May Office Hours: How much is this going to cost? Budgeting OER Production

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.

Note: If anyone would prefer to not be associated with their comments in either of these transcripts, please contact Apurva as soon as possible and we will remove any names or other identifying information.

Audio Transcript


  • Matthew Bloom
  • Tonya Ferrell
  • Richard Saunders
  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Hanni Nabahe

Zoe: Hi, everyone and welcome to another Office Hours. I am Zoe from the Rebus Community, and I think it’s still May. I think that’s where we are with our May Office Hours, which is yet again filled with a great line up of experts here to chat to us about budgets and budgeting which should be a lot more fun than some people might think. I think we’re going to have fun with it. And so, to start I will handover to Karen, my lovely co-host from the Open Textbook Network to introduce those guests. Thank you, Karen. 

Karen: Thank you, Zoe for that lovely introduction. As she said, I’m Karen with the Open Textbook Network. I’m delighted to introduce our three guests today, who will talk about budgets and budgeting tools. We are joined by Matthew Bloom, who is English faculty at Scottsdale Community College and open educational resources coordinator at Maricopa Community Colleges. 

Tonya Ferrell, who’s open educational resources coordinator at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. And Richard Saunders, collections librarian and former dean of library services at Southern Utah University. So, if there’s anyone out there who is joining Office Hours for the first time, our format is to hear briefly from our guests for about five minutes, talking about their experience with budgets and budgeting tools, as that’s the topic this month. 

And then, after 15 or so minutes, we will turn things over to all of you to ask questions and get the conversation started. We will be sharing the tools and resources that are discussed today. So, you can look for those in the chat, and feel free to start chatting in the chat and posting your questions as you hear from our guests. So, to kick us off, I’m going to turn things over to Matthew Bloom. 

Matthew: All right, well, thank you very much. I will say that a little bit of the discussion here has to do with budgeting spreadsheets and things like that. And I just want to preface everything by saying that I actually only put a spreadsheet together for this fiscal year which is ending for us at the end of June, I just put the budgeting spreadsheet together about a month ago, because this is the first time and maybe this is going to sound insincere or something along those lines. 

But this is really the first year that we’ve ever actually spent anywhere close to the money that our institution has given us for OER. And I know that’s very different than probably most institutions, the Maricopa community colleges it’s a really large system, it’s 10 separate colleges that are all connected in the Phoenix area. We have about 200,000 students annually, 1,400 full-time faculty and countless adjuncts. 

And so, we have a lot of resources, and they’ve given us those resources in the past, and it was only this year that I was really able to finally figure out a way to spend all the money that they’ve given us to spend. Which sounds yeah, I know, that sounds unreasonable, it sounds crazy. But so, I guess to end my preface and just directly go into some of the points, experiences that I’d like to share. 

I would say that the budgeting aspect for me is really a matter of thinking about how you can first use the existing resources that your institution has already committed to in other ways. When it comes to tools for publishing OER or sharing OER, it wasn’t until very recently, in fact, right now, we think next week finally going to be turning on our instance of PressbooksEDU. We’re really excited about finally getting that for our faculty. 

But the cost associated with that is pretty much the only thing that we have ever committed to out of our budget to support our faculty other than the large majority of the funding that we allocate for OER production goes to faculty stipends and reassigned time. And so, I hadn’t really needed any kind of a spreadsheet, and besides, I’m an English literature person, I am not a budgeting person or a spreadsheet person. 

That’s definitely something I’ve learned over the last two and a half years as the OER coordinator for our district. But I think the first thing is again, we have been— so, I guess what I would say is and this is probably very obvious. But when you’re thinking about the money that you have, you want to always start with what’s the end goal, right? And the end goal like what do you want to do? What kind of final impact do you want to make?

And for us, of course, it’s student success, access to the information, and saving money of course. And we could do most of that for our students, using our learning management system as a publishing mechanism. So, we use Canvas and for the first six years of Maricopa Millions project, we were not spending any money supporting publishing or anything like that for our faculty, other than on again giving them reassigned time or some stipends to do the work itself. 

So, it was actually pretty simple for us, because we had the money, and then we did that. And then, actually, this is something I’ve found again, this is like a burden of abundance in a way, but we found year after year that we would actually be surprised at how much money we had left over. And the reason why is because we would allocate funding towards both reassigned time or some were stipends for faculty to do projects. 

But then, inevitably, some of those projects didn’t finish, and so the faculty stipends weren’t paid out. And so, then at the end of the year we would have this chunk of money that we didn’t know what to do with. And I can’t speak for obviously any other institution, but I know at ours it’s not actually very easy to spend money. There’s a lot of stuff that you have to go through in order to do any kind of purchasing or anything like that, which is a good thing because we want to be responsible stewards of public money. 

But the point is is that in those previous years we had approached the end of the fiscal year just looking at the bare bones budget allocation that we had been approved for. So, I never really had a spreadsheet type of thing. It was more just like a bullet pointed list of estimated amounts and the kind of things we wanted to do, which would be like thinking about again, the faculty stipends, but also travel, production of promotional materials. 

So, if we were going to print out a bunch of flyers or make stickers or something along those lines, then we wanted to make sure to have a line for that and an amount. We’re a member of the Community College Consortium for OER, so we had to include that as well, the membership fee for that, which isn’t much. And so, a lot of those things kind of just took care of themselves. 

And again, because of the fact that we tried to be more ambitious this year, it became necessary finally for me to put together a spreadsheet. Now, I would be happy to share the template of that spreadsheet with everybody after this. I just want to go through and take out all the names, because we have all the faculty names and stuff like that in there. But I would just say that it is a vast majority just pay outs to faculty, because that’s the model that we’ve adopted. 

So, we didn’t really need so much, and again, I actually work a lot with the fiscal agent at our provost’s office, who does a lot of the backend stuff. So, I would say utilize existing resources that the college already has, or the institution already has to try to support what you want to do, so that you don’t even have any kind of a budget impact at all on that. And then, if you are paying out stipends or committing funds to faculty for projects, we have found that it is a good idea to wait and pay it out at the end of a project, upon the deliverable. 

