July Office Hours: Sprinting to Publication

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


  • Barbara Rühling
  • Billy Meinke-Lau
  • Anita R. Walz
  • Karen Lauritsen
  • Zoe Wake Hyde
  • Rajiv Jhangiani

Zoe: Hi, everyone and welcome to July Office Hours. And welcome back, after we took a month off last month. I hope you have all been having a good summer and all things considered, that things are going well for you. It’s really, really great to see you all here, lots of familiar faces. It’s wonderful to have you join us. We have a great topic today. This is one I think we’ve been kicking around as an idea for a while.

And it’s come together with a pretty extraordinary panel with a heap of experience. So, we’re going to be talking about sprints, as applied to OER and what’s great is we’re talking both about textbook sprints and also test bank sprints. I think I got that right. So, talking about the different ways that we can apply this sprint model to creating content and moving the needle on that very quickly.

So, very excited to hear from all of our guests. Great to have you join us, and I will now hand over to my co-host, Karen, who is here now for the first time, I get to say, representing the Open Education Network. And I believe she has a little bit to share about the work they’ve been doing there before we get started. Thank you, Karen.

Karen: Thanks, Zoe. And thanks, everyone at the Rebus Community and team. Indeed, we are changing our name this summer from Open Textbook Network to Open Education Network. It is a rolling process, so you will see it start popping up here and there and hopefully Open Education Network will just be saturating the entire environment before the Fall begins. But you’ll probably see both of our names popping around for a while.

So, we’re always happy to co-host Office Hours with Rebus, these are monthly sessions. If it’s your first time, this is an informal conversation. Our three guests will share about five minutes of their experience with today’s topic, textbook sprints. And then, we will turn things over to you, to drive the conversation with your questions, experiences and thoughts. So, speaking of driving the conversation, I’m just going to drop a link in the chat for future topics.

You are welcome to stick future topic ideas in the chat, email us, or use this handy dandy form, whichever you prefer. But we are very interested in knowing what it is you would like to talk about. And also, feel free to nominate yourself or someone else to be a guest. We really appreciate crowdsourcing ideas and we want to have as many voices as possible in these conversations. So, it’s really helpful to receive suggestions from you.

So, without further ado, I am going to introduce our three guests and then turn things over to them. We are joined today by Billy Meinke-Lau, who is open educational resources technologist at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. We are also joined by Barbara Rühling, who is CEO of Book Sprints Limited.

And also, we are joined by Anita Walz, Anita is associate professor, assistant director for open education and scholarly communication librarian at Virginia Tech. We are first going to hear from Billy, so I’m going to turn things over to you now, Billy.

Billy: All right, thanks, Karen. Aloha and good morning, everybody, my name is Billy Meinke-Lau. And I’m the OER technologist for the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. It’s great to be here, this is a nice wonderful panel of folks that are all interested and working on sprint methodologies, now towards OER. So, at the University of Hawai’i, we first began working on or looking at what sprints would look like for our OER program about two years ago.

And then, last year, we actually worked with Book Sprints and with Barbara, who you’ll hear from in a moment, to conduct two fairly extensive book sprints across three days apiece. And I will post a link into the chat right now, so you can get a little more info about the outputs of that sprint and the process, just so you have some background. Sprints are awesome, when I explain what sprints are to faculty, I usually describe it as a hackathon like you would do for code, like software, but for content.

And obviously, not everything translates over, but we do what we can to use these accelerated methods and these really highly focused methods to pull out the best information, the best content from our faculty and curate it and then package it into a book. Now, like I said, we’ve done a couple of different OER textbook sprints. One was an original creation, so a book just over 100 pages, an English language writing manual.

And then, the other textbook sprint was a remix of OpenStax microeconomics. And so, as you can imagine, writing a book from scratch, we had full choice over how we did that, what kind of content we were using. And with the microeconomics book, we already had a whole corpus of content to work with. So, there are very different approaches, but we fit each of them into a three-day period.

Flashing forward last Fall, we did two sprints for ancillary materials. So, not for a book, because in each of those courses we were working with, they already had a book, but they needed the instructor support materials. So, in one case, we tackled a quiz bank for microeconomics and localized it, replaced names, made it more relevant for our students, and came up with I think around 1,100 questions which are available to anybody that requests them.

Obviously, we want you to be an instructor to be requesting them. And then, the other was for world history 1500 to present. That project ended up being more of a design sprint, we weren’t actually able to pull out tangible ancillary materials like you might think of. But we took a lot of notes, and we did a lot of listening to figure what we could do in our next sprint. And I guess just to wrap up, sprints are awesome, but they are very intensive.

And as you’ll hear later it’s a lot of work poured into a very small amount of time. It’s not a great fit for everybody, you need to have faculty instructors and students or whoever you want to be participating be very focused, be very committed to the outcome, committed to the process. Because there are points when it’s like wow, my head is wrecked, I have writer’s block. I can’t do anything more.

And then, we just take a break, we reset, trust in the process and we go through. But I’m seeing OER sprints as an alternative to a traditionally slower paced month by month or semester by semester approach to OER content creation, which is nice. And that works, definitely, but we need something more just in time, where looking at OER sprint approaches, and so yeah, that’s the gist of it.

And I’m looking forward to hearing from Anita and Barbara about their experiences and then taking some questions.

Karen: Thanks, Billy. Over to you, Barbara.

Barbara: Yeah, hello, everybody. Thank you for the invitation, it’s great to talk to everybody here. My name is Barbara Rühling, I’m the CEO of Book Sprints, which is a tiny little company coming out of New Zealand. Our founder, Adam Hyde, came up with this idea for Book Sprints more than 10 years ago in the world of open source software. So, it was the same kind of approach of how can you get a software manual done very collaboratively and in a short amount of time?

