asking your questions, think about any in advance you have. And also, share your experiences with getting started with open textbooks. 

There are so many ways to come at this work, and all of you have incredibly valuable insights and experiences to offer as well, so we’ll have lots of time for discussion in the second part of the call. And for now, I will hand over to my lovely co-host, Karen, from OTN to introduce our guests today. 

Karen L: Thank you, Zoe. This is Karen Lauritsen, I’m with the Open Textbook Network. And we are delighted to partner on monthly Office Hours with the Rebus Community. As Zoe said, this is a bread and butter topic, how do you get started? And it’s a really great question because there are a lot of different ways to get started. Not necessarily one right way, and so you’re going to hear a variety this afternoon and this morning. 

So, in order to provide a little bit of context for two of our guests, I’m going to talk just a bit about the Publishing Co-operative at the Open Textbook Network because both Karen Bjork and Kathy Labadorf who are here as guests are members of the Publishing Co-operative at the OTN. And so, just to provide some context before I go ahead and introduce everyone, the OTN believes that higher education can own the production of academic content. 

And so, we have built a community of people who are doing just that, also through adoption workshops. And in the Publishing Co-operative, specifically, we’re focused on developing systems and support and sharing what we’re learned. It’s platform agnostic, we’re really trying to build capacity in publishing basics. And we do that through professional development as well as through that community of support that people offer one another. 

So, two years into the Publishing Co-operative we have a curriculum, and I’ll share the links with you when I’m finished with my blurb. But we have a curriculum that’s been a great outcome, we’ve learned a lot together, Kathy and Karen were both founding members and things have changed a lot in those two years. So, the Co-operative has always been free for our members, but now something that’s changed is the pathway into the Co-operative is called PUB101. 

And that’s a seven-week orientation to publishing that’s available to anyone in the OTN. And it’s really just an overview, orientation to publishing so that when you get to certain points in the publishing process you know that there are resources for you out there and you’re connected to colleagues who’ve been down that road before, or who maybe are struggling in that moment, with something similar. 

So, I’ll also put links in the chat to a reference table that shows some of the things available to you in the Publishing Co-operative, I’ll also include a one- sheet. And then, as I mentioned you’ll hear from both Karen and Kathy who are members of the Co-op. David Rech is also here, he’s the founder of Scribe, he partnered with us in getting the Co-op off the ground. 

And one of the benefits of being in the Co-op is that you can access their publishing professionals, editing, design, illustration. If there’s something you don’t have capacity to do locally, but that you want to be able to offer your faculty authors there’s someone that you can turn to and just create one vendor relationship for those kinds of professional services. 

So, that’s it from me, Zoe, I’ll turn things back over to you in case you want to give context for some of your guests. 

Zoe: Absolutely, thank you, Karen. So, a lot of what Karen said I just say hear, hear. The reason why we work well together and why we love partnering with the OTN is that we share a lot of that approach to publishing to fostering capacity within the OER community and really taking ownership of the publishing and creation process. So, a few of the guests here today, Allison, Deb and Katie have all worked with Rebus Community in different ways. 

And in particular, the work that we’ve done with Deb and Allison was the foundation for a program that we’re launching or have just launched, the textbook success program. I’m going to speak a little bit more about that towards the end of the session. But it is a 12-month support program for open textbook creation. We use that very broadly, it’s open all sorts of things that vaguely resemble textbooks. 

And so, it offers really direct information about the publishing process, if you know Rebus Community, we’re about collaboration and community building within that. So, as I say, I’ll speak a little more about that towards the end and so, again, just wanted to share the context there as well of the work that we’ve done with some of our guests today. 

Karen L: And I’ll add it’s not an either or situation, you could certainly use Rebus projects in the OTN to organize what you’re doing. And we’re always looking for ways to partner and complement what we’re doing in our communities. So, we have many guests today, and if you’re new to Office Hours, they’re going to speak very briefly to give an overview of their experience related to starting an open textbook project. 

Then, we’d like to turn things over to you, so that you can direct the conversation with your questions and inquiries. So, first we’re going to hear from Karen Bjork, she’s head of digital initiatives at Portland State University Library. And then, we’ll hear from Katie Kirakosian, who is adjunct lecturer at the department of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Following Katie, we’ll hear from Kathy Labadorf, former open educational resources and social sciences librarian at the University of Connecticut. Former, because Kathy retired recently. Then, we’ll go on and hear from Allison Brown, she’s the digital publishing services manager at SUNY Geneseo. And Deb Amory, who’s professor and chair of the department of social science and public affairs at SUNY Empire State College. So, I will now begin by turning things over to Karen. 

Karen B: Great. Thank you so much. So, one of the things that I have been asked to speak about is really looking at once a manuscript is done and created, how do we make the decisions on what type of copyediting, design layout, production piece of it. So, I wanted to just briefly give a background about the textbook that we decided to work with and some choices that we’ve made. So, the textbook that I’m specifically talking about is a philosophy textbook. 