Because what has happened a number of times is, like I said, it will be paid out slowly over an entire semester or even an academic year, and then if the project for some reason or another does not actually finish, then we’re left with a half-baked project that we’ve paid some money for. And maybe not the full amount that had been granted in the first place, but nonetheless, that’s the case here. 

So, I think that’s pretty much what I would say just to share a couple of my experiences there. And I hope that that’s a little bit helpful or that it’s at least on topic. I’m happy to answer any questions that anybody has. 

Karen: Thanks, Matthew. And thanks in advance for sharing the template, I’m sure others will be interested in using it. I will now turn things over to Tonya. 

Tonya: Hi, I am Tonya Ferrell, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. We started our OER program in 2018. And I do have a chatty baby in the background, so you will likely hear her throughout this. I was hired as part of that initiative as we started it. We received $50,000 from central administration, which oversees all four Nebraska campuses to start our OER program. 

And so, with that, we also decided to put a majority of our funds to faculty stipends. I did a lot of research at the beginning to see what other people were paying out and things like that. And we decided on $2,500 for a faculty stipend to convert your course from a traditional textbook to either low cost, no cost or things like library materials. So, affordable content wholly, not just OER. 

And we landed on that based on partly what other people were doing, partly that online course development grants at our institution were in the $3,000 range. So, it was sort of in line with that. And we did that no matter how they decided to convert. So, if they were just adopting, that’s the same as if they were creating their own materials. 

Just for consistency for us, to make it easier on our end, and also because an adoption can be just as much work as an adaptation, depending on what you’re doing. And if you’re re-designing your entire course, that’s a lot of work. So, we wanted to honor that, too. So, I have a few spreadsheets. I think Karen has one. I’d be happy to share any of them. We do our payments in three sections, so as part of our grant they are required to come to an OER workshop that I put on. 

They get $500 after attending that. Then, after they’ve done the work of converting and have the course ready to go, they get an additional $1,000. And then, at the end of their first semester of teaching it, after they turn in their faculty report to us, they get the remaining $1,000. So, that is how we have it set up here. I track those in my spreadsheet, it’s not a fancy spreadsheet, it doesn’t utilize all of the technology I know that Excel can handle, but it works for us. 

And then, we also have started delving into more large-scale grants we’re calling them. And so, if it’s a course that is going to be, like ours is marketing 3200 is the first one we did. And there’s I think eight instructors, and they all teach the same book. And so, we’re calling it a large-scale grant, it’s a larger grant and we put a spreadsheet together for people who get the grant to propose a budget to us. 

So, I think we said we would give up to $20,000 and then, they have to propose how much instructor should get, which deliverables they are going to create as part of that. And how it’s broken up person by person. And then, the third spreadsheet that I have is just the OER budget overall for our program. So, we talk about how many grants we want to give per semester. Other things we’re going to spend money on. 

We have one grant from central administration, we have some library funds involved, and then we have a library grant involved. So, it breaks up where all of those are coming from and what the total costs are. And then, we are looking to get into publishing, and so we will likely be starting that in the coming year, and we have budgeted $10,000 for those. We’re not quite sure how we’re going to break that out. 

We’re thinking maybe $5,000 for the authors and then $5,000 to go towards editing and structuring and those types of things. But as we’re just starting out in that, we haven’t officially decided or publicized anything. 

Karen: Thanks, Tonya. I will hand things over to Richard, now. Richard, you’re muted. 

Richard: I’m going to unmute myself. 

Karen: There it is. 

Richard: And I guess that’s a nice segue, because my contribution to this conversation is I spent a number of years formerly working in academic publishing, working for the enemy, as I sometimes say. This actually was my last book that I did, see? Academic stats book, there’s a whole story that goes along with that, but I’ll that one go. 

My contribution to open publishing right now is a spreadsheet that Karen will have available, that is intended to do exactly what Tonya is planning to do and what Colleen had asked about having a press on board. I was a project manager, which means I handled the budgets and the staffing and everything else. I was one of six, but I had a staff of 120 people so that might skew my experiences just a little bit. 

Now, keep in mind, that was a commercial publisher, so it was a whole different world. What I learned in that process is something that everybody should remember and that is that open publishing may end costs to the end user, but it does not end cost to production. And that’s what this spreadsheet of mine is aimed at, is to try and help people who are going into formal publication, where you actually have either a digital file or a print file. 

Make some decisions about what can we afford and how are we going to do it. The cost, it’s not flawless, and it’s probably got things in there that you won’t use. But it breaks down the costs involved in formal book production into a group of classes that you should be able to both estimate and track. I will remind everyone, while it’s an obvious question or an obvious statement, and that is that time is money. 

Any time you put something into it, you’re putting cash into it. So, while I’ve encouraged open publishing as just absorbing the costs, that comes at a cost of not doing something else, either in the library or in a position or in something else. So, that’s my background. I encourage people to think in terms of time and money because whether or not it’s important to you or your program, it’s going to be important to somebody you report to. 

And they’re going to want to have hard numbers if you’re going to go a particular direction. So, that’s what the spreadsheet is aimed at, and that’s the way that I’ve looked at it. It has room in it by the way, for including things like grants to authors and contract and all kind of other things like that. And I’ll leave it at that and throw it open for questions now, Karen. 

Karen: Okay, thanks, Richard. I put links in the chat, everyone, to one of Tonya’s spreadsheets and Richard’s spreadsheet. Please note the many tabs and features of Richard’s spreadsheet. As he said, with his professional history, he is really accustomed and experienced into digging into some details. And so, if this is too much budgeting for your program, it’s still a wonderful overview of all of the many things that can be included in the production of a textbook. 

So, as Richard invited you, I do the same, please post your questions in the chat or feel free to unmute for Tonya, Matthew or Richard about their budgeting process. Colleen did post a question in the chat as you guys were talking. And she asks, “Does having a publisher or a press on campus reduce costs when creating and publishing OER?”