And since then, it has expanded from open source software to any other topic and then also in the last years to open textbooks, which is a field that we really love, and we think it’s a really good fit. So, the services that we offer are mostly the facilitation of book sprints, which typically take three to five days. And then, also rapid book production services. So, we facilitate a group of experts usually to sprint a book from scratch, like we did with the one book that Billy mentioned,

And now, we’re also experimenting with other content formats so for example, updating the OER textbook which was the second book that we did with Billy for economy. And we’re also doing now sometimes sprints for more interactive online courses, different types of content containers. Yeah, we think the sprint format is a really good fit for open textbooks because it goes with our spirit of openness that we love.

But also, because it makes a lot of sense to write these very collaboratively, covering a very big, broad field and bringing in different perspectives and we’ve done some textbooks that are for example for completely new masters’ programs that haven’t existed before and that come together from very many disciplines. And there isn’t really the one person who could write the textbook for it but bringing in people from different disciplines and then getting it done quickly seems to be a very good fit.

Like Billy said, they are intense, they are not necessarily less work, they are just a lot of work in a short amount of time. So, what we can do as facilitators is making sure that all of the barriers that we all know from group meetings, interpersonal dynamics, circular conversations, all of that, as facilitators we can get the most of that out of the way and make sure that everybody can be as constructive and as productive as they can be.

And then, having a team in the background doing copyediting, illustrations, book design, all of that simultaneously going on during the same five days. So, the writers in the room can constantly check, is this actually what we want? Or do we want something else? So, we take a lot of the load off the writers’ shoulders, the experts can really then focus on the content. We did the first OER textbook with BCcampus, a geography book that was written from scratch.

Then, with Billy we did two last year. We’ve been doing some textbooks in Germany, some unfortunately less open, some more open, some interactive online courses. And we actually had a lot of sprints planned for this year. Now, with the travel restrictions, some are being postponed, some we now switch to remote facilitation, which is our biggest new adventure and it’s definitely something we’re very interested in and we hope to do more in this field.

Karen: Thank you, Barbara. All right, Anita, over to you.

Anita: Great, thank you. So, my name is Anita Walz, I’m the assistant director for open education and scholarly communication librarian at Virginia Tech. And I’m trained as a librarian, I’m not trained as a meeting manager, as a large event manager, or as an instructor who writes questions. So, I’m going to talk you a little bit about the sprint that I led in 2019 for a test bank.

I view the sprints, having done one, as both a hackathon and as a covert professional development opportunity. I’ll talk more about that later. But in 2016, I worked with a faculty member to create an adaptation of an open textbook that has been really successful. And as a result, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads. And we get many emails from people saying, “Are there slide decks? Can we customize? Is there LMS integration?”

I’m reading from an actual email. “Is there a quiz bank? Are there lecture notes? Are there recommended in class activities?” And initially, I was really annoyed, I was like, “You have a textbook, it has an open license, it doesn’t cost you anything. Please, build it yourself.” And then, I started thinking well, you’re well situated, I’m well situated, I could actually make a big impact if I chose to move forward and to create something.

So, the big problem in my mind was I have no idea how to do this. Could I do this? Is it possible? So, I knew that Rajiv Jhangiani, who’s on this call, had done this before. And so, I reached out and I said, “Can you tell me a little bit about your experience? What did it cost? How did it work? How did you do this? How long did it take?” And he said, “Well, I can mentor you.”

I about cried. So, thanks to Rajiv for really the model that we tweaked to implement the test bank. So, I’m sharing some links in the chat, just for various things that I’m talking about. What I’m talking about today is based on a presentation that I gave last summer. And in this I talked a bit more about what the process looked like. So, some of the things that this work required were a lot of goal setting, a bit of money.

We spent around $7,000 to bring in I’m thinking 12 or 13 people, it required support from my colleagues. There was a lot of work in assessing who are we inviting? What are their areas of expertise? Where could they work? This is an 18-chapter book, what topics are they most comfortable in? Where are they comfortable enough? So, there was a lot of planning before the sprint.

During the sprint we had everyone broken up into groups of three or four to both write and peer review questions. So, lots of little sprints inside a larger sprint, each for about an hour. And people worked on their chapter to write questions that were factual or applied. They also levelled the questions, so there was a level of difficulty. And then, they switched after an hour or so.

So, there was some pre-reading they did, there was a lot of framing, why are we doing this? What’s the value of this? And bringing in outside speakers to talk, Rajiv came in for a few minutes and was actually on call the whole time. And a few other people came in as guest speakers. The professor who had adapted the book came in and talked about why he adapted the book and his rationale behind that.

So, it was really fun, when I look at 2019 even looking at the whole year, I said, “This is the most fun thing that I did all year.” It was motivational, it was intense, it was exhausting, but mine was a day and a half, not five days, maybe that makes a difference. But it was a lot of fun, and I am really interested in this model for development and covert professional development.

I had adjuncts tell me, “I never get invited to anything, thank you for inviting me.” We gave everyone a small stipend, we put them up in a nice hotel, we fed them, we had a nice dinner together one of the nights. And I think it was a really wonderful way to say, “Your work is valuable, thank you. And here, meet some of your peers.” So, people really loved the opportunity to talk to their counterparts at other institutions, whether they be two or four year, or they’d be in a different state.

One person even came in on an iPad the whole time because he has little kids at home. So, it was a really wonderful opportunity to involve a really diverse group of people, institutionally diverse, diverse in lots of other ways. As a result, we have had I’m not talking about the post sprint, maybe I should. But several of you on this call were involved in giving me feedback on building a system, so that we would not accidentally give the test bank to students outside of an exam.