It is currently available on our PDX Open site, it’s called Inferring and Explaining. And it was created specifically for philosophy 201, an introduction to philosophy, as well as philosophy 320 which is a critical thinking. The book took about a year and half for the author to create and during that time, I did work with him to do check ins to make sure about his progress, to answer any questions. 

So, I was very much involved from the very beginning of the manuscript creation all the way to the actual publishing of the manuscript. So, the author’s goal for his book is he really wanted to save students money, that was the main thing that was driving him. But he also wanted to create a useful tool to increase students’ understanding of evidence-based arguments in everyday contexts in regards to philosophy. 

And the author also wanted the book to be fun, like one of the things that he really found was a lot of the books that he was teaching with were really dull and boring and didn’t have day to day real life context. So, he wanted to be able to incorporate that and add that into his open access textbook. In regards to what were the goals for the project, so for my goal, as the project manager, I really wanted to have an experience of taking a book from the very beginning to all the way to the end of the production. 

And that also included being very much involved in the design and the copyediting. So, up until the point that we joined the OTN, the Publishing Co-operative, we were not handling any of the copyediting, any of the layout or the design. I was relying on the authors to actually go and find copyeditors and designers, and we were contracting that out. And we were running into a lot of issues with this. 

And we were finding that there were a lot of inconsistencies, and so our manuscripts were running into a lot of bumps along the way that just wasn’t really helping with the author’s experience as well as our own. And we were coming away, walking away from it going, “Is this really what we want to do?” So, once the manuscript was completed, I had to then spend some time to figure out like what do we want done with the manuscript? 

How are we going to move forward? What would we like Scribe to take care of? Was there anything that we could do? So, from the author’s perspective, he had already had his manuscript go through some level of peer review. So, he had sent out his manuscript to colleagues at other universities, to get their opinions on the structure, what was the pedagogy, would it be something that they would teach with in their own course. 

What adjustments would they want to see or be made? But he’d never really sent it out to anyone for any type of copyediting of proofreading. They had sent small comments, but it wasn’t anything major. And the author knew that he had a tendency of having run on sentences. But he also wanted to make sure that his voice was consistent throughout the manuscript. He had been writing this manuscript for years, so his style had changed, he had cobbled together a lot of notes and lectures. 

And so, he really wanted to make sure he had that consistency, and that was something that some of his peer reviewers had actually brought up as well. So, that was the one big piece, the other big piece was really the structure piece. So, he had a lot of features that he wanted to be able to incorporate in his manuscript. And it was really important that the structure was done correctly so that the logic of the book made sense. 

And we really focused on making sure that we could talk to the author to see okay, what is your vision? How do we make this work? And then, how do we utilize the layout and design of a book of that of somebody who has that professional background to really enhance it, to make sure that the building of the logic is seen throughout each chapter. That all of the exercises at the end of every chapter, the quizzes really made sense. 

That the students had an understanding of okay, this is where I’m going to land. And what was going on in chapter one was going to happen as well in chapter 12 that that was going to happen in chapter 13. So, students could really follow along, and make sure that they had that sense. And that was really, really important to us. We did want to make sure that we were really clear and that we were presenting the book in the way that was the vision of the author. 

So, in regards to support and consultation that we received from the Co-op community and Scribe, so as I mentioned earlier, we have been supporting open access textbook authors publishing works for years, but we have never gotten into that piece of being able to offer the design. So, for us, it was really a learning opportunity, I was constantly asking Co-op questions, I was leaning on everyone to be like, “Okay, how do we do this? How do we have this conversation with the author about that? Where do we even get started?” 

But I also saw it as a really useful way to train my staff to get my staff much more involved in the production piece. We used Geoff’s book as a template for okay, if we were going to do this across multiple people and make this into something we’re going to incorporate into our general program, how do we do this? How do we take this on? So, we really made this into this learning opportunity, to be able to provide my staff with a new level of skillset. 

As well as then, advertise it and add it as hey, look that is what we’re offering. Faculty authors will now have a manuscript that will look professional, that will make sense, that will have a similar voice, and everything will be packaged up all great and neat and pretty at the end. So, we received a lot of support from the Co-op as well as from Scribe throughout this project. 

And really, would not be able to complete it and do it had it not been from all of this support that we got. So, I’m going to just leave it at that, and if you have questions, yeah, let everyone know. 

Karen L: Thanks Karen. It’s great to hear that you learned a lot, because I know also that a lot of people learned from you because you did come into the Co-op with such expertise and experience already in publishing open textbooks. So, next we are going to hear from Katie. Katie. 

Katie: Hi everyone, can you hear me?

Karen L: Yes. 