Richard: Can I answer that? Because I’ve actually had to deal with that recently, and the answer is an unequivocal no, especially because if you’ve got somebody on staff or on there, they have their own budgets that must be met. So, one way or another the money has got to come in to cover the production costs for whatever goes out the door. 

Karen: I also sat in on a library publishing forum session a few weeks ago, where presses were talking about collaborating with libraries on the production of OER. And I think this was also something that they are figuring out and working together. It doesn’t fit with the university press model to produce OER and so, everybody’s just taking a look at things. And if anyone else was in that session and remembers any takeaways, please feel free to chime in. 

Matthew, were your faculty stipends in the same range as Tonya’s? If I remember right Tonya said $2,500 for a course conversion and then, was it around $10,000 perhaps for authoring?

Tonya: We have awarded one technically for authoring, but she hasn’t moved forward at all on that project. And we are sort of stalled as well, so that is our budgeted amount, and we’ll see if that ends up being sufficient. 

Richard: Can I toss one other thing? The other thing that you neglected to mention, Karen, is that Richard is also opinionated, but thank you. As somebody who has done some writing on the side, I will remind people that writing a book is a long, long, involved process. I’ve got one text, one volume of mine that I’m just finishing after 27 years of work. That’s very common for some kinds of writing. 

You don’t get it all done just sit down and type it out, it really takes some time. So, the grants you may look at you might want to think very seriously about benchmarks. But also much longer than just a simple academic year, even with a course release, it’s very, very unlikely that a faculty member can generate a genuine textbook in a year. That’s very optimistic. 

Matthew: Sorry. 

Hanni: Sorry, I had a question, go ahead, Matthew. You finish and I’ll ask. 

Matthew: Well, I just wanted to respond by saying that our thinking about publishing OER and supporting faculty publication of OER is very, very different. We very rarely expect any faculty members to, with the money we give them, write a book. In fact, we have completely rethought, we have a completely different way of thinking about providing educational materials and learning materials to our students. 

The concept of the unified textbook as the monolithic container of all the information that we’re going to provide to our students, while that may work in some situations, we have not pursued that at all. The amount of money that we provide to our faculty for an individual, no, we don’t pay faculty to convert their courses to OER. We pay faculty to adopt or adapt materials that they can then share with others and that we use those as a template for other faculty who may want to also adapt resources as well. 

So, nobody is really writing an entire course on their own for the $3,600 that we give them as an individual. So, that’s what it is for our traditional grants. They get four hours of re-assigned time or they can take that as an overload. So, the equivalent is approximately $3,600. I totally agree with Richard. I’m a writer, too. And the fact is is that some writing projects take years and years and that is a very true thing. 

But a lot of the faculty projects that we fund, it’s almost like the funding that we’re providing is just the additional incentive they need to take the extra steps to ensure that the materials that they’re already creating and adapting for their classes are drawn from legitimately open materials and not stolen, not abusing copyright. And also, trying to incentivize them to create some materials on their own. 

And we’re thinking about learning objects more than complete courses, because we also have gone back to that idea that while there is a benefit to having a single full course ready to go, or a single full textbook ready to go. There is also the sense, I think right now, especially that a lot of faculty like to pick and choose. They like to take from the buffet of resources that are out there, especially if we’ve already had them converted to open in some sense. 

They like remixing, they like adapting. And so, if they do it without us giving them any money, there are probably so many doing it anyway. But what we’ve been doing is incentivizing them to go that extra step, to make sure that what they do is legitimate so that they’re taking the time to do all the appropriate attributions, and everything that needs to be done, so that it’s a legitimate open resource in the end that we can then share with others. 

Hanni: So, if it’s okay to jump in here, I had two questions. And thank you, Matthew, for that. So, first for Matthew and possibly Tonya, in the way you guys are distributing the money for your faculty members to incentivize them. I was just wondering if you’re doing anything to track your return on that investment, because as much as it’s great to get it moving, to actually be able to, as Richard pointed out, go back to the powers that be and say, “Look.

We gave out this much money, but this translated to X amount of time that your other faculty, this many faculty are saving in having to create these materials, because this is how often it’s been reused. Or this is time that the faculty itself didn’t have to work on something else, because now it’s integrated and it’s allowed them to work on this other research or program or whatever.” 

So, I was just wondering if you guys are tracking any of that, and how you do it? And the other question was for Richard, which I hope it’s okay. I’m hoping I can contact you later, because I have a lot of questions for you, Richard, you’re right along the lines of the kinds of things I was hoping for this session. 

Would your experience with that commercial publisher, if you can share with us what has been the thing that you notice is most different in terms of the allocation of funding required for creating a textbook versus the kind of materials that you might have been creating? If there’s certain expenses that we should expect for OER that are not in a traditional monograph or trade book? Or if maybe there’s something that we don’t have to worry about? 

Because I’ve been looking also at budgeting and business models to try to adopt here at the University of Virginia, and I’m finding that there’s a lot of information out there, but it’s mostly for monographs. OER we don’t tend to look at it this way, the more business-y type of accounting. And so, I’m just trying to find, I’ve found some things that are different, but I just wanted your professional opinion. So, two questions. Whoever wants to start. 

Tonya: So, I can talk about the way we’re tracking it. So, we’re sort of starting out with the faculty who are doing the conversions, they’re sort of the only ones using the materials at this point. We’re asking them to promote it in their departments, and if other people teach their courses. But because of our unions and faculty choice and things like that, we don’t want to do any forcing of them to share. 

And that’s a very hot topic with our faculty. They’re very concerned about protecting that right, rightfully so. So, we’ve just started thinking about that, and hopefully as we move into further time, we’ll do more promotion of like, “Okay, did you know this professor who teaches the same course as you uses these open materials? And here’s their syllabus and you could use this as well.”

But we do track how much their prior textbook cost, how much they are charging now, because we do allow $40 or under to be considered low cost. So, if they maybe use some sort of clicker software, maybe it costs $15 still for the students. And we take the cost that the students are saving, and we divide it by two to try to integrate rentals and used books and things like that. 

