A lot has been going on here at Rebus headquarters in Montreal, and we felt like it was time to give you an update about some of the exciting things that are happening. Over the coming weeks, keep your eyes on our Twitter feed and on the Rebus Community Newsletter, where all the details will be shared.
For now, we’re overdue for an update on the progress of our platform, including how new projects can get involved! As you might have seen, our team has been growing, and we’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on our experiences over the past couple of years. We’ve also been checking in against our long-term mission to support collaborative open textbook publishing at a large scale, and in a sustainable way.
In service of this mission, we started at a small scale, working closely with around 30 open textbook projects. Though this may seem counter-intuitive, it was very necessary to develop and deepen our understanding of the publishing process, from start to finish. Throughout this time, we have been carefully documenting that process in such a way as to make it replicable, adaptable, and accessible for anyone working to create OER. The continuing mission now has us focusing on how to support even more projects, which means figuring out how to remove the biggest barrier to doing so: the limitations on capacity that came from our initial high-touch, hands-on approach to project support. Luckily, with what is coming next for the Rebus Community, we think we’ve blown open those limits!
Importantly, the renovations we are making will enable the immense expertise, knowledge, and experience that exists in the OER community to become even more widely shared. To date, we have been responding directly to questions and challenges raised by the projects with which we have been engaged, and working closely with them to find solutions. Now, we want to continue that exchange, but with more projects and more people coming together to find the solutions we need as a community. And, by doing this work openly, our collective resources, tools, models, and practices can be accessible to all those involved in OER—both new and experienced alike—to use, reuse, revise, and redistribute!
One of the key resources on our platform is the documentation of our accumulated, collective publishing experience, The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far). Now that it is out in the world and continuing to grow, it has become a living repository of knowledge. We are adding to it over time, creating content a number of different formats.
In terms of tools, we released a new version of our projects software in May 2018, which gave open textbook projects a public presence online, well before release. Importantly, it enabled project teams to structure their work processes and publicize what was happening. We recruited an intrepid and brilliant group of project teams to test it out, which has led to a few key improvements. It also helped us see that there was a significant need for robust communications features (e.g., likes, replies, user tagging, direct messaging). After all, the people who come together around a project need ways to talk to each other—it’s a key part of turning a project team into a project community!
So this brings us to 2019, and an exciting next step in the evolution of Rebus Community. To build up a little suspense, we’re going to wait a week to share the second installment of this blog post. Suffice it to say, it has to do with the ways we think about open publishing models and practices, and the ways that we (all) can put them to use in expanding the OER universe, while sustainably honouring the inherent value of openness.