Katie: Great. So, the book that we are working on is a textbook, an introductory textbook on North American archaeology. There are 16 chapters and it spans over 12,000 years of archaeological history and also, covers all of North America. One of the main issues in early conversations that I saw was that many North American archaeology textbooks really just focus on the US, we’re a little bit US-centric. 

So, a lot of Canadian archaeologists reached out to me saying they were interested in this because they felt as though few sites north of the US-Canadian border were ever included and definitely also south of the US-Mexican border. So, that was an issue that we hoped to tackle head on. There’s subject matter expert teams for each of the 16 chapters, so I’ll talk about that when I get to challenges, but herding 16 groups of cats has taken a bit of practice. 

And there’s that element of it, so it’s not just working one on one with a particular subject matter expert. You can imagine very few archaeologists have the background where they would be able to write a textbook of this nature that covers millions of square miles of territory. So, there are about 60 to 75 archaeologists involved again from the US and Canada, mainly. It’s about a 50-50 split, believe it or not, which is quite unique. 

And it’s very intergenerational, there are lots of grad students at various points along the way and junior scholars and then, folks that are tenure track or tenured. And also, retired archaeologists who now have the chance to write something that they really hadn’t had the chance to do when they were working full-time professionally. So, that’s some exciting elements about the project. 

In terms of support, we did get an early support grant through UMass Amherst, where again, I’m adjunct faculty. That supported my time, like planting the seed and seeing it grow during the summer of 2017. So, this project has been kind of officially kicked off for just under two years, when we really got our first team together and started meeting formally. It’s been roughly two years. 

We found Rebus just through me engaging with different communities that were involved in open access and that’s how I found Rebus and they were able to support and just have those maybe not in person but face to face nonetheless meetings to get me to think through some of the process here. I like to joke this project started with a tweet, which it did. In the summer of 2017, I had received the funding, but I didn’t know how does one begin this if you know you need to recruit a team. 

So, I just tweeted out, who would be interested in an open textbook #everything that I could think of. And I think 12 people liked it and then I found out who those 12 people were, and I emailed them directly. So, I used a little bit of my stalking skills. And from there, some of those people are still involved in the project, some gave me great leads for other folks that might be involved. 

But I just had to start somewhere, and the biggest platform I thought I had was my Twitter account. So, that was where that seed really started. We do have a steering committee, but I will say that that’s probably one place where I could better have utilized my efforts, I haven’t leaned on our steering committee much yet. It’s really been working one on one or in those smaller groups, trying to get those smaller groups to get their chapters finished. 

And then, bringing those chapters together, and getting us to a place where we have a small collection of chapters that I can start sending out for review. But as of now, I’d say we have about 40 to 50% of the textbook drafted. And we’re hoping to have another 10% every quarter is how we’re going for the last bits. Again, I talked about herding cats, so an issue has been every team is in their own timeline or place in the timeline. 

And it’s just moving every team forward in whatever way that I can is how I’ve helped. But there are some teams that are 100% finished with their drafts and they’re ready for review, and there are some teams that haven’t even really coalesced yet or have maybe gotten together and written the outline. And a group of them got together a few times to agree on elements that should be in their chapter, but then nothing’s actually been on the page. 

So, I’ve been trying to batch out the textbook in like three groups of these are the ones that are almost done, almost ready to go out of the nest. And these are the next ones up, and once my efforts are in a good place with those other groups, I’ll shift focus. So, that has been a challenge. One thing I think if someone’s interested in doing something like this to mention is that a few things have worked and have worked well. 

We have a monthly meeting of anyone and everyone who wants to attend. It’s the second Friday of every month. And there was much discussion about the first Friday, there’s deadlines, the last Friday… And the second Friday is like a quiet time, so we have been meeting every second Friday for about 14 months now. Sometimes I never know who’s going to come but whoever comes we have a plan of attack or if it’s related to a particular chapter, that’s what we’ll focus on. 

So, I’m just letting them tell me how I can help and whoever attends the office hours is what it ends up feeling like. We make great progress and then, we’ve been sharing out at those meetings as well. Another thing that’s been really helpful is just utilizing Google as best as I can and having everything there, so there’s not all these drafts and who knows where the drafts are. Dropbox frightens me a little bit for this number of people. 

So, just really trying to carefully use Google and say, “If it’s not in Google it doesn’t exist.” And then, also when we get to a certain point, we’ve been stitching together the different, because every section has its own Google doc. So, if you say you’re going to write the X section, you get your own blank Google doc and this is where you’re going to write it. So, it doesn’t get very large and busy. 

And then, when the team says they’re getting close to ready or they’ve just hit a wall, they need some inspiration, I take it upon myself to become a seamstress and I stitch together all the sections and then I share with them well, here’s where you are. Look. You’ve done half of your chapter, really and we stitch it together and then create a new document of everything together that we can start reading through. 