And with that, we’ve converted 20 courses, and saved students $180,000 so far. So, with my salary and the grant, we’re about at the breakeven point now. And hopefully we’ll start to see that return on investment grow as the courses are offered more and more, because we’ve only offered courses for, I think, two semesters for the most part. We’re at an interesting time period, because the original grant has gone. 

And we haven’t seen administration jump yet, at renewing it in the same way. So, we have some academic affairs folks who are interested in converting specific courses, like Gen Eds and things like that, which is great. But we don’t have that open, anybody who wants to apply and convert a course as it has been in the last two years, we don’t have that structure right now. So, hopefully, seeing these savings, they’ll start to be convinced that we should keep that program going. But we’re at a crossroads at UNO right now. 

Richard: Let me just real quick respond to Hanni’s question. I think probably the best thing to do if you want to really get a look at the way OER might go forward is to open the front of any commercial textbook and notice the number of people who were involved as fact checkers, graphic designers, all those kinds of question banks, all those kind of things. That’s the potential cost involved. 

Actually, when I counted for this book, there were approximately 125 individuals other than the author involved in the production of the text. So, when you’re thinking about a major publishing, if you’re headed into textbooks, that’s something you’re going to want to factor. Just for comparison, in 1996, when I did this last four-color book, my production budget was $0.25 million. 

When you look at what was paid to the authors and the editorial and the manufacturing and the distribution, that’s why textbooks are ridiculously expensive, because it costs a lot of money to generate them at that scale. Now, there’s ways around having to pay out that much money. But it certainly gets administrators’ attention when you can put things into six figures, either as cost or cost absorbed or in savings. 

So, it’s a bit of a challenge, when you look at what Hewlett Foundation paid to get OpenStax up and running and what’s involved there, that’s something similar. Part of the value of open is in people agreeing not to be paid in order to go forward, to make this thing work. So, I will admit I’m a bit biased toward the monographic partly because that’s easily distributable and easily assumable. And then, it can be used past that, but does that give you a context for what cost is involved? 

Zoe: If I can chime in there a little bit. I think what’s really useful about that understanding is understanding what a fully-fledged, if we call it, publishing process looks like and the way that it’s been done. And I think Jonathan raised a really important point in the chat is we have the opportunity to do more than just replicate that with an open license. It’s also very, very useful. 

So, I think someone like OpenStax, they largely work in a similar fashion to do that kind of work. There are very, very extensive teams working on each of their texts. And the output is brilliant, it’s really useful, it’s foundational content that can then be taken and used in lots of different ways and that’s incredibly valuable for us to have. And there should be more and more of it, absolutely. 

I think with open education we can also challenge a little bit of that being the only way to do things and the value of being part of a process of publishing, just being about financial reward. That said, got to balance it with rewarding labor, this is very complex, and you can follow down lots of threads on this. But I think that having clarity on what can go into something allows people who are in the position of building a budget and then executing it to identify what is possible and then think about what their needs are. 

And really find, I think, something of a middle ground between just asking people to do the work because they’re intrinsically motivated to do it, which I don’t think many of us do. I know so many institutions put so much work into making sure that there are stipends available to recognize the work being done. And needing to have $0.25 million budget. There’s a lot of range within that. 

And what I really liked hearing from the three guests here today is there is a range there. And I don’t think there’s one solution, I think there is enough variation in the position that people are in, what’s possible at their institutions. All of those kinds of things that mean that we do need to be creating our own systems, but we can do that informed by the sharing of information like this within the community. 

And that’s what’s really, really helpful here. As Tonya and Matthew were talking, in particular, I kept thinking of the phrase just enough tool. And that it can be really overwhelming to start from I need to have a budget spreadsheet that has 50 tabs and I have to fill in every single cell. But if you have that as a reference, you can then take from it what’s useful and make just enough tool for what it is that you’re trying to achieve in your context. 

So, I think that’s my attempt to contribute to that. And recognize I think there’s huge value in what you’re saying, Richard, about actually understanding the cost of this work. And then also thinking about how we can do it differently within our contexts, with what is available and still be advocating for what we know is really important, which is to pay people adequately for their work, wherever possible. 

Richard: Right, and I think you hit a key, and that is that there should not be a one-size fits all. There just flat out should not be. So, let’s go back. I neglected to answer one thing that Hanni had asked, and that is what kind of things in a traditional textbook would you maybe not see or vice versa? What may be in open that’s not in a traditional textbook? I think one of the key matters is links. 

Going back and checking links, once the thing is established, is a headache. And as somebody who has taught classroom stuff using open materials and all kinds of things, I had to go back every single term and check my links for videos, for audio, even for open material that ended up being moved on somebody’s server someplace. So, links are the biggest headache and the biggest cost, especially as you go forward downstream. Once it’s been created and adopted, that’s where your maintenance cost is. 

Matthew: Yeah, and I agree with that, but I also think that if we are actually exercising the five R permissions of the licensing, then we have, especially if your institution has, and again, nothing is free, right? There’s always going to be an institutional cost associated with whatever you’re doing. So, if you are going to actually host all the materials yourself, somebody at your institution is going to have takeover the maintenance there. 

But the question is do we want to, the big question obviously that we’re all here trying to address, to what extent does that cost need to be absorbed by the institution? And to what extent does that cost be passed on to the students, right? Because people do need to be paid for their labor, and there is labor involved. But I would also say though, that the linking issue to go back to that, to clarify that I mean by that. 

I think we really are exercising the five R permissions, one of which is the ability to retain the material. So, I have always tried to emphasize to my faculty, we learned the hard way. That in the first couple of years that we provided grants to our faculty to adapt materials or to even generate some of their own materials and share them, we have many faculty members who created courses that were pretty link heavy. 

They were relying on either freely accessible online materials, which are not OER. Or they were just out of habit, I guess, I don’t want to say laziness, because that’s not a nice thing to do, and I don’t know what their motivation was. But the fact is they didn’t go through the additional steps necessary when they were permitted to do so by the license to actually copy everything over and make sure that it was formatted appropriately in the material that they were actually creating themselves. 