And several of you also looked at the questions and did some copyediting and told me where all of the missing words were and that sort of thing. So, there was quite a lot of work that happened afterwards, that I honestly did not anticipate. But we have 37 schools at least using the test bank, that reflects over 5,000 students per semester.

And the feedback that I received from the team who was involved in doing the sprint, which included both faculty and some librarians from other Virginia institutions in an effort to give them the opportunity to be exposed to the method and learn and also have the opportunity to see if this is something that they wanted to do. Those folks I think were really interested in this, but the feedback was really good, people said, “I want to do the half day first.”

Or, “The first day. The whole day first, and then a half day.” So, a small group of us got together for a second sprint to start developing an instructor guide. And we spent most of our time figuring out what’s going to be in this thing. And then, started building it, we did not finish, I’m not quite sure how that’s going to materialize at this point. But people are really interested in working together and then continuing.

So, we’ll see what kind of creative solutions we can come up with in this time of remote everything, I think there are possibilities it becomes different. But I think there are good possibilities, so I look forward to hearing your questions. Perhaps there are some in the chat already.

Karen: Thanks, Anita. And thanks to our three official guests for sharing their experience. I’d now like to invite Rajiv, since we’ve heard about his role with Anita’s sprint to share some more information about his experience.

Rajiv: Sure, thank you. It’s nice to see everybody and hear about these stories. So, I’m not going to re-tread much ground. I think in our experience at KPU, we’ve facilitated sprints in a couple of different areas with faculty, but of course also done a similar thing with students. So, maybe just to augment what Anita just covered as well. I’d say a few things that are maybe not entirely obvious when you’re planning sprints like this with faculty for OER are the nuggets that I’ll share.

I think Anita touched on the preparation, I think there is of course a huge difference between having content expertise in a particular area, and knowing how to write effective test items. Huge difference, right? So, there’s training and preparation that’s required in general for faculty to learn how to write effective let’s say multiple-choice questions, if that’s what you’re trying to do.

So, there’s a lot of prep ahead. But during the sprint itself, I’d say if I had to give anybody advice, I would say making it fun and Anita touched on this. It’s one of the most important things. We did our sprints in a similar way as well, it was really a social aspect that brought a lot of people together, almost a retreat style event. But aside from the fun activities and the team building, I think very deliberately making sure that bringing in sometimes people from outside to make sure that the sprinters understand the impact and the value of their work.

And I’m saying this because usually I think in my experience, the people who are willing to participate in these bite-sized contributions, they’re not committing to a year-long writing project. It’s a few days. They are not necessarily deeply invested in OER. They’re not necessarily open textbook authors, for example. So, they don’t necessarily even understand what OER is all about.

So, for them to get a glimpse of hold on, this is not just something that our students are going to use at our institution, but I’m hearing from people in Ontario, in Virginia, in Hawai’i about how this work is going to impact them. Faculty who are thanking them, testifying that yes, once you have this, we will adopt it, we will adopt the book. I think giving people a sense of the big picture and the purpose was very, very encouraging.

So, those are some of my I think top tips. And then, I think the last two things I’ll mention quickly is pragmatically, I think we saw this back in 2014 when we did a sprint in psychology for a test bank that I think Anita put the link for above. When folks, especially those folks again, who don’t necessarily know a lot about OER contribute, so their own labor, their own sweat is in it.

We found that of the 20 or so faculty who participated in that sprint, 16, 17 of them ended up adopting the book in the year following the sprint. These were not people who were doing OER before. But it’s very interesting to see how the perception of quality and of course when you have your skin in the game yourself, how that translates pragmatically into an adoption pathway.

So, small participation, whether it’s peer reviewing open textbooks or in this case sprinting was very effective. And then, the last thing I’ll mention, I think Anita touched on this as well is unfortunately, this project had to necessarily be put on hold for a little while because of everything else in the world going on fire. But I’m hoping to pick this up now. We are more than midway through the development of a guide to planning and facilitating sprints for developing open ancillary resources.

And that’s specifically where I have a lot more experience than textbooks. And that profiles a bunch of case studies as well. So, I know Anita’s contributed to that, folks from BCcampus as well. And that of course will be published with a CC BY in Pressbooks. So, you’ll hear more about that in the months to come.

Karen: Thank you, Rajiv. And thanks again to our guests. This is the time when we turn it over to all of you for your questions and comments and thoughts and scenarios. There’s already been some activity in the chat. So, I’m going to kick us off with the first question. Both Billy and Anita, you talked about quiz banks and alluded to or mentioned the reality that you need to limit access to quiz banks to instructors. Can you talk a little bit more about how you do that and what kind of overhead is involved?

Billy: Sure, so the quiz bank that we developed for OpenStax microeconomics, our remixed version of it, we’ve only had a few requests, and they’ve been internal from our own institution. And so, in terms of overhead, it’s been quite low. But I think Anita can speak more to this. We’ve looked at different ways to moderate the flow or the release of these quiz banks. I know if you need to download any kind of instructor-focused materials from OpenStax you know, aside the book, you have to submit a request.

And they verify that you’re an instructor, you have a .edu email address, that kind of thing. We’ve looked at that sort of thing, we’ve also looked at our institutional repository and figuring out how to moderate. Can we have password-based options that aren’t available to everybody? Or how do to that. So, fortunately for our books, they’re available to everybody, we haven’t needed to moderate that.

But for the more sensitive items as ancillaries, we haven’t had too many requests and so we haven’t had to deal with that. But I’m sure Anita can speak to that a little bit more.

