Week 1: What is Open? What is an Open Textbook

Benefits and Challenges

Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -
Number of replies: 22

What do you see as the benefits and challenges of Open Textbooks? For creators? Adopters? Adapters? Students? 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Tess Yevka -

For creators? Satisfaction in sharing and contributing; their work gets out there; creating a rich learning system. I don't really feel concerned about the creators.

I need to know more about open textbooks to actually address these questions.

For students, it is accessability and cost that is beneficial. However, some may not have good internet access so that would be a challenge.

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Claudia Da Silva -

I think the main benefit goes for Students for cost.

Creators - wow, it is a HUGE commitment especially if what you are writing is a topic that you know changes really fast - technology, medicine. So, you might share something but if there is not a follow up, an update, then depending on what you are writing, it will literally "die" and fast.

Adopters - I would need to start adopting more to have a say on that. It has been difficult for me to be an adopter when it's hard to find up to date content in the area I teach - web development, mainly HTML, CSS, JavaScript.

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Shivanand Balram -

There is no doubt that the benefits to students are tremendous. Lower cost, accessibility, and portability are the main drivers here. While access to the internet can be a problem, more and more of these open materials are being made available in an off-line format such as downloadable PDF or HTML group of files.

I think a significant challenge for everyone going forward will be quality control.

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Takashi Sato -

Hi everyone.  I teach physics and astronomy at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, BC, right across the river from the other Vancouver.  I have started working with the Openstax (http://openstaxcollege.org/) physics book that Clint and Mary told me about and I can speak from the point of view of the adapter.

Some of the videos in this week's "readings" talk about the price of textbooks. In my experience as a student in the 80s, a book like this cost $30~35. (I must be a little older than the guy who said $40 in his time.)  I thought the students today were paying about $120 and I thought that was steep enough.  When I looked it up last month, if I hadn't gone to the open book, the book the student would have been told to get, the one we had "always" used, costs $187.15.  I told my department colleagues and they were all shocked.  How many of us really pays attention to the current price to the students?  Did we really mean that students should have to pay at this level?  If this is a typical price, a full time student would be paying $1500~$2000 in a year just for textbooks.

I don't want to come across like I have a beef with the texbook industry (I have met some very nice people working to make an honest living) but when the prices are this high, natural forces emerge to counter the trend, right?  One manifestation of these forces are the open textbooks.  

In terms of quality, I've always taken the view that no textbook does exactly what I want it to do, exactly how I want it done.  This particular book I started using seems as good as any and better than some. And if something really bugs me enough, I'm allowed to change it because of the openess.  I probably won't need to go to that length.  Despite being free, it does not look and feel cheap.  So where is the reason not to make this work?

I'm sorry I'll have to miss the session tomorrow, but I'll check out the recording.

cheers

Tak

In reply to Takashi Sato

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -

Hi Tak! Great to see you here! 

We'll be talking in week 3 about the changes that might need to be made to both individual and institutional ways of thinking about curriculum design and resourcing, but I'm wondering what you think about how the average instructor (if there is such a thing) feels about making the kind of investment in adapting resources versus taking one off the shelf that is traditionally published? My own experience of working with faculty is that they are often extremely overworked and in cases where there isn't a lot of institutional support around spending time updating resources, it's hard to make the case that they should do so. 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Takashi Sato -

Hi Mary,

Still doing last week's homework here but you asked me a question and I should respond.  In my observation, instructors fall into one of two categories.  There are a large number of those who develop so much material for things they teach that they get very close to having written a textbook.  Some do indeed take the step of turning them into books and get them published commercially, or self publish. 

The other category, and this is where I am, consciously work NOT to write the book, afraid that once we cross that bridge, it's going to take over our lives.  This is why I choose to be happy with materials off the shelf, even if it is not a 100% exact match with what I would have produced myself.  So far, I haven't had to try too hard to stay happy.

TS

 

In reply to Takashi Sato

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -

I'm very glad you've achieved that! 

Your method fits well with the metaphor of instructor as DJ or weaver - as the subject matter expert, the instructor provide a variety of resources, some great, some not as great, along with the vital component that ties those resources together for students and makes them meaningful, context. 

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -

Shivanand, thanks for raising the issue of quality. What do you (and everyone else!) think are some ways we could ensure quality control? I'm currently working on a sustainability plan for our project (we're producing 40 open texts aligned with high enrolment subjects in the province of BC), and that's my primary concern - how do we ensure continued quality and relevancy of materials once the initial investment of time, resources and funding have been made? 

And a second question, who should be responsible for maintaining quality and relevancy of the materials? 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Shivanand Balram -

I think peer-review, whether by the public and/or subject experts, would be the backbone of the quality control effort. In the case of the BC project, I would propose the formation of subject committees tasked with developing protocols and/or conducting peer-reviews. Maybe from these subject committees, common peer-review stategies can be extracted by the BC Open project and formed into a standard approach that all committees subsequently use.

Responsibility for maintaining this framework and hence the open education resources should be with some central coordinating unit. If not, then we could end up with a situation similar to the "tragedy of the commons".

