A Collaborative Approach to Making Open Textbooks … Getting Started

OER philosophy

The Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation is building a global network of people passionate about Open Education, a network of people willing to dedicate time to help with a mission:

To make Open Textbooks available in every subject, in every language in the world.

That’s a (big, very big) long-term goal.

Starting Small: The Projects We are Working On

But it will start small. We are targeting a handful of Open Textbook projects (about 10) in the coming months, and we’ll be working with authors, editors, librarians, college staff, and volunteers around the world to develop a process that makes sense.

We have a couple of projects started already (would you like to help?): Introduction to Philosophy and An Open Anthology of Early American Literature. And we have some great projects in the works, books on: the history of technology, cultural geography, nutrition, and more.

Working with people around the world on this small collection of projects will help us better understand the unique characteristics of Open Textbook creation and community building, help us (all of us together, perhaps including you) build community-driven processes that work well. And help us build the (right) infrastructure to make all of this easier.

How the Rebus Community Can Help

The kinds of things we hope the Rebus Community can help with on Open Textbook projects include:

  • Supporting project management for Open Textbook publishing projects
  • Finding ways to get a global community help support various tasks needed to publish Open Textbooks, including:
    • contributing chapters (where appropriate)
    • copyediting & proofreading
    • reviews & peer reviews of chapters & books
    • sourcing (openly licensed!) illustrations & images
    • formatting, design, and accessibility of Open Textbooks
    • “marketing” books to professors and classes
    • distributing books into libraries and directories
    • making Open Textbooks easy to find and free to anyone in the world

Not every project will need all of this support. In some cases, academic institutions have provided funding for some of these activities. Sometimes there is no funding at all.

And, of course, not every project will want “external” people in all aspects of their book. Each project will be unique, but we hope to develop a general approach that is flexible enough to support many kinds of projects.

But, these are the kinds of things we hope the Rebus Community can help with, partly through our staff, and partly though a growing global network of passionate people dedicated to making Open Textbooks.

What’s the Catch? What Should an Open Textbook Author or Editor Expect to Contribute Back?

And, what of a lead author of an Open Textbook who joins the Rebus Community to get help with a project? What do we expect of them?

First and foremost, we want people who care about Open Education, who believe that the world will be a better place if there is an Open Textbook available in every subject, in every language in the world.

We also are looking for people who care about building a global community around Open Textbooks.

We expect that they will be present on the Rebus Community Forum, and will thank the volunteers who are willing to spend time to work on their projects.

We hope they will respond quickly and positively when, for instance, someone spends a couple of hours proofreading one of their chapters, or finding images for them. Or when someone offers to do this for them.

We hope that they will encourage chapter contributors, thank volunteers who have cleaned up their formatting. In a word, we hope they will spend some time being kind to the people who are helping them make their Open Textbook.

But Really, How Much of My Time?

How much time & commitment this actually will be for a lead author is hard to pin down. Is this two hours a day (probably not!), or an hour a week (maybe)?

In some ways it depends what kind of support the author is seeking. If you are looking only for proofreaders for one chapter, then the time commitment would be small. If you are looking to build a community that will support for the whole process of creating an Open Textbook from scratch — from chapter contributions to reviews to proofreading & design — then chances are you’ll need to put in more time.

We’re Figuring This Out Together

But we (that is, Rebus staff) are here to help.  We’re not quite sure yet what the details will be, exactly how these different projects will work. Though as with anything, I would guess that the more time a lead author puts in to fostering a positive community around an Open Textbook, the more vibrant that community will be. The more successful that book is likely to be.

But, in actual fact, I guess that all of this time would likely be spent in any case: even outside of the Rebus Community, surely an author would thank her proofreaders by email, would express appreciation if someone spent some hours finding great images to go with his chapters.

It Takes a Village

Publishing a book — an Open Textbook, or a traditional one — is not a solitary endeavour.

It takes a village to make a book. Our hope, with the Rebus Community, is that we can bring a global village together, on the web, and help make an Open Textbook for every subject, in every language in the world.

It’s going to take a while, but perhaps you can help us? If you are interested, please wander over to the Rebus Community Forum, register, and say “Hi.”


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