So, there would be no linking, right? The only link would be just providing the URLs, so that you’re attributing the source appropriately. But so, if we are actually making sure that we have professional development in place so that our faculty authors know that that extra step is vital. And also, a way to further incentivize them is the, I don’t want to say promise, but it’s kind of like a promise of less work in the future if you take the extra time now, copy everything over the right way. 

So, that you can actually retain those materials, then that’s great. But it’s another thing like with YouTube for example, a lot of our faculty, at the beginning when I started as the OER coordinator, I had faculty saying, “Well, look, we found all these great videos on YouTube that are openly licensed that we’re linking to, blah, blah, blah.” And I said, “Well, they’re openly licensed. 

What you should do is you should download those videos and upload them onto your own YouTube channel, so that you have them all together. Because the license permits you to do that. If you are just relying on the YouTube link, then yeah, it’s just a matter of that content, whoever is controlling that content, all they have to do is make the decision to put a paywall up, or to take the content down or forget about it.” 

And then, you’re relying on them, and that’s goes against me, goes against the whole concept of open education. We want to not only be openly sharing things, but also be able to control our own copies of those things. And I feel like that’s one of the aspects of the five Rs that we can really try to avail ourselves of. 

Richard: I agree with you, but I’ve got to say I have a different experience. Having been a dean, who filled up a server and then had to go back to the administration to justify another server, that was a hard sell. So, remember, whether or not you download or exercise the five Rs, there will be a cost involved because somebody’s got to hold the server space and once you’ve created that, it’s going to have to get weeded periodically. 

You’re going to have to go back and either decide that you’re going to use it, plus you’ve got to maintain the server and all of that. That’s that hidden cost of OER that should be factored. That’s one of the reasons why there’s a maintenance tab in the spreadsheet, because just because you have it once, doesn’t mean you have it forever. Servers go down, they get moved, when I was in a former position, someone lost a server. 

It was a partial server, it was in the stack someplace, but nobody knew which of the hard machines it was actually on. So, that’s my warning or my caveat, that while we may be perfectly well within reason and a very good idea there is always a cost involved. And understanding that cost and not burying it is really important, because there’s no surer way to end administrative support for an OER program than to say, “Well, here’s what we’re saving, but here’s all the hidden costs that we haven’t told you about.” That’s my real fear. 

Karen: Okay. If I may, I know we have a few more questions building up here, and I really appreciate the conversation and of course how we allocate our resources and what that says about our values and our programs and to acknowledge what Zoe said, and Matt and Richard about what are we publishing. There are many different ways to publish, and certainly I think all of us would agree there are many ways to do this thing.

And it’s important to take many considerations into account, and then adjust for all of our individual contexts where we are. So, Zoe did mention Jonathan’s comment in the chat. And I’m just going to bring it up now, because I think it’s most fitting with what we’ve been discussing. And that is his question about whether or not we’re duplicating in the open ed world much of what is wrong with current academic publishing, which is of course a great question to explore. 

I just want to note that in the Open Textbook Network, as many of you know, it’s not so much that we revere the textbook or think that it is the best learning object ever, it’s simply that it is such a common starting point for faculty in introducing OER and not necessarily trying to change all the things all at once. And so, there’s absolutely many creative and exciting ways that we can explore pedagogy through open. 

And so, I think that’s also something we’re probably all in the same page about. So, I appreciate the question and conversation. I’d like to turn to Deb’s question in the chat. Her acknowledgement to Richard’s comment, and Karen Bjork in the chat who said, “Textbooks can take a long time. I think Richard said 27 years. Karen went with a shorter four. And Deb is asking if anyone creates milestones or something else to help authors stay on track and keep distractions of other projects from being more distracting?”

So, Deb is asking I think for project management tools and just to highlight that Karen Bjork did share a tool that they use there at Portland State in the chat. And I invite any of our guests or other people on this call to chime in with their tools. Matt, you mentioned it might be best to wait for a deliverable. And it sounded like you were saying the whole kit and caboodle rather than staggering payment with different phases of the project. Do you care to expand? 

Matthew: Yeah, well we’ve done it both ways, and we’ve had pretty good success. And just to clarify, I think I made it pretty clear that we have not been really asking faculty to write entire textbooks or create entire courses. So, it’s more paying them to do adaptation and to try to promote not only just using the materials themselves to try to promote it amongst their colleagues in their departments at the different colleges and things like that. 

So, it’s like trying to get them to change their behaviors more than create new materials, although that is part of what is involved. But I do think that there’s two different ways that we’ve done it. We’ve done it in the way where we were just scheduled to pay so that, I mean, basically if it’s reassigned time for faculty, then they don’t have to teach as many classes, right? 

So, what it is is it’s carving out supposedly dedicated time during an academic term for them to focus on that project rather than another project. Now, a lot of our faculty actually choose to take those hours as overload. So, it’s just extra money, so it is them and we don’t [inaudible 0:42:55] that’s fine. When we have paid it out like that, then obviously it’s spread out over an entire academic term, they don’t receive a stipend at the end. It’s just happening. 

The negative thing with that is that if for some reason someone drops out, we actually even when we do our Maricopa Millions grants, our traditional course development adaptation grant, they are three or four semesters long. So, we have a semester, we give them an option to schedule it, but there are three or four counts to it, because they have a total of four load hours that they get for it, and they can spread that out up to two years. 

And so, the idea is is that they would get paid the first semester for training, the second semester for materials development, and the third semester for piloting the materials live in the classroom. And then, making those final, final changes before they publish it via Canvas Commons or through MyOpenMath, or whatever platform they’re using. So, that works, and that worked for a long time, but then we did have some faculty deans who dissolved halfway through. 

So, then that means we have invested a few load hours, a few thousand dollars in a project that actually in the end didn’t even go anywhere. Now, I sent that link in the chat earlier, because we have a different type of grant, which is not a full course development materials adaptation thing. It’s more like we call them two-point open grants because we wanted our faculty to be able to focus on smaller chunks, so rather than paying them an exorbitant amount of money for this enormous work that they’re going to do over the course of years. 