Anita: Sure. So, we wanted to make the test bank available to instructors and faculty who would hold on to it for students to use in exams. We know at some point it will be compromised and that it will just be out there, because somebody will let go of it. But for now, as long as we can, we’re trying to restrict access just to instructors. So, we have a verification process where requestors are required to indicate which files they want from our D space repository.

Fill out a Google form and send me a copy of their syllabus (laughs). So, we’re not trying to make it annoying, but I really do want to make sure that I’m not sending a test bank out to students. Because for many test banks they’re already out there, whether or not faculty or students know. But if instructors are under the impression that they are not, or they’re not checking, or we haven’t told them, “By the way, this has been compromised, please tweak your questions and randomize them better.”

It’s just really an integrity issue. It does take a little bit of time to build that method. You can see the link that I put in at what time? This last one, I’ll put this in again. This is the link to the actual interface where you would read about the test bank. You would see the four steps for requesting access. So, what happens is I get an email requesting files, then I get a syllabus then I get a notification that somebody completed the Google form.

Yeah, it’s a lot, the systems aren’t integrated, but it sort of works, it’s the best that we can do right now. (Laughs)

Karen: Thank you, both. Barbara, you’ve been talking in the chat about moving the sprint process to the virtual environment. Can you say more about how you’re working on that and how to make things fun when they’re online?

Barbara: Yes, that’s been our main concern this year. We used to always say it absolutely has to happen in person. And now, we just jumped into the cold water, and surprise, it actually does work. We lower the intensity, so in an on-site sprint a day may easily be 12 hours long. So, now we make much shorter blocks. We extended, it may for example be instead of five days, five plus five days.

Or five plus two days, something like that. There’s a lot more structure. And we love a facilitation style that’s pretty organic, but now in the remote facilitation there is more structure, more handholding in a way. We make sure there’s long breaks and that there’s diversity of format, so you’re not in a Zoom meeting for three hours straight, but there’s switching of tasks and environments regularly.

We start the day with mindfulness exercises, which really helps to bring people into the space. We have social chat channels to have enough photos of pets and kids and everything. We also make sure I think somebody also asked in the chat we make sure that it’s a very inclusive environment and we make it clear from the beginning that everyone’s working from home and it’s totally okay that your kids and your dogs and cats are running in and out and that’s fine.

We make a big point of celebrating small and big achievements. Even more so than we would do in an on-site sprint. And there’s lots of little games and so on that you can play. But what we see is that people get so motivated, I think a lot of you talked about it. Rajiv, you also mentioned it. It’s actually very motivating having such a big achievement in such a short amount of time.

Whereas most of us are used to working on a project for years and we never really see the end result. So, oftentimes you also just have to get out of the way and let people do the work. So, also don’t try to add too many games to it, or too much play, when people actually really, really enjoy this intense exchange with their colleagues and getting deep into the topics that they really care about.

And having enough time to go into those conversations and working on the content. So, it’s a little bit of a balance of those two, giving enough structure, but then also letting go enough so the experts can really work on their topics. And yeah, it’s been working, it has been a surprise to us, but it seems like that’s a model that is going to stay.

Karen: Thanks, Barbara, and related to that, how do book sprints or any kind of intensive workshop model adapt to the reality of the pandemic and working remotely? Thinking specifically about somebody who may have childcare responsibilities or other responsibilities. I think you spoke to this a little bit, but if you could say maybe there are some examples from the virtual workshops you’ve held so far? How can we think about to help people with these responsibilities are still able to participate?

Barbara: Yeah, it’s a real challenge. On the one hand, it’s easier to schedule these, because people are working from home, so in many ways it’s easier to find the time. At the same time, it is a challenge and we can’t get around that. We have the additional issue of time zones. We often have people actually traveling from different parts of the world. And we’ve had one of the virtual book sprints now with participants from California, all across the US, to central Europe, to Finland, which is even an hour off.

So, we had to agree on time blocks where not all of the time blocks everybody had to be there, there were also times when people could work individually but have enough time as a group. So, those were crazy hours for both of the extreme ends. So, again, I think the only thing that we can really do is make it as accommodating as possible and saying it’s fine that you have to take care of your kids and that’s just going to be a reality.

Making the breaks long enough, trying to discuss as much as possible beforehand what people’s availabilities are and where they can already see where it’s going to be challenging. But it’s so important in these sprints to have everybody together. You really need the dynamic, there’s so much exchange going on. People depend so much on each other in the writing and in the peer reviewing.

But often, we find that people actually get more and more committed, the more they get into it. So, in the beginning, there may be more people being careful about how much they can commit and how much time they can free up. And then, as they get into it, they get so motivated by this big goal, that somehow they can make it work. But for sure, it’s something, even for us as facilitators, it’s not something that you can do every week or not even every month.

It’s like Anita said, it’s like the most fun thing you do in a year. So, maybe it’s one of a kind experiences and then you try to find the time for it.

Karen: Thanks Barbara, I think we’re all very interested in how to try and translate the sprints experience into our new environment. There’s been a few more follow up questions in the chat, and of course, anyone’s invited to contribute their ideas or weigh in or brainstorm. But Rajiv is wondering about virtual sprints that allow for a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions.

So, how to keep that important togetherness time, yet like you said, Barbara, not having a three-hour Zoom session, where everyone starts wilting. And then, Anita has a question about managing communication during a virtual sprint and how that’s done between small groups, large groups and people individually.

Barbara: Yeah, sure. So, the synchronous and asynchronous times is something that we try to mix up. In the beginning it’s very important to have synchronous times and to really get everybody on board and make sure everybody shares the same vision and works towards the same goal. And then, from then on, you can have more asynchronous time blocks and make sure you have enough check-in times where the group comes back together.