So, that’s been a place that we’ve gotten to. Each chapter has a team lead, or a chapter team lead, that’s been really helpful because then I can just send 16 emails right to one person for each chapter, and then say, “Hey, what’s going on with your team?” And they’re able to give me a sense of the pulse for their team. So, something like that is definitely what I would suggest, middle managers almost where you can get a sense of the pulse. 

And then, I think those were some of the main things, other than just reflecting on if I were to do this again. Obviously, I think more support for my time would be helpful, I haven’t really seen too many grants that were available other than the small seed grant that I received, which was helpful. But it’s difficult for me to put in the amount of time that’s needed to keep track and to keep up on everything when I also have a long list of paid contracts that I’m working on as well.

So, that’s been a challenge, but also just having some good people around me to keep me honest, and to get that back and forth has been inspiring. And I think all of the authors of the 60 to 75, I only knew about two or three. Two or three have I even ever met, so it’s this huge community around this book of people that I have never actually met, but at the annual meeting we often come face to face and then try to have a little meet and greet there. 

And another challenge is for archaeology the summer is not a good time to write, the summer is a good time to dig. (Laughs) So, they’re in the field, it’s hard for me to—when’s a good time to write? I think the winter is the good time, so sometimes there is a lot of silence, when I’m ready, because I’m not in the field as much anymore. So, that’s been a unique challenge I think to my discipline. Otherwise, that’s it, thank you. 

Karen L: Yeah, thank you Katie so much. I appreciate stalking skills and being a seamstress and how both of those things are really helpful to project management. And just hearing about as a lead author and project manager on a project with so many people involved is great. I am now going to turn things over to Kathy. 

Kathleen: Hi. This is Kathy Labadorf, and as Karen said, I am the former OER librarian, this is because I retired on August 1st and I am 66. So, it’s okay. I didn’t get out. So, I am into my third career now. But the UConn story is quite different from the first two we’ve heard. And as both Karens mentioned, in the OTN and the Scribe project we learned so much because there’s such a variety of levels of expertise. 

And I can tell you several things that I’ve learned from Karen Bjork already, and I thank her for that. She doesn’t know what they are, but someday I’ll tell her. But I was approached in 2015 to start up an OER program at UConn and my supervisor said, “This is the kind of thing you’re interested in, right?” And I said, “Well, yeah.” (Laughs) So, I did. But I had never published, I hadn’t even written an article for a journal and had it published. 

I really had nothing. I was a musician, I was other things besides being a librarian. But I said, “Sure, I’ll do that.” So, we started that and did quite well with working both with Open Stax and then becoming part of the OTN. And then, having a grant offered by our provost for people who wanted to either redesign their courses or write a textbook. And there was interest on our campus from a couple of faculty, three faculty who wanted to write a textbook. 

So, I’m going to be talking about two of those, and these started in 2016. Physical chemistry, which is a 3,000 level upper grad course. The faculty member is an award-winner, an amazing publisher, he’s been teaching at UConn for over 30 years. And he is Indian, and when he was in India, he didn’t have enough money to buy textbooks when he was in college. So, he already knew the situation when a student wants to learn but they can’t get a textbook. 

So, he wanted to create textbooks to share his knowledge with people, wherever they are, whatever they would like to do. So, this was physical chemistry, it’s a 3,000 level course, and it’s an upper level undergrad. So, it’s not a basic intro level it’s more for majors. The book itself turned out to be over 400 pages in Word manuscript and had 23 chapters. It has lots and lots of special features, as you can imagine, with lots of formulas from simple to very intense images, complex images. 

He also created active learning exercises, he did self quizzes at the end of every chapter, with 20 questions in each one and he wanted the answers right at the end of the questions, so the students would know they didn’t have to search for it. There’s the answer, and then hopefully they would want to figure out why they didn’t get it right. What did I get wrong? So, he wrote it natively. He is a Mac person. 

And I don’t know about anybody else, but Macs are the bane of my existence, but he wrote it on a Mac. And it initially started as PowerPoint presentations for his course, this was before the book came up. And that’s where he did basic images and the PowerPoint. So, the images themselves were in JPEG or PowerPoint likes EMF if it does that. So, we really started with a very basic manuscript to work with. 

The second book that came by was a probability course, this one’s quite interesting in that almost the entire department joined together to create this probability course. And it was based on the work, the teaching tools of a former director of that department. And they’ve taken that work because it was so good. I guess probability doesn’t change all that much over time and they can upgrade some of the language and so forth. 

But all the faculty came together, and they created this textbook that they’ve been using with students for like three years now. So, the students have been the peer reviewers, and that course has gone from like 200 students a semester to over 300 students a semester and it keeps on growing and growing and the students love the textbook. We haven’t been able to publish it yet. 

It’s written in LaTeX, it has formulas, it’s only 100 pages long. So, this is the book I would have loved to have at first, not the 400-page book with all those everything else. So, this book itself I think doesn’t need any peer review, it’s had student review, and the students are saying, “Yes” to this book. They’re saying it’s marvelous. The other thing that is in this book is UConn has quite a bit of educational technology available for faculty. 

