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What is an open textbook?

An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers, and members of the public. They are available for free as online versions, and as low-cost printed versions, should students or faculty opt for these. Open textbooks are a way to significantly reduce student textbook costs while giving instructors the flexibility to reformat and customize their course material. They are an affordable, flexible alternative to traditionally-published textbooks.

What does is mean for a book to be ‘open’?

Open Educational Resources (OERs) was coined at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware. Guidelines on implementing global activities were fleshed out in the Paris OER Declaration in 2012. OERs are defined as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work” (UNESCO 2012).

What are the 5R’s of Openness?

Open advocate, David Wiley, has developed a framework for thinking about the bundle of permissions that define OERs, outlining the permitted activities that are essential to work being open:

  1. Retain: the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  2. Reuse: the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study  group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise: the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix: the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute: the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

How can I make sure I’m not creating a book that already exists?

Before starting to create from scratch, search an open book collections to find out if an open textbook has already been created in your area which you are able to adopt and revise to meet your needs. BCCampus 101: Where to Find Open Textbooks guide is an excellent resource which lists a number of existing repositories which contain open textbooks. Additional list of resources is available in the Resources chapter of this toolkit

Do I need to create a new book from scratch?

You can choose to adopt a version of your existing work, license permitting, or create an entirely new material. Be sure to find out what other open content is already available as you can adopt, revise and remix based on the type of license that this content might have (for further details please refer to the section on key copyright considerations).

What does an open textbook project look like?

A typical project normally involves content authoring and content publishing elements and can be further broken down into five phases:

  1. Priming: environmental scan to determine nature of the project/consultations
  2. Pre-production: project planning and documentation
  3. Design: development of outline
  4. Development: writing and editing, finalizing draft
  5. Publishing: making content available, incorporating into curriculum, sharing with colleagues and maybe printing your own hard copies

What resources are usually needed to create a book?

  • Technology: access to authoring tools and publishing platform
  • Collaborators: co-authors/co-editors depending on the project, experts who could provide advice in areas of copyright, instructional design, technology options etc.
  • Time commitment: writing a brand new textbook, reworking an existing manuscript or adapting another open textbook will require varying time commitment. On average it can take anywhere from 9 months to 18 months to produce an open textbook

I am submitting a grant application to create an open textbook, what expenses should I consider including in my application?

For open textbooks faculty can use their award towards copyediting, find a volunteer copyeditor, or do light copyediting and formatting in house depending on how much discretionary funding is available. For professional graphic design, such as book covers, charts etc, a designer can be hired to produce something unique.

Is is possible to create an open textbook without funding?

The answer to this question will depend on the types of skills and access to existing resources which an author might have. Major costs are usually affiliated with editing assistance, graphic design etc., however, if an author already has access to these tools, it is possible to create an open textbook on a budget without additional grants.

What type of grants can I used towards creating OER?

There are provincial grants available to support the production of open textbooks, eCampusOntario offers open textbook funding which authors, in collaboration with other units across their institutions and/or in partnership with other institutions, can apply for. Non-OER grants can be used towards the creation of open textbooks which may be offered through institutional programs such as Learning and Teaching Enhancement Funds, Instructional Technology Innovation funds or Teaching and Learning grants, along bursaries and incentives offered through individual disciplines

Who is typically involved in the process of developing an open textbook?

Authors can work on their manuscripts independently in Microsoft Word or in collaboration with other authors on platforms like Google Drive or Grackle. Your collaborators will vary depending on your institutional capacity but here are some of the roles which can be explicitly affiliated with this process:

  • Instructional designer
  • Librarian
  • Digital creator/illustrator
  • Editor/research assitant

Once the manuscript is ready, meaning its written, visuals are included and content has been organized in the desired format, it can be imported into PressBooks. Authors can book consultations throughout the creation process with Online Learning offices, copyright and technology specialists at the library or tao into external organizations such as the Rebus Community to find collaborators.

What is a reasonable timeframe to complete an open manuscript?

It can generally take around 9 – 18 months, depending on the types of resources which are available, your own time and your writing style. Some authors take more time to write while others might already have a manuscript they are ready to tweak or redesign; some authors might need more time to produce effective graphics and make sure they are fully available and others, whose works are less visually-based, won’t face similar challenges.

How can I ensure that my book is recognized for quality?

There are a number of ways in which an open textbook can be evaluated for quality, however, its value will ultimately be demonstrated by its impact on student learning in your classroom:

  • subject matter peer review
  • reviewing open content for plagiarism
  • beta testing in classrooms may result in ongoing editing
  • anonymous student review at the end of each term
  • testing for accessibility and compatibility with assistive technologies

How can I visualize what this resource will look like?

Working with instructional designer, reviewing existing open textbooks for ideas and creating a draft of your work in Google Docs or Microsoft Word will help you to reflect on how this resource will look. This might be done as a sample chapter.