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -

Thanks Shivanand, I really like your suggestion about subject committees. We did a lot of outreach with articulation committees here in BC during the spring and that may be a good place for us to start, at least with finding people interested in helping. 

I'm also very concerned about the notion of the tragedy of the commons with the resources our project produces and am currently working on sustainability models to propose for further funding. It's the evolution of the Open paradigm I think - at first we get people sharing (great!), but then we need to focus on adoption and maintaining relevancy if we want the ROI to continue. 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Shivanand Balram -

That's true Mary, continuous evolution of the paradigm is going to make it more sustainable compared with radical leaps.

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Suzanne Touahria -

Hi Shivanand,

I think you're on to a great idea with the subject committees and peer-reviews as well! The Practical Nursing curriculum that I teach in was determined by a Provincial committee and is shared by all colleges and universities in BC, both public and private.  Since we all share the same curriculum, it stands to reason, we could potentially share the same open texts, and also, the workload and responsibility of maintaining those texts.  I wonder what it would take to get instructor and department buy-in though.  There's so little time left over for class prep already.  I'm not sure how many instructors would want to take on the added workload of updating, revising, and peer-reviewing a text when we can simply order one. 

On the other hand, I can see how a tailor-made open text could be more evidence-based than typical nursing texts.  As well,  in an electronic format, it could include hyperlinks to important health assessment videos and web sites.  The cost savings to the students would be huge and since the texts weigh up to 7kg/each, it could also have positive musculoskeletal health effects!

In reply to Suzanne Touahria

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Shivanand Balram -

Thanks Suzanne, you raised the important point about additional work-loads arising from creating open textbooks. This is where institutions can play a major role. As you indicated, their long-term buy-in would be a key part of the sustainability equation.

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Carole Mackewich -

I think that the obvious benefit of low cost for students is one that everyone has already mentioned, but I think another benefit would be in finding or (mixing) a text that actually fits our course outcomes would be a huge benefit!

For creators (which I may become) the challenge sounds enormous in terms of finding materials writing transtions and develolping exercises, etc., but what a reward and acheivement it would be to develop an open source text that could be shared with my colleagues and students.

For adaptors, I think that finding a ready-made text that fits might be tricky, and I have only used in-print texts, so ease of use for myself and my students concerns me.

Carole

In reply to Carole Mackewich

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Steve Foerster -

Conversely, an open textbook might still be useful even if it's almost, but not entirely, unsuitable for your course.  For example, if an open textbook has a useful chapter, but the rest of it doesn't work for your course, you can assign it anyway because students won't hate you if they're not shelling out $150 for a book of which they'll only use one small part.

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Mary Burgess -

I love that line of thinking Steve. And in the ideal world, it would be extremely easy for faculty to just pull that chapter out and offer only it to students, but in the absence of that, you're absolutely right, there is no reason not to assign a resource with limited value when it has no cost associated. 

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Daniel Compton -

Steve,

I couldn't agree more. For the Adaptors, this would be great even if the source only had a few applicable chapters/selections.  I could foresee combining various Open Textbooks and some of my own material into the textbook I need for my course in a digital format each semester. 

In reply to Daniel Compton

The Curse of Copyleft

by Steve Foerster -

Hi Daniel,

That's a very good point, although sometimes materials end up trapped within silos of content because some are BY-NC-SA and others are BY-SA, and thanks to conflicting ShareAlike clauses that means they simply cannot be remixed.  It's the dark side of copyleft, and it's why I'm a bigger believer in simply placing works directly into the public domain directly and through a CC0 waiver.

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: The Curse of Copyleft

by Daniel Compton -

CCO waiver is definitely the safest route.  I haven't had much to do with BY-SA. I guess I just decided to avoid that minefield.

 

 

In reply to Daniel Compton

Re: The Curse of Copyleft

by Steve Foerster -

"CCO waiver is definitely the safest route."

Agreed, particularly since it applies in regimes that don't respect one's right to disclaim copyright through a public domain dedication.

Personally, I appreciate the functionally similar WTFPL, but I realize most institutions would prefer to retain more of a sense of decorum. :-)

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: The Curse of Copyleft

by Mary Burgess -

Hilarious, I hadn't heard of that Steve, thanks for sharing! 

Agreed that combining licenses can make remixing very complicated. Our project is about to embark on the phase in which we work on adaptations, some of which will include remixes. I recently found a couple of videos I thought were pretty decent about licensing, and the second of the two addresses the remix issue. 

Part One:

,

Part Two:

More on licenses next week!

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Benefits and Challenges

by Chris Wilkins -

After reading and agreeing with all of these great comments the only thing I can think of to add is that perhaps by more and more people creating and using open source resources it will force textbook companies to wake up to their current practices and change or adapt. It is their practices that are causing our department to look for alternatives as advocates of our students. Their current model seems to be grab as much as possible while they can. I think this isn't really a model that society can stomach for too long or at least I can't.

It is a LOT of work to create your own content. In my area of technology, this is especially challanging but we are still forging ahead and trying different scenarios. I teach applications so eventhough the look of the platform changes, in reality they are doing the same thing (ie: creating a report) so the content stays the same. We are trying to think globally about what we are assigning to students so that no matter the version of the application, they can still do what needs to be done.