But that can be half an hour or something like that, and then people can adjust when they work according to their time zone. The communication, we work with I think five different tools during a sprint, which is not ideal but it’s what’s happening right now. So, we usually use Zoom for example and break out rooms. Sometimes we work with Google Meet, which has the advantage that you can open many rooms at the same time.

So, actually participants can switch rooms on their own, they don’t need the host to allow them to switch. So, depending on what kind of sprint it is you may want that control, or you want to give up that control to the participants. So, you can actually also be in two rooms at the same time. We use Mattermost or Slack so there’s also a chat going on at the same time. Then, some kind of online writing tool where people write collaboratively.

So, they can also leave comments in the text directly. We use Miro or MURAL for the brainstorming sessions and then we also have a record of decisions that were taken and visualized there. Did I leave anything out? I’m sure there’s even more. I’m sure there’s also the one or the other email that creeps in. (Laughs) But yeah, we try to make sure for example in Slack or in Mattermost, which is just an open source version of Slack if you have different parts of the book.

So, for example, for each chapter you have one channel, you have one Google Meet room or one room and one for example Google Doc or some kind of writing tool. And then, make sure the links are all somewhere, so when one person’s looking for somebody else, they can choose like, okay, I want to go and find this group. And then, we have set times where everybody comes back together in the plenary group to discuss together. And then there’s also times of course when people can work individually.

Karen: Thanks, that’s a lot of tools to wrangle. But I can see how they each enable a very specific scene. Billy, you mentioned that your follow up and post-production work is done virtually and mostly asynchronously. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Billy: Sure. So, for both of the full-scale book projects, we had three-day intensive periods, working from 9:00AM to 9:00PM and by the end of the day, everyone was like wow, okay I’m definitely done. I can’t do anymore. And even at the end of the three days, folks weren’t able to do much more. And so, we set two deadlines. One was an initial one-week period, where everyone gets to decompress, do something else for a while, come back to it.

And then, we all met synchronously, to share notes and take feedback. And then, we had one more date, it was two or three weeks out, again, working asynchronously to make final revisions and edits and suggestions that we all got together and met synchronously to decide on which things were going to make it into the first version of the book.

And so, even though we had three days in person, there was probably not the same number of hours committed for each person, but a fair amount of work afterwards that folks had independently. We had folks for the English book I think it was folks from seven different campuses. So, this is a UH system-side project and these folks only two of them, I think, were at the same campus, they teach at different campuses.

But basically, these folks had not worked together before, and they weren’t going to work together again immediately afterwards. And so, the idea of doing things virtually or at a distance was not a big deal, it really came down to having a shared agreement on when we were going to meet and what was going to be done by then and those small details obviously mean a lot.

The other thing I was going to mention is that requiring everyone to be in the room for three days solid, back to back to back that eliminated some folks who had prior obligations, or they were teaching. They couldn’t do it. And so, the traditional sprint method we used last year eliminated some folks, but moving to a virtual sprint, which we are exploring right now, actually opens the door for more folks.

While at the same time, presents some more technical challenges, which may make it a little more difficult for certain folks to be involved. So, as things shift, we definitely want to keep doing sprints. But doing it virtually, the things that Barbara mentioned are super key. And Book Sprints have done a really good working through how that might work, because having the outside facilitation we found versus our internally done sprints it was a different sort of approach.

It’s hard to describe but having accountability to an outside party was different than having accountability internally. And this is something we should explore some more, but there are different models and I’m really eager to hear some more questions and find out how folks think this could work virtually wherever they are.

Karen: Likewise. Thanks, Billy. So, this is a great time to brainstorm, Sheryl’s trying to think about if there is a way to have a sprint and still maintain social distancing, particularly for groups of people who don’t have get on a plane. And related to whether it’s virtual or in person, I am interested in hearing about the kick-off, you’re getting a group of people in a room, whether it’s a Zoom room or a conference room.

What are some of the first activities? Does this group of people know each other? How is the trust built amongst the group? Is another thing let’s talk about.

Barbara: I can start. Yeah, I think the kick-off is crucial, and even more so in the virtual sprints I think than on-site because there’s a little bit more time to get to know each other and read each other’s body language and so on. There’s a little bit more natural trust established. For us, even more important than some ice breaker game and introducing each other and so on, is creating the sense of shared ownership and we achieve that by giving everybody the opportunity to really speak out about what matters for them.

Like why are they part of this? And what do they try to get out of it? So, it’s a lot more than saying, “You’re here because you’re an expert on X, Y and Z. And here is your task and you should be writing this chapter.” And then, it becomes like a top down structure, and then people get into the mode of a 9:00 to 5:00 job. But when you make sure that everybody gets to speak out and create this vision together and also allowing yourself to be surprised about what may come up.

The people who are actually working with the students and on the ground may have actually different challenges than the organizer has envisioned. And there may be some incredible insights coming up and incredible new ideas. That gets everybody so motivated, then coming up with that shared vision, and then deciding okay, this is what we actually need to focus on. And this is what the scope of the work should be. That can all be done in the first two hours or so. And yeah, I think that for us is the most important kick-off point.

Anita: I would agree that that’s critical to the success of the project is that people trust each other, and they feel like they can contribute from their area of strength and that they’re welcome there. I made that very clear, I know that when you work so closely together with people you will have professional disagreements. You may have personal disagreements. You may really not like someone.

And so, I know Billy said that Barbara helped develop a code of conduct. But I told people, “If there is a conflict that you cannot resolve, I want to know about it.” And it’s really important that this is a place of respect for one another. So, we weren’t really detailed in that, but I think setting the tone for you are welcome here, we’re happy and excited you’re here. This is a place where you can bring the things that you care about. So, I think this is a really important way of starting any kind of group activity.