And so, a lot of mathematics and science folks love to use the lightboard, I don’t know if any of you know what the lightboard technology is. But math professors especially love it because they’re facing the people while they are writing on the lightboard, their numerical, their formulas rather than the mathematics professor was always the one who was facing the board and didn’t see the students while they were writing. 

But so, this is one where you actually see the face of the professor as well as see that. And all of those will be open and they are up on a repository. And they will be linkable into this probability book, so that’s pretty cool. I know LaTeX is great for Rebus projects. I think they can go right over. But it will also be great in Scribe, because that’s where it’s going to go through as well as these links. 

So, I’ll talk a little bit more about the physical chemistry book, because that’s what I’ve done most of my work on. Now, when we first started the Co-op, the OTN Co-op, I didn’t want me to be the only person learning about publishing. So, I gathered in a couple of my colleagues from UConn, one from the Hartford campus, one from the Waterbury campus. The Waterbury campus person had a background in editing. 

She had been an editor for a journal, so she knew that little piece of publishing. The other person from Hartford had had a lot of experience in graphic design, so she knew Adobe products. So, I kind of got them in together, so the three of us went through this Co-op program together. Not only did I have the amazing expertise of that first group in the OTN, but then whatever I didn’t get, because I didn’t have backgrounds in either of those I could ask my colleagues. 

And we would have meetings and talk about it, so the fact of like Karen did, Karen went through it, and then she spread it to her staff. We were just really learning it from the ground up. And so, we just had to start from where we were. So, we went to the trainings, and Dr Kumar had originally thought of his physical chemistry books as a set of three volumes. Of course, he’s done one, that’s 430 pages. 

But he would like to do the other two which will take the student all the way through to what he feels is the conclusion of where you want to get to with physical chemistry. He is having the same problem that Katie has, in that he was given money to do the book, but he wasn’t given time to do the book. And if any of you have any say in what kind of reward a faculty member would get for doing an open textbook, if you can get your campus to give them time, that seems to be the real crux. 

Very, very important. And that actually did happen with our probability professor, Alexander, he just assumed he would get time, when he spoke to his director the director said, “You want time?” And so, somehow the director made it happen and gave Alexander time to begin putting all this and assembling this together and obviously you can see that it was well worth it, because of the outcome of that book. 

So, another one, before I finish, there’s one other thing that Vijaya, Vijaya is Dr Kumar, who is the physical chemistry. He’s talking about in the repository the book itself that he wanted the entire book to be separately downloaded by chapter, if you wanted only one chapter, you can have that. And I think this has to do with how he’s more into journals, when you go into a volume of journals, you can get each one you want. 

But what he has asked for is that at the beginning of the book the main table of contents, but at the beginning of every chapter he wants Scribe to do an expanded table of contents so people can go right down to the very miniscule level of each chapter. And so, students can download the whole book, or they can download just one chapter, if that’s what they need. And it also has the guide to get them where they’re going. 

Karen L: Kathy, I’m sorry, I’m going to interrupt you. 

Kathleen: Five minutes already? 

Karen L: I know, it goes really fast and it’s always tough to interrupt but I am going to interrupt you just because we’re running out of time and I want to be sure that we hear from—

Kathleen: Okay. 

Karen L: Allison and Deb. 

Kathleen: Sure. 

Karen L: Thank you for sharing some of the complexity, hearing your stories really illustrates what different subjects and different authors are looking for and how we all try to find ways to accommodate them. So, thank you. I will now turn things over to Allison and Deb. 

Deb: Great, thanks. I’m Deb Amory, I’m a professor at SUNY Empire State College actually, my training is in anthropology, not archaeology, but anthropology. I’ll just start off and Allison and I are going to play team tag, I think, throughout. The subject of the textbook we were working on is introduction to LGBTQ studies. And actually, there were two other existing texts that we looked at from UMass, Amherst and from Portland State University that were very helpful in thinking and conceptualizing the project. 

The goal was to address contemporary LGBTQ social issues from the perspective of the social sciences. So, from sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology. A lot of the textbooks tend to focus in this area on the humanities, sort of art, literature. So, we wanted to be sure to balance that we also do that. And our motivations and values statement from the project summary template that we had from Rebus, which was very helpful, included developing accessible introduction to a wide range of the field of LGBTQ studies. 

Serving both the curious public and non-traditional students, Empire State College serves non-traditional students, so we’re hoping actually for a global audience, which is something we may or may not achieve with this draft. We also want to employ an inter-disciplinary approach informed by the social sciences, but also by a feminist intersectional analysis and that was core to our recruitment of authors. 

And to embrace multiple learning styles, so we’re also in different iterations trying to add multimedia components to the textbook. Allison, do you want to talk about the team?