We’re asking them to say well, look at the materials that you’re using right now, or the materials that are available in your discipline right now. What is the gap that you think needs to be build? And then, what specifically, like how many clock hours do you want us to pay you for that? And then, they get our standard rate for those contracts or $28 an hour. So, then they will tell us how many hours they think it’s going to take. 

And then, for those grants we pay them on deliverable. So, because it’s usually they’re smaller chunks, some of them are as little as like $700 that we’ve given out because faculty are literally only going back through a couple of videos they created two years ago and adding captions that they didn’t add then. You know what I mean? Doing some of those additional pieces of work that need to be done. 

It is a headache for me, because then instead of me just having one big grant to worry about, I have a whole lot of little ones to worry about. But in the end, I like to think that it’s been pretty good so far, but we’ve only been doing that for about 18 months now. And we haven’t actually, some of those projects have been completed and published in Canvas Commons. 

But we haven’t really gone through and collected them and turned them into and starting to promote them yet. So, I don’t want to claim that it has solved our problems, but those are the two different ways we approached it. 

Karen: Thanks Matt. 

Tonya: I could jump on that just for a second, too. I’ve also found it helps faculty because we don’t require them to know exactly what they’re using beforehand, because we want them to come to the workshop, and see how to search for things well and things like that. And so, by giving them a little bit at the beginning and then more after they’ve done the work, we say, “If you get into this and you can’t find things that you think are appropriate for your class, you can pull out.

That’s fine. You’ve done the workshop we’ll pay you for that part. And if this is not something that fits with your course, that’s okay.” We don’t think that’s going to happen, but that’s okay. And that has helped people feel better about applying to the grant. And this week was the first week I got somebody pull out and that’s only because he accepted a teaching position somewhere else. So, it’s worked well for us in that regard, too. 

Karen: Thanks. I’ll add also to Deb’s question, I know that our partners at Scribe do weekly check-ins in terms of reminding the project teams where they are, what needs to happen, how to get it done. And so, there’s just a big piece of project management involved to try and keep people on track. And so, I’m sure there’s trade-offs between as Matt said having a big project where you might be working with one person, but it feels more monolithic or just a little too meaty. 

And then, working with more people on smaller projects might mean that you do less, “Hey how are you doing on this massive project?” But more housekeeping and administration on a different side. 

Zoe: Somewhat similarly the way we’ve structured the TSB program is that we have weekly check-ins for the first 12 weeks, because that’s often when people are getting up to speed. And then, we transition into a monthly check-in and that’s as a group of about 10 projects checking in together. So, that kind of pacing over then a full 12-month period has been what we’ve seen as useful for projects, too. 

Karen: Matt Ruen had a question in the chat, Tonya, have you or anyone else dealt with pushback about paying grants to redesign or revise a course using OER? I’ve run into concerns that improving and revising courses is part of normal job expectations for faculty, so extra payment for it is inappropriate. I think there’s been an ongoing chat conversation about this. Tonya, do you care to chime in? I see you answered in chat as well. 

Tonya: Yeah, so I work partly 50% out of the library, 50% out of digital learning. And our digital learning office does have a culture of paying for campus refreshes already. So, you can apply, I don’t know what the amount is it’s not as much to do a refresh. And that would be going through your course with an instructional designer and making sure everything looks the way that they suggest it looks. 

And so, we already had that culture on campus, so I haven’t seen that pushback, and we’ve also really marketed it as we know faculty are overworked and underpaid. And we really just want to honor their time in this and give them the dedicated time, “dedicated” like Matt said, too to try and prioritize this. And also, because we’re requiring them to pick a certain type of resource. 

We’re not just saying, “Do your refresh and we’ll give you money no matter what you pick.” We’re asking them to do it in order to lead to student success. So, we haven’t had as much of that as you. 

Karen: Thanks. And thanks, Matt, I see you posted your language used in monthly check-ins I think that’s really helpful. Louann asked about DOIs or other identifiers for OER. And I know a lot of people answered Louann in the chat. I have seen Virginia Tech assign DOIs, I think there is some conversation about ISBNs, which you do need if you’re going to provide print copies in particular. 

And you most likely will have to pay for it, if you want to be the publisher of record. Any other questions or things that any of you would like to keep talking about that you’ve been talking about in chat, as we near the end of our hour together?

Richard: Let me just toss one thing out about ISBNs because I’m just re-upping my log. I have a private press that I’ve run for years. 10 ISBNs will run will you about $500, if you buy them in block. Get them from Bowker. I think Jonathan mentioned that he got one of the free ones through an on-demand publisher. That is an identifier and you have to have it for anything that goes through Amazon or most of the other online resellers. 

But an ISBN log if you remember, if you’re going to do real publishing, monographic type publishing, open or not, remember that you have to have not just one ISBN. You have to have one for the digital copy, one for the hardback copy, one for the softback copy, one for the digital publication copy. So, you have to keep that in mind as well. 

Karen: Thanks, Richard. I see other people are posting in their check-in language in the chat, which is really super to share with one another. And Amy’s referencing her mini mail merge projects, someday we should host an Office Hours session with Amy about mail merge. Amy Larson is asking for budgeting for publicity, would any of our guests or other people on the call care to discuss recommendations or strategies for getting budgeting for OER publicity? 

Matthew: I can just say, by publicity, I assume what comes to mind to me is our faculty and student outreach efforts that we do. And to be honest with you, we haven’t spent very much money on that. Again, we try to utilize some of the existing resources that we have. So, whenever we have something along the lines of a workshop or some professional development opportunity, or some sort of an event or a big email needs to be sent out, we can work with a central district. 

We have the Maricopa Center for Learning and Innovation, which is a group of instructional designers and project managers and things like that, that are there to support all the different projects that people are doing across our districts. So, we try to utilize those existing resources. When it comes to the cost of printing materials, one thing we did this year was we purchased a whole bunch of sample copies of OpenStax books and gave them out to all the libraries across our district so that they had them on hold. 