Karen: Okay. There has also been some discussion in the chat about numbers, particularly what participants are paid. So, it sounds like Anita, the stipend for your program was $250 plus an experience really of hotel and travel and eating and that that appealed to people and turned out to be like you said, a covert professional development experience.

Thinking now about the test bank experience and doing the sprint for an ancillary material like that is there sort of a feedback method that you have in place for receiving feedback on test banks from those who’ve adopted them?

Anita: That’s a really good question. I have all their contact information, there is not a feedback mechanism right now. There is for our books, but that is something that I do want to ask for. I’ve asked internally, and in a very informal method what’s your experience been? Have you used questions from it? What have you done with them? Have you modified them? Do you feel like they are assessing well the things that you need assessed?

These are multiple-choice questions, they should not be the only assessment in your course. I don’t have control over that. But are they helpful? Do they get you a step closer to being able to adopt something that doesn’t cost your students anything that you could customize? So, that’s a good question, I’ll have to get back with you once I do something about that. (Laughs)

Karen: Thanks, Anita. Regina has a question in the chat. So, thinking about who’s participating in these sprints, how do you identify and select participants? How do you center diversity in your choice of participants, for example, intentionally asking people of color, faculty to participate, adjuncts or non-tenure track faculty?

Anita: I can address that. We had a list of people who had enquired about the book. We started there, with people that we knew might be interested. We were really geographically limited, because we could not pay for people to fly in. And we were only paying up to a certain amount of money for transportation. We just felt like it was not a good use of money to bring in somebody from really far away that would cost three times the amount of local people that might be able to come and might form a network that continues.

So, it was important of me to include people from two-year institutions. I’m at an R1, and sometimes R1s are not the most friendly to community college instructors. But I think community college instructors are committed to learning and it’s critical to include two-year instructors, to include adjuncts, to include people who are coming out of a professional background and into higher ed.

They bring such a diversity of how to ask, what to ask, how to approach things, how to deal with people, they’re not as embedded in the academic structures as we have. As far as race, gender, honestly, it was trying to identify who’s teaching this, who could come. We invited lots and lots of people. We had some people of color come, which I was thrilled about. We talked a lot about names in the questions.

Are you including names that represent your group of students? Are you including names in your questions that represent people who are underrepresented? Please include these students in the questions that you’re writing. Is it perfect? No. Could we do more? Yes. We were lucky to get the people that we got on the notice that we had. It’s a big ask to even ask people can you come for two and a half or three days?

We did this is in January, right before school started. That’s a crunch time. There’s no really good time to do this. (Laughs) But just getting people there I think generally was a challenge. The recruiting was a lot of work to get people there who were qualified and who were interested and who could make the drive. Some people drove eight hours to be there, other people drove five. Some people were local. It’s a big ask in time.

I’d love suggestions on how to do that better. I’d like to do that better, I’d love more suggestions, if you have them.

Karen: Thanks, Anita for describing your recruitment experience. Billy, Barbara, any thoughts on ensuring a diverse group of participants?

Billy: I’ll just mention that for our two book sprints, the constraints that we were working within, nine to nine, three days straight, on its own eliminated participation from a number of folks, and that was unfortunate. And then, when you get down to the way stipends and travel is handled at each campus that eliminated some folks, too because their department or their unit wasn’t able to process things fast enough.

Hawai’i is a fairly diverse state. We love to see representation across all folks. But at the same time, the reality of who was actually able to make it for the in-person sprints reduced the larger group that we might have had to a much smaller group, which remained diverse, but it wasn’t maybe as diverse as it could have been. That said, it’s something that we definitely need to be intentional about.

And now that we’re looking at doing these things remotely, by all means we definitely should be doing that and making sure that more groups are represented and it’s not just the same folks over and over again. The other thing to mention is that most of the folks that participated were non-tenure track instructors. And so, we didn’t actually have as much interest from tenure-seeking faculty.

When you’re putting together your dossier, you’re trying to build the case for gaining tenure, and not all departments and folks recognize this kind of work as being as impactful as getting a big grant or publishing in a high-impact journal or your manuscript or whatever that may be. And so, that on its own whittled down the folks that might be interested into who can actually commit the time when they have these other things they need to spend their time on?

Karen: Thanks, Billy.

Barbara: Yeah, I think Billy, you actually did a phenomenal job with putting together a great group of writers and quite a diverse one. I can’t tell you in how many companies we make book sprints and we have 15 white male WASPs sitting in the group, happens all the time. We always advise people who organize a sprint to get of course, you are limited also by the people who are in the area of expertise, who can actually make it.

But a more diverse group is actually usually a better group, there’s very good reasons apart from ethical reasons why you want to go that way. We also always advise bringing in people, not just from the highest-ranking levels, but having people who work more on the ground, so to speak. And commitment goes over achievements, we would say. So, somebody who’s committed and who’s maybe more at the start of their career may be a great participant.

We even encourage having what we call the target readers represented. So, a student or maybe somebody who just finished a master’s or is a PhD candidate or something like that. So, whoever you imagine who is going to be consuming what you’re producing. That can be really great having somebody at least one or two people on the team who can ask all the right questions, make sure there is no jargon.

And we like to give them a lot of power, actually, in the room. So, yeah, diversity is a big topic, and it’s still something to be worked on a lot, we think.

Zoe: Sorry, go ahead, Rajiv.

Rajiv: Sorry. I was only going to chime in with one other thought. It’s such a delicate balance, I think, especially when so much of work in open education more generally and sprints certainly is no exception is undercompensated. There is so much invisible labor, and again, if you’re talking about riskier academic work that is less likely to be recognized when it comes to tenure and promotion and those kinds of things.