Allison: Yeah. So, I’m Allison Brown at SUNY Geneseo. So, at SUNY we’re a little unique because we do have a central organization support system for OER called SUNY OER services. So, I serve with them as the support for OER creation projects. So, that was partly how Deb and I got connected up. She had come to us with an idea for a great project and we wanted to jump on board. 

So, Deb is the main author, and she recruited a co-author at Binghamton, another State University of New York School, Sean Massey. And then, we did a lot of calls for proposals, calls for contributors through the Rebus Community, through all of our other OER channels, through some different disciplinary channels. So, we ended up with a great team of people, and one thing that came out of that was that we noticed a lot of librarians wanted to help. 

And so, we had all these librarians, and we had one librarian that was very keen on helping us and making a librarian specific part of the project. So, she is our librarian lead, so that’s Rachel Wexelbaum at St.Cloud. So, through all of those calls for proposals, we have a team of authors, research profile authors, reviewers, and then librarians mostly who are authoring the mediographies. And they all together represent 43 different institutions. 

And within that, five different State University of New York institutions, three City University of New York institutions in three countries. I’ll pass it back over to Deb. 

Deb: Thanks. It is quite the crew, and it reminds me of Katie’s juggling act. We didn’t use tweet, I used email. We used the old-fashioned way. I was very lucky to have the support of both my institution and the SUNY State University of New York system, including Allison. I started out learning about OERs by adopting them in introduction to anthropology and a related course. 

And then, went on to propose developing this textbook, which was great. So, I got some support from the system initially for adoption and then, actually proposed to the point of it takes time, I did a sabbatical proposal for a six-month sabbatical. So, I was able to get that to support the work. And then, applied for funding through the State University of New York additionally and SUNY OER services, again where Allison works. 

So, I feel very lucky to have both financial and time but it wasn’t enough, trust me (laughs). Incredibly $40,000, six months, but I think traditional publishers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a textbook and it does take years. So, we’re learning. We’re very lucky, but we’re continuing to look for more funding. Our latest idea is to pursue digital humanities funding to develop the multimedia wraparounds to the textbook. And Allison?

Allison: Yeah, and then, from the support side, so we were looking for inter-disciplinary and collaborative projects like this. Both to invest in when we had a call for proposals for OER creation, and then also to target areas that didn’t have a lot of OER. So, that’s one of the reasons why we were really excited about Deb’s project. And I was also really excited because we had consulted with Deb early on in the process and I think she was just applying for the sabbatical. 

And Rebus was doing their beta for projects, and I had been following Rebus and looking and trying to see how I could get involved for a little while. So, when I saw that there was an application to be part of the Rebus projects, and then Deb’s project came along, I was like, “Ooh, let’s apply.” So, we were lucky enough to get looped into there so that I could get to know the Rebus Community better and to learn how to better explore that and see how Rebus and SUNY could work together. You’re muted. 

Deb: I notice that we’re running out of time. So, I thought I would skip right to reflections. One of the things that I thought worked really well, we used the money to bring the authors together for a weekend, a face to face workshop where we learned about OERs, we learned about writing learning outcomes. We talked about the structure and the learning goals for the textbook. 

And get everybody hopefully more on the same page, develop some personal relationships that we didn’t have before. And I thought that it was helpful in a lot of ways. Maintaining those relationships over time is going to be the challenge, but there’s ways to do that. And Allison, you want to talk?

Allison: Yeah, I would just say that because this project started in one way and has grown and changed with more people and different people getting involved, I think that’s been one of the exciting things to watch. But it can also be the flip side, so the book grew chapter-wise in a way which is very exciting but then, when we get down to the nitty gritty is I think was it, Katie had mentioned, herding kittens. 

So, now that we’re at the peer review point, and all of our chapters are at different stages, that’s just been an organizational challenge. But at the same time, it’s one of the things that I have really enjoyed was being able to put out a call and get in touch with new people and new scholars and let the community inform how this book is growing. So, that’s been really exciting. 

Karen L: All right, thank you Allison and Deb, it’s really fun to hear about your project back and forth from your two perspectives and how you guys work together and what you discovered. From all of our guests, who I would like to thank, I kept hearing the words about teams and finding support and working together to learn how to do this thing. So, we have 13 minutes for questions. 

So, please feel free to put your question in the chat or unmute and ask our guests what you would like to know. We heard very interesting case studies, they’re all distinct and they have their own lists of challenges or what’s the word I want? Like prerequisites, what they’re trying to accomplish, what they’re trying to do and so there’s a lot here to learn from. Unfortunately, Katie had to step away, so she’s not able to directly answer your questions. 

But Apurva put her email address there in the chat if you would like to reach out to her and learn more about something that you heard today. All right, AJ asks how do you suggest convincing department chairs and administrators to give professors time to develop OERs? And Carolyn seconds that question. 

