Starting an Open Textbook (Office Hours Summary)

Learning Rebus Community

“Starting an Open Textbook,” a co-presentation with Open Textbook Network, featured team leads from a variety of open textbook projects. They spoke about the challenges they’ve overcome and the successes they’ve achieved. By learning from their experience, we can improve workflows for open textbook development in the future. 

This month, we were joined by Karen Bjork (Head of Digital Initiatives, Portland State University Library), Katie Kirakosian (Adjunct lecturer, Department of Anthropology, UMass Amherst), Kathleen Labadorf (former Open Educational Resources and Social Sciences Librarian, University of Connecticut), Deborah Amory (Professor & Chair, Department of Social Science and Public Affairs, SUNY Empire State College), and Allison Brown (Digital Publishing Services Manager, SUNY Geneseo).

Karen Bjork’s talk focused mainly on what needs to happen to a book after a manuscript is complete, namely copy editing, structural editing, and formatting. She spoke about the importance of finding a consistent style and format to edit towards. An early participant in the Open Textbook Network Publishing Cooperative, Karen’s experience has informed many creators who have had the opportunity to learn from her. The book project from which Karen honed her OER super powers was a philosophy text called Inferring and Explaining.

Katie Kirakosian, lead editor of From the Ground Up: An Introduction to North American Archaeology spoke about the challenges of managing a team of 60 to 75 contributors covering 16 chapters. She provided some excellent tips for finding and building a team , such as using your Twitter stalking skills to meet new collaborators. The importance of a thought out Google suite strategy as a tool for keeping abreast of her teams’ progress was also highlighted. As Katie puts it, “If it’s not in Google, it doesn’t exist.”

Kathy Labadorf spoke from the perspective of a librarian who supports open textbook projects at her institution. The two books she spoke about presented significant formatting challenges. The book included complex formulas and interactive activities—elements that are difficult to format but also highlight the great possibilities of OER. For one of the textbooks, a book on probability, Kathy incorporated student review in place of peer review. “The students are the peer reviewers!” she celebrates. 

Deborah Amory and Allison Brown spoke together about Introduction to LGBTQ+ Studies: An Open Textbook. They spoke about their intersectional approach to the recruitment process, and how it resulted in a team that represents 43 institutions. Deb mentioned the Rebus Community project scoping template as a valuable resource. Allison pushed for incorporating the positive force and zeal of librarians.

We also heard about two programs supporting open textbook creation. Karen Lauritsen spoke about Open Textbook Network’s Publishing Cooperative and Zoe Wake Hyde shared the Rebus Textbook Success Program. 

Thank you everyone who attended this session, and thanks to Karen, Katie, Kathie, Deb, and Allison. As always, it’s a pleasure working with Karen Lauritsen and the good folks of the Open Textbook Network. The next Office Hours, “Money, Money, Money! Paying OER Contributors” will be on October 17th at 2pm EST/6pm UTC. We will be joined by Karen Pikula (Minnesota State OER Faculty Development Coordinator), Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen (Director of the Portland-Metro Campus Library) and more. RSVP now. 

Read the transcript for “Starting an Open Textbook” here. 

Leave your comments about the this Office Hours session on the Rebus Community platform.

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