You’re often with the intention of seeking to be more equitable and be more inclusive, asking folks who are most marginalized to take on the most professional risk in participating in these initiatives. So, I think there is a number of structural things that are helpful including having that balance of tenured folks in the room, making sure there is some effort to make sure there is recognition of the work that’s been secured, that will follow, to acknowledge that work in people’s portfolios perhaps after.

And perhaps even, I would suggest, looking at a model of compensation, if you’re talking about stipends or honoraria which is calibrated. So, for example if you are talking about adjunct faculty, any kind of professional development is something that if they’re engaging on it, is on their time, on their dime. So, I would suggest that calibrating up the stipends for adjunct faculty, for early career faculty is a very sensible option.

Particularly when those who are more privileged have the privilege of being able to forgo income from commercial enterprises that they are choosing not to engage in. So, a couple of thoughts.

Karen: Thanks. Zoe, did you want to chime in?

Zoe: I was just going to echo and highlight the comment from Anita in the chat about where virtual events can at least address some of the structural barriers that are faced. Those with more care duties, so the scheduling can be a little different. I think it’s interesting that there is some space there to make that work in favor of ensuring that these events are more inclusive and have more diverse representation in how they go.

We’re approaching time, but I hope that that’s something that we can really move forward here and be explicit as we are starting to think through and create new guides and create new models for how to do this with a different approach. And what’s necessary right now that we can also really explicitly embed that in there, recognize the challenges that have already been found with the in-person events and find ways to be really deliberate about addressing them, as much as is possible.

But I really, really echo what Rajiv said there, there’s a lot more to it than just scheduling. There’s a lot more to think through and a lot of intersecting structures that are creating these challenges.

Karen: Okay, well, as Zoe mentioned, we are quickly approaching time within seconds. Thank you everybody for a rich conversation, exploring sprints both in the world we used to know, in person, and in our current world, virtually. I think there’s a lot more here we can explore, we didn’t even talk very much about students involved in the process, which would be a really fun conversation.

So, if you are thinking about hosting a virtual sprint, let people know in the chat before we end this call or in the Rebus Community or in the OTN community. And we can support one another as we try to figure out how to support this process virtually. So, please join me in thanking our guests, Billy, Barbara and Anita. And thanking one another, all of you for contributing your questions and reflections and thoughts in this conversation. As always, it’s a pleasure, and look forward to seeing you all again next month.

Zoe: Thank you all so much.

Billy: Thanks, everyone, aloha.

Anita: Thank you.

Chat Transcript

00:13:17 Apurva Ashok: You can get in touch at contact@rebus.community to remove anything from the recording, transcript, or chat conversation.
00:14:51 Apurva Ashok: Congrats to the Open Education Network! Excited for the rollout. 🙂
00:15:09 Karen Lauritsen: Future topics form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaGr1NCvVnk1C6uKiwkfYWvJcK0QDfwJIZJJV-ckmGK19Wpg/viewform
00:17:00 Billy Meinke-Lau: http://oer.hawaii.edu/september-2019-oer-sprint-releases-english-composition-and-uh-microeconomics/
00:19:20 Amy Hofer: Billy, what is your overhead on checking that quiz bank request-ers are instructors?
00:20:32 Anita Walz: https://www.booksprints.net
00:23:57 Anita Walz: https://open.bccampus.ca/2014/07/03/book-sprint/
00:25:02 Anita Walz: Fundamentals of Business (CC BY NC SA)
2016: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/70961
2018: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/84848
2018: https://otn.pressbooks.pub/fundamentalsofbusiness
00:26:04 Anita Walz: https://thatpsychprof.com/the-great-psychology-testbank-sprint
00:26:20 Rajiv Jhangiani: <3
00:26:30 Anita Walz: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/91377
00:30:54 Dawn Cannon-Rech: that is awesome!
00:31:21 Judith Sebesta: Perhaps you plan to address this, but do you think sprints can effectively be done virtually (during this pandemic)?
00:32:00 Dawn Cannon-Rech: THank you, Judith. I am wanting to address the same thing
00:32:22 Judith Sebesta: My pleasure, Dawn!
00:32:39 Anita Walz: Here is the URL to the testbank-request environment: https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/93404
00:32:43 Barbara Ruehling: We just recently transitioned to virtual sprints and have done some with a lot of success. They have their pros and cons, it’s not for everybody
00:33:22 Barbara Ruehling: https://www.booksprints.net/2020/05/13/we-now-do-virtual-book-sprints/
00:33:27 Anita Walz: It was REALLY fun!
00:33:41 Dawn Cannon-Rech: would love to hear more, Barbara. Especially making it fun without being face to face.
00:34:22 Barbara Ruehling: That’s a challenge!
00:34:26 Apurva Ashok: Related question from a colleague, Leigh who couldn’t be here today: How does book sprints or any kind of intensive workshop model adapt to the reality of the pandemic? I’m thinking specifically from the perspective of someone with childcare responsibilities. How can we make sure that people with care responsibilities are able to participate?
00:35:49 Judith Sebesta: Thanks, Barbara!
00:35:56 Dawn Cannon-Rech: Awesome!
00:36:19 Laura Heinz: Anita – you mentioned after an hour participants “switched” – is this to a different chapter?
00:36:30 Dawn Cannon-Rech: I think many of us are concerned with virtual sprints
00:39:28 Anita Walz: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/91377