Allison: The only successful experience we’ve seen at Geneseo was offering the money that the department would need in order to be able to give the professor that time off. And basically, the way that it works in ours is that they need the money that they would need to pay either an adjunct or another faculty member for taking over a load. So, usually, it’s a money question. 

Deb: Just speaking also as a former college administrator, if administrators see the savings that are produced by OER work, whether it’s adoption or creation, like the course that went from 200 to 300 and continues to grow, that’s a stream of revenue that you could tap into and take 10% of it to fund the further creation of OER stuff. So, I haven’t seen anyone doing this kind of creative bookkeeping to support the generation. 

But it is, it’s a money issue that in New York State we have legislative money coming down for OER support, and that’s been critical I think to what’s going on here. But it’s a real problem. 

Karen L: We’ll be talking about some of those money issues in the October Office Hours. So, thank you Deb and Allison for sharing. I also encourage any of you in the audience or in the call, in addition to our guests, if you have experience or tips or thoughts to offer, please feel free to chime in and we can have a conversation. For example, Marilyn said, “Offering promotion and tenure credit is also helpful in addition to money.” Rachel asks what are good places to look for funding to develop OER? 

Karen B: I always recommend starting with your librarian. A lot of libraries actually have OER grants that they offer. Or you can go and look across campus, so our office of academic innovation also offers grants. And then, look statewide, so in Oregon in particular, we have statewide grants. I know that in New York they do, and I believe that other states, it looks like Kansas state also has some yeah. 

So, I think states as well are now starting to offer grants, Virginia, so it’s sort of like start on your campus, and then start to actually grow out or look wider. And even ask those people on campus what they would know. 

Karen L: “Again with the librarians”, says Kim. It’s a great response. What other questions do you have for our guests or for one another? If any of you are trying to launch your own open textbook project and are wondering how to get started, or perhaps you’re further on in the process, and you’re seeing some things that you’re looking for help with. Karen talked about editorial services, for example. 

Carolyn is looking for information about working with campus bookstores. We have had that as a topic in the past on Office Hours, Carolyn, so we could send you that video because we do record the sessions. And then, is there anything anyone else would like to chime in about working for bookstores in the chat? Please feel free. This is what often happens in Office Hours. 

All of these things link together, they work together, you think of one thing and you’re like how did I get here? And then, you think of another thing. And so, feel free to ask all the questions you have. Maybe Leigh or Apurva can track down that video for you, Carolyn. Well, if the silence is sustained and the thank yous are starting in the chat, that may mean that we are wrapping up. Zoe? 

Zoe: Thanks, Karen. So, as we’re wrapping up, I did just want to talk a little bit more about our textbook success program, which we’ve recently launched. This has come from the beta that Allison referred to, that Deb and Allison were both a part of, we’re working closely to support these kinds of projects. And so, the program is a 12-month support offering, it starts with 12 weeks of courses on publishing start to finish. 

So, right from scoping your project through content creation, through promoting your project, building and managing teams, editing, peer review, then preparing for release and getting the content out in the world. So, it’s the whole start to finish. And within that a lot of room for navigating what is relevant to the projects, who are part of the cohort who go through this process together. 

We are starting with our first cohort in October, which we’re very excited about and you’ll soon see all of that activity happening on our platform. And we wanted to let you know that our next cohort will be starting in February. So, if you’re interested, you think this program might be a fit for you, we would love to hear from you. I’ll get Leigh or Apurva to drop a link into the chat so you can get in touch. 

And so, you know we also have a bit of an early bird special, so if you commit to a project or a number of projects from your institutions before November 15th, you’ll get a bit of an early bird price on that. So, we’ll end up for February, we’re really, really looking forward to getting this going. It’s taking all of the learning and the experience that we have with the projects we’ve worked with, Katie’s included, she’s done a really incredible job picking up the resources that we’ve developed and running with them. 

So, it’s all based on that work and we’re now pleased to be able to share it with a much wider group. So, we hope to hear from some of you very soon. And with that, I think we can say our big, big thank yous to our guests today. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and adventures. There’s always so much to learn from all the many ways that people approach this work. 

So, thank you very much, and thank you Karen, everybody who’s here attending. Really lovely to see you all and hear from you. And we will see you again next month, as Karen said, we’re talking money, money, money. Where to find it, what to do with it. All the good stuff. 

Karen L: How to count it. I don’t know why I said that. Okay, everybody, Karen, Katie, Kathy, Allison, Deb and all of you, thanks for joining us and see you next time. 

Zoe: Thanks everyone. 

Karen L: Bye.

Chat Transcript

00:26:00 Apurva Ashok: Hi everyone! Thanks for joining!

00:26:11 Karen Lauritsen: Hello! Ready for rain in CA

00:26:22 Shannon Pohrte: Hey there! from IL

00:26:36 Deb Amory: upstate NY

00:27:12 carolyn ciesla: Hi from the Chicago suburbs!