So, that the OER committees at the individual colleges could actually just have that physical thing to bring along. I don’t remember who said it earlier, but it’s totally true. Some faculty just don’t get OER until you show them the book, and you’re like, “It is real. It’s an actual book. If you want that, this is what you can have.” And so, we wanted to provide them with those physical things.

We bought 50 OpenStax books and that cost like $2,000 and all of the printing, the stickers that we printed out, we have this whole campaign that we were about to launch physically, before everything happened, which was “Ask For OER”. We wanted to try to get students engaged in this whole discussion a little bit more. And so, we had a graphic designer who works in one of the centers for teaching and learning at our colleges. 

Again, he does work for us, he does graphic design work for us, as part of his job at the college. And so, we don’t have to pay him extra money, he is obviously spending his time doing those projects instead of other things that he might be doing for the college, but that’s just reallocation that is okay with them. And so, we bought about I think it was $1,200 worth of stickers, I don’t know, 4,000, 5,000 stickers that we were just going to pass out to students. 

And those are now sitting at the district office I don’t know if they’ll ever get physically passed out. But nonetheless, that’s about all it was, is for this year just a few printing costs. We don’t do any other publications or publicity. 

Karen: Yeah, thanks, Matt. And I’d like to point out Regina’s comment in the chat, who says that they partner with university-wide PR, library communications, and others who will help with press releases and other outreach to student papers and social media. And then, I also included a link to publicizing OER, it’s a lib guide from Illinois that I think is really helpful in pointing out all the different places that you can promote the OER that your faculty are creating. 

So, this has been a very lively session. Thank you for your conversation in the chat and in the call. I would like to thank our guests as well, and please join me in thanking Richard, Tonya and Matthew for sharing their stories and getting our conversation started. And we look forward to seeing you again in June. 

Zoe: And looking ahead to June, our subject will be sprints, book sprints, which should be a lot of fun. So, watch out for details for that coming very soon. Thank you all so much to everybody. Really great conversation today. Thank you and take care. 

Karen: See you soon. 

Chat Transcript

00:18:07 Apurva Ashok: You can reach us at

00:25:54 Una Daly, CCCOER-OEG: Thank you Matthew for budgeting for your CCCOER membership :-).

00:27:20 Matthew Bloom: Always a pleasure! 🙂

00:28:28 Colleen Gordon: Does having a publisher/press on campus reduce costs when creating/publishing OER?

00:29:03 Apurva Ashok: Matthew, were your faculty stipends in the same range as Tonya’s? Or did they vary on a project-by-project basis?

00:31:07 Matthew Bloom: We offer a few different opportunities for funding at the district level (the Maricopa Millions project), described at our public Canvas page:

00:31:42 Apurva Ashok: Thanks!

00:31:50 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s one of the spreadsheets Tonya mentioned:

00:32:15 Tonya Ferrell: I’d be happy to share the others as well if anyone is interested

00:32:40 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s a folder of Richard’s spreadsheets in both Excel and Google Sheet formats:

00:33:09 Karen Lauritsen: Here’s a direct link to Richard’s MANY TABS Google Sheets:

00:36:15 Regina Gong: I agree with you on that Richard.

00:36:35 Colleen Gordon: Thank you!

00:36:36 Amanda Larson: Definitely would depend on your relationship with the University Press. 

00:38:38 Karen Bjork: I complete agree with Richard.  I have a textbook author that have been working on their textbooks for 4+ years

00:41:00 DebQuentel – CALI: To Richard & Karen & others: yes, the textbooks take a long time. Does anyone create milestones or something to help authors stay on track and keep distractions of other projects less distracting?

00:41:05 Jonathan Poritz: Matthew makes a really good point … doesn’t the high-cost, multi-year, monolithic textbooks that some have described here replicate, in the open ed world, much of what is wrong — everything except the cost — with current academic publishing?

00:48:12 Karen Bjork: Deb, we have milestones incorporated into the author agreement.  you can find that here:

00:49:25 Karen Bjork: We see the milestones are flexible and can be updated.  It is part of a larger conversation with authors

00:51:33 Kristi L Jensen: I think Zoe is touching on this, but I think it is often important to push back on the notion that we have to produce things that are like a traditional textbook.  Often faculty are coming to us to write and create something because the textbook isn’t working for them.  They still might write a lot of content but it doesn’t look like a big, old textbook.

00:52:14 Matt Ruen: Tonya, have you (or anyone else) dealt with pushback about paying grants to redesign/revise a course using OER? I’ve run into concerns that improving/revising courses is part of normal job expectations for faculty, so extra payment for it is inappropriate.

00:52:24 Kristi L Jensen: And they want something that better meets their teaching needs and students learning needs.

00:52:42 Zoe Wake Hyde: Absolutely, Kristi, thanks for expanding on that 🙂

00:53:13 Louann Terveer: Do folks ever apply DOIs or similar persistent identifier to OER?

00:53:36 Louann Terveer: Or ISBN, I suppose

00:53:39 Tonya Ferrell: We have not, but we also have grants on campus for course refreshes and things like that, so it was already sort of in the campus culture. And we’re not just paying them to update, we’re paying them to update with a specific type of resource.

00:53:52 Karen Meijer-Kline: We assign ISBNs to our published books

00:54:12 Karen Bjork: All of our open textbooks as assigned a DOI and persistent identifier.  We don not assign an ISBN to our books

00:54:21 Jonathan Poritz: @Louann — I had to put an ISBN on an OER I wrote when I uploaded it to a print-on-demand service.

00:54:22 Karen Meijer-Kline: ISBNs are free, so super easy

00:54:40 Louann Terveer: great, thank you all!

00:55:47 Karen Bjork: Well, they are free but you may not be listed as the publisher on free ISBNs. It is something to be aware of

00:55:59 Karen Meijer-Kline: You decide on the publisher that is listed?

00:56:05 Karen Meijer-Kline: maybe it’s different in Canada?