00:39:46 Amy Hofer: Thank you all! This is a great session and I have to go – will catch up with the recording later 🙂
00:39:55 Apurva Ashok: Thanks Amy!
00:40:01 Zoe Wake Hyde: Thanks for joining us, Amy!
00:40:29 Rajiv Jhangiani: Our test bank control is handled by BCcampus, who kindly verify that the requester is actually a faculty member.
00:40:52 Anita Walz: Hi Laura, Yes, people worked in a small group on a single chapter, then switched to a different (preassigned) chapter with a different mix of people.
00:41:45 Rajiv Jhangiani: Interleaving topics is important for such intensive work
00:42:09 Anita Walz: (Laura, continued: There were I think 9 different 60-minute sessions focused on writing and peer review)
00:42:40 Laura Heinz: thanks!
00:43:07 Anita Walz: Laura, more info at: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/91377
00:43:12 Rajiv Jhangiani: One fun tactic was a challenge to embed one another’s names in some of the questions. For a psychology test bank this becomes especially amusing.
00:44:18 Rajiv Jhangiani: Wondering about virtual sprints that allow for a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions.
00:45:33 Anita Walz: How do you manage communication during a virtual sprint?
00:45:52 Anita Walz: (enable communication between individuals, small groups, large group)
00:47:17 Rajiv Jhangiani: Time zone buddies?
00:47:37 Billy Meinke-Lau: Our follow-up and post-production work was done entirely virtually, and largely asynchronously
00:49:38 Apurva Ashok: Some of the tools Barbara mentioned: Mural (https://www.mural.co/), Mattermost (https://mattermost.com/)
00:49:47 Anita Walz: That’s quite an impressive mix of tools to enable communication. Thank you for sharing.
00:50:02 Barbara Ruehling: Yes time zone buddies are great! Especially if it works out with the individuals’ expertises
00:51:13 Sheryl Shook: Have there been any discussions about sprints with social distancing (a very large room, I know!), so everyone could still physically be together, be motivated by that type of synergy, be taken care of in terms of food & beverages being provided, having a dedicated space to work (not at home with distractions), people taking a walk together (again 2 meters apart), etc.? I understand this would be with authors who do not require flying to attend and the guides would be remote to protect them from flying.
00:51:22 Regina Gong: @Anita, how much did you pay as stipends to the faculty who participated in the sprint? Thanks.
00:52:32 Barbara Ruehling: @Sheryl, we did one socially distancing sprint, we were lucky that almost all participants were in the same place. One person couldn’t travel and joined remotely
00:53:04 Anita Walz: Regina – the stipend was $250 and also took really good care of them (covered hotel, travel up to a cap, food, etc.) Several would not have been able to attend had we not covered these expenses as their institution did not provide any funding here.
00:53:41 Rajiv Jhangiani: Q: I have been thinking about the ongoing improvement of the test bank as an even larger, collaborative marathon (with the adopters of the text) vs. the initial sprint to build the resource. Are others putting into place processes to receive feedback on test banks from adopters?
00:53:42 Billy Meinke-Lau: Barbara and our team helped us build a code of conduct before each sprint, nothing heavy or over bearing, but useful when working through differing ideas and opinions about the book
00:53:46 Billy Meinke-Lau: *her
00:54:26 Regina Gong: Thanks a lot Anita. I’m thinking this is one way I can use up some of my OER funds. We pay our MSU faculty $350 for reviewing an OTN book this spring semester.
00:54:53 Billy Meinke-Lau: One of the awesome, unexpected benefits was hearing how different instructors teach towards the same outcomes, using different activities or methods
00:55:29 Carol Hasegawa: Mahalo! Such a good discussion. Off to chat & ref shift. Keep safe!
00:55:44 Apurva Ashok: You too – thank you Carol!
00:57:34 Regina Gong: How do you center diversity in your choice of participants? For example, intentionally asking POC faculty to participate? Adjuncts or non-tenure track faculty?
01:03:32 Anita Walz: Agree: Having a more diverse group *may* be easier if events are online.
01:05:05 Billy Meinke-Lau: There is also the option of sending your sprinted book or ancillary out for review by indigenous groups or other EID-focused units at your institution.
01:06:09 Sheryl Shook: If there is no diverse representation in the writers, it would be important to allocate funds to bring a person of color in, someone who could bring the experience and intellectual foundation, to meet the writers where they are and to directly address anti-racism and diversity and how to weave that into the creation of resources.
01:07:14 Ali Versluis (she/her): Gotta run but this has been awesome! Thanks all. You’re all shining stars in the open education universe!
01:08:30 Billy Meinke-Lau: I would hesitate to recommend anyone plan a sprint using entirely volunteer effort. So much OER work is done off the sides of folx desks, they should be compensated for their work.
01:09:02 Rajiv Jhangiani: +1 Billy
01:09:14 Dawn Cannon-Rech: Awesome conversation. Thank you all!!
01:09:15 Anita Walz: +1 Billy here too!
01:09:18 Denise Cote: Thank you. This was great.
01:09:25 Regina Gong: Thanks everyone . Take care
01:09:29 Anita Walz: One of our attendees came in via Ipad/Duo Robot.. I was glad that we had that option.
01:09:29 Josie Gray (she/her): Thank you everyone!
01:09:30 Regina Beard: thanks–
01:09:31 Jonathan Poritz: thank you very much!
01:09:35 Arianna Cheveldave (BCcampus): Thank you!
01:09:36 Scott T.: Thank you all
01:09:39 Bryan McGeary: Thank you!
01:09:39 Apurva Ashok: Thank you everyone. Take care.
01:09:39 Janet Swatscheno: Thanks to all!
01:09:39 Rajiv Jhangiani: Thank you all! Stay safe.
01:09:41 Luria Namba: Thank you!
01:09:41 Anita Walz: Thanks so much!
01:09:43 Barb Thees (she/her): Thanks for joining us, everyone!
01:09:43 Mary Jo Orzech: Great info… thank you all !

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

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