Essentials of Speedy OER Creation

Learning Rebus Community

Open & Online. Post 5

Open & Online was a series of free weekly community gatherings organized by Rebus Community on a theme related to open textbooks as courseware and online collaboration. Participants received a free book on a shared instance of PressbooksEDU courtesy of Pressbooks. This program will not continue, but all resources will remain free and open.

OER projects can expand to fill the time that you assign to it, be it one year, six months, or a few weeks. You can focus on a few essentials to publish your resource quickly, regardless of how long you have. The beauty of open texts is that improvements can always be made during the continuous lifetime of the published resource. Today, we’ll discuss how you can put together a well-designed, high-quality resource that meets your needs in the shortest time frame possible.

First, start out by scoping out what you would like to tackle. Planning and laying out the groundwork for a project makes things much easier. This means that you are not pausing between tasks to consider a new aspect of the project or to make decisions; rather, you are able to devote your time and attention to the work at hand. Preparation also reflects in the published version of the resource — readers and adopters will be able to note that the resource has been well-thought through right from the beginning, resulting in a more rounded and useful OER.

Answer the following prompts from our quick project scoping template before you write or curate (this shouldn’t take you more than a day or two):

  • Who is the resource’s intended audience?
  • Describe the project briefly.
  • What is a realistic timeline by which the resource should be ready?
    • Think beyond the course start date and rather calculate how long adopters will need to evaluate the OER before assigning it for their courses.
  • What tools and resources do I have?
    • This includes team members, organizational tools, publishing platform, etc.
  • What tools and resources do I need?
  • How will the resource be licensed?
    • Use the Creative Commons License Chooser to quickly select a license. CC BY is the most permissive license that you could choose. If you prefer, you can begin with a more restrictive license as you get your resource out the door and make it more permissive later.

With this information identified, you can move towards content creation. Work with your team, or on your own, to lay out the structure of your book and what pedagogical devices or elements will recur in each unit (take inspiration from the textbook elements list). Write out the learning objectives for each chapter, unit, or section in your book. This will complement the project framing information you laid out and let you and other authors, if you have them, write or curate content that aligns with these goals. As you’re writing, keep the basics of accessibility in mind. You should use heading styles as you draft chapters, number images and figures, prepare alternative text for images and tables. While there are shortcuts in the publishing process you can take, this area is not one of them. You don’t know your class’ needs or who else might use your content, but let them be confident that you’ve covered the basics.

Depending on the length of your resource, and whether you are remixing or creating new content, this phase can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Remember to do what you can in the timeframe you identified! You can also look to other openly licensed resources to remix well-explained or executed content. This can save you time involved during writing, as you don’t have to start from scratch, and instead curate existing content as it maps out with your outline and objectives. You can rely on this content for now, and spend time in the future to smooth out edges between different resources and your own work. Remember that the ‘perfect’ resource doesn’t exist, but you can use the affordances of an open license on your resource to make edits and improvements even after it has been published. With a clearly scoped project, you know exactly what you need to achieve in the short and immediate term, and can prevent the production process from snowballing.

Once your content is drafted, if possible, we encourage you to get a second eye on the resource. This could be a peer reviewer, copyeditor, or proofreader (with one person covering the three roles or different contributors for each). If you cannot have your resource reviewed and edited right away, that’s okay. Try to have a collaborator look over your content — their fresh take can be invaluable! Collaborating with others on your project will strengthen your resource, as they will bring new perspectives, diverse skills and experiences. Once your resource has been looked over, make any necessary revisions and edits. All that’s left is to bookend the resource with some essential information, conduct final checks, and then you’re ready! These tasks shouldn’t take more than a week.

At minimum, we recommend you include an accessibility statement in your book (so others using the book know how it meets set standards), attributions page (to cite any creators that you’re borrowing from), a team page (to credit anyone involved in creating the resource so quickly), and a pathway to contact or connect with the team (so you can hear from readers, adopters, and collaborate with them in future). Take a look at the resources section below for examples of each of these pages.

If you have conducted peer review on your book, make sure to include a review statement. Transfer these statements, along with your body content into your chosen publishing platform. Pressbooks makes it easy to transfer, format, and share content. It also lets you expand your resource with interactive content with H5P or modes of engagement with Hypothesis, so investigate these options in the long-term. Once you publish your resource in your platform, take a look at the different formats (web, editable, and offline) to make sure that the content is laid out as desired. The availability of different formats will give students flexibility to access and read the resource however they prefer. These final steps should take you no more than a week. Once you’re satisfied with the final outputs, you’re ready to share the resource with others or use it for yourself! Try to put together a short announcement so others in your discipline know about the resource’s availability, or submit it to different OER repositories. 

We hope that this gives you a sense of where to focus your time and efforts as you work on publishing your OER quickly!


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