00:57:36 Apurva Ashok: @Louann, we assign ISBNs for our books (mainly print copies). I’ve also seen other OER/OA materials with DOIs. Your institution might have purchased or been assigned ISBNs in bulk with them listed as a publisher, that you could ask to use on your book. In Canada, the Library and Archives Canada issues ISBNs and in the US, you can get them from Bowker.

00:58:47 Jonathan Poritz: The free (OER), formal, traditional textbook is the gateway drug to open pedagogy…

00:58:53 Karen Meijer-Kline: Yes, we listed the publisher as the university, which is the case for all our OER, so that works well for us. It took 5minutes to set up, and about 2 minutes to assign a new IBSN

00:59:45 Amy Larson – Lansing Community College: We list the school as the publisher too.

01:00:41 Karen Meijer-Kline: We don’t have a crossref membership, so no dois at this time sadly

01:02:15 Amy Hofer: @Matt R I have run into the question about whether course redesign is what faculty are already paid to do. That is not the case with part time faculty who don’t get paid for course prep. But I still think it’s ok to pay full time faculty an incentive to redesign their course with OER and then even give follow-on grants for continuing improvements. I take it on good faith that they’re not being overpaid. I’m curious how others see this issue.

01:03:05 Karen Meijer-Kline: We provide funds to hire student assistant and provide honoraria for external collaborators, but we don’t pay faculty per se

01:03:48 Karen Meijer-Kline: we also don’t provide funds for course release through our OER grants

01:04:07 Karen Meijer-Kline: we do provide PD funds for them as a reward

01:04:40 Amy Hofer: Thanks Karen that’s interesting. I can’t do course release either – it would take too much of my budget!

01:05:09 Karen Meijer-Kline: Yes, it’s way more than we have available and also I think it’s a limitation from above on what we can provide

01:06:34 Matthew Bloom: Here is the language we use in our monthly check-ins for grant recipients: It’s time for our monthly check-in.  If you’ve worked on your MM2.Open grant this month, your project lead should reply with an update including the following:

1.     A description of your progress

2.     The number of clock hours logged for each team member

3.     Explain what needs to be done to complete the project

4.     What assistance do you need to complete the project, if any

01:06:48 Amy Larson – Lansing Community College: I tapped into sabbaticals. Spring semester, one instructor created a collection that will be CC licensed. 

01:07:32 Matt Ruen: @Amy, I personally agree with you there! The challenge is convincing the people who would have a say in any budget program

01:07:33 Richard Saunders: Scheduling is related to but not quite the same as dollars-and-cents budgeting, but it is a key point of successful project completion.

01:07:51 Matt Ruen: *any new-budget program

01:08:19 Karen Meijer-Kline: I really think that’s a USA and Canada difference

01:08:22 Karen Meijer-Kline: about paying for ISBNS

01:08:25 Karen Meijer-Kline: it’s free here

01:08:28 Amy Larson – Lansing Community College: I am asking for budgeting for publicity.

01:08:36 Amy Hofer: Matt B, I just sent out my quarterly check in message using mail merge and deliverables that grantees provided in their project plans. I’ll paste that in…

01:08:40 Amy Hofer: Hi {{First Name}}, 

It’s time to check in on your OER grant project. Your Spring 20 deliverable is: 

{{Spring Deliverable}}

How’s it going? How many students used OER this term? Are you ready to share your work if you haven’t already (completed project, project update, presentation materials, etc)? 

I realize that it’s been a bumpy term for many, so please just let me know if you need to adjust your project timeline. 



01:08:48 Zoe Wake Hyde: That’s a great idea, Amy L

01:09:25 Amy Hofer: 😀

01:09:58 Zoe Wake Hyde: DOIs are another place where we like the ‘just enough” approach – we only recommend them for print

01:10:46 Zoe Wake Hyde: ISBNs rather

01:11:05 Amy Hofer: YES

01:11:06 Regina Gong: I don’t budget for that because we have university wide PR and also a Library communication manager who writes press releases and push out to University news outlets including student papers. The open community and Twitter is a good place to publicize.

01:11:23 Karen Meijer-Kline: I assign them for all versions, because, you know, free. I feel for you in America!

01:11:27 Karen Meijer-Kline: for many reasons

01:11:31 Karen Meijer-Kline: but now also for ISBNS!

01:11:37 Karen Lauritsen: Guide on publicizing OER:

01:12:00 Apurva Ashok: Great ideas, Regina! Ties back to what Matthew said at the start about using the tools, resources and people that you already can access!

01:12:05 Karen Meijer-Kline: @ regina: agree, same here

01:12:17 Amy Hofer: Thanks for sharing this guide – wow!

01:12:19 Amy Larson – Lansing Community College: I needed a banner printed to put  with my table at an event. Printing a larger version of my Picktochart.

01:12:42 Kristi L Jensen: Thanks for bringing us together for this session and thanks to the presenters!

01:12:43 Regina Gong: My OER budget is for faculty stipends. All others like positions and memberships are institutional cost built into the Libraries budget.

01:12:47 Amy Larson – Lansing Community College: College PR does a lot, but there is always more.

01:12:48 Tonya Ferrell: We haven’t done much that costs money, but what we have done comes out of my director’s project funds

01:13:08 Richard Saunders: Remember OTL for distribution!

01:13:09 Apurva Ashok: Thanks everyone! We will share all the resources along with the recording very soon. 🙂

01:13:11 Teri Gallaway: thank you

01:13:12 Amy Hofer: Thanks!

01:13:12 Earleen Warner: Thank you!

01:13:15 Jen Hughes: thank you!

01:13:17 Hanni Nabahe: Thank you!!!

01:13:18 Andrea Scott: Thank you!

01:13:19 Jonathan Poritz: thanks!

01:13:20 Christopher Levesque: Thanks!

01:13:22 Apurva Ashok:

01:13:22 Matthew Bloom: Thanks!

01:13:23 Una Daly, CCCOER-OEG: Thanks!

01:13:31 Amanda Larson: Thank you!

01:13:31 Alisa Lazear: 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.

Stay up to date!