00:27:26 Judy Cirucci: Hi from southern NJ

00:27:39 Shannon Pohrte: Hi Carolyn!

00:27:52 joseph.villa: Greetings from Roseburg, OR

00:28:26 Joe Nowakowski: Hi, everyone – I hate technology

00:30:17 Marilyn Billings: Hi from sunny, beautiful western MA.

00:31:02 carolyn ciesla: Hi Shannon!

00:33:26 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s the book:

00:34:32 Karen Lauritsen: More on Karen’s story:

00:34:54 Karen Lauritsen: Here are the Co-op benefits I mentioned:

00:35:03 Karen Lauritsen: And an overview:

00:35:38 Karen Lauritsen: And our open curriculum that we created in the Co-op:

00:40:57 Apurva Ashok: Here’s the book’s discussion space, which includes a breakdown of the different chapters:

00:49:32 Michelle Reed: What’s the expected publication date for the archeology text?

00:49:43 Katie Kirakosian: Congrats!

00:49:46 Amy Hofer: Congratulations Kathy!! 🙂

00:52:13 Apurva Ashok: Unfortunately Katie had to step out for another meeting, but has welcomed questions via the discussion space above or email at @Michelle — I’m not too sure, I think Katie might be waiting to hear from some chapter author teams about their status before she can finalize the date.

01:01:57 leighkp: Rebus Project Summary Template:

01:02:11 leighkp:

01:02:30 leighkp: From the Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far)

01:09:37 leighkp: Project Summary for Introduction to LGBTQ+ Studies:

01:10:04 AJ Davidson: How do you suggest convincing department chairs and administrators to give professors time to develop OERs.

01:10:14 carolyn ciesla: Great question.

01:10:23 Shannon Pohrte: Agreed!

01:10:35 Marilyn Billings: and to give them promotion and tenure credit

01:10:53 Rachel Becker: What are good places to look for funding to develop OER? 

01:11:19 leighkp: Blog post about Deb, Allison, and Sean’s project:

01:11:54 AJ Davidson: Thank you both.

01:12:40 Anita Walz: Kansas State has a no-cost/OER course textbook fee of $10/student

01:13:02 Kim Grewe: So does Virginia

01:13:10 Rachel Becker: Our college doesn’t have OER grants 🙁 

01:13:11 Deb Amory: that’s another strategy colleges/states are using to generate funds

01:13:13 Kim Grewe: VIVA — again the librarians

01:13:22 Anita Walz:

01:13:34 Joe Nowakowski: We’ve included an OER component in a federal Title 3 grant proposal, so we’ll see what happens.

01:13:40 Kim Grewe: Nice, Anita.!

01:13:47 carolyn ciesla: Not sure if it applies to today’s session but I’m looking for information about working with campus bookstores.

01:14:05 carolyn ciesla: Yes please!

01:14:38 Kim Grewe: Thank you to everyone for sharing so much of your work!

01:14:48 Shannon Pohrte: Yes thank you!

01:14:53 Anita Walz: ISTA Grants. Also HSI grants. 

01:15:00 Allison Brown: Hi Carolyn— we try to see if the bookstore has a way of printing texts so they can sell a version of the OER

01:15:09 Anita Walz: (HSI –

01:15:20 Rachel Becker: Our bookstore includes OER texts in our rental program

01:15:20 carolyn ciesla: Thanks, Allison!

01:15:22 Marilyn Billings: Thank you. This was an awesome session.

01:15:27 Allison Brown: If not, then we load the book into a Print on Demand option, assign it an isbn, and let the bookstore know where they can order it

01:15:51 Apurva Ashok: @Carolyn, we had a session on Print on Deman options including working with bookstores. See the recording here:

01:15:58 carolyn ciesla: (Our bookstore has it’s own version of “open access” so…)

01:16:08 leighkp:

01:16:19 Karen Lauritsen: Carolyn, I may have been thinking about an OTN event on working with book stores, not recorded, apologies!

01:16:26 Karen Lauritsen: Maybe it should be a future topic though 🙂

01:16:27 carolyn ciesla: @apurva — thank you!

01:16:35 Karen Lauritsen: Thanks, Apurva!

01:16:55 Deb Amory: thanks all!

01:16:57 Anita Walz: Thank you everyone!

01:16:58 Apurva Ashok: Thanks everyone!

01:17:02 Holly Wheeler: Thanks all!

01:17:06 Allison Brown: Thank you everyone!

01:17:11 AJ Davidson: Thank you all.

01:17:14 Sara Harrington: Thanks so much for this session!

01:17:14 Apurva Ashok: Our next session is all about the money:

01:17:15 leighkp: Nice to see everybody!!!

01:17:24 Kim Grewe: wonderful! thank you!

Thanks to Mei Lin for preparing the audio transcript and video captions!

Have comments or feedback about these transcripts? Let us know in the Rebus Community platform.

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