We in the extended Open Education community often say that ‘open’ is a process and a movement, not just an attribute or a license. Publishing, too, is a process, and when it is community-driven, the output is more than just books and articles. For Rebus, open and publishing come together as a vision, a practice, and set of relationships. As we have grown in the ways we support the open publishing ecosystem, we have learned, adjusted, and reconfigured. With this collection of reports, we aim to share some of that learning and adjustment, even as the projects described continue to follow their own evolving trajectories. As we always espouse, there is no ‘final’ publication, just a revised version, an adaptation, a new release.
Like much of what we do, the efforts that this booklet represents have been deeply collaborative, spread across many hands, heads, and hearts. The project was led by Rebus Community’s 2019 practicum student, Donna Langille, who was then enrolled in the Master of Information Studies program at McGill University in Montreal. (She has since gone on to work as a community engagement librarian at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.) Her objective was to understand what makes open publishing distinctive—specifically, publishing OER with Rebus Community—including the hurdles and hazards that project teams sometimes have to navigate. Over the course of three months, Donna interviewed the lead editors of ten of Rebus Community’s first projects, probing for what makes them unique. We are very grateful to these people for sharing their stories with candor and good cheer.
As Donna’s work progressed, it became clear that her texts were unfolding more as evolving narratives, and less as analytic case studies. Logistical details, team dynamics, institutional support (and barriers)—all of these elements became part of her portraits. And within them, the underlying motif that emerged was not just the importance of collaboration, but that of the relationships within collaborative efforts. Student-teacher relationships, individual-institutional relationships, subject-context relationships, writer-editor-technology relationships. Perhaps this is why the process of open publishing should always be emphasized: relationships change in time, and when they do, focusing on them—rather than just the ‘final’ product—keeps up momentum and helps resolve new challenges.
To maximize the value of these reports, both to the project teams and the OER community at large, we decided to publish them in several ways. As individual blog posts, they become bite-sized and shareable, a part of the social media landscape. As chapters in a multi-format booklet, they reveal themselves as part of a larger whole, a snapshot in the continuing history of a global movement. And because we have followed the ethos that Rebus holds across all its initiatives, this booklet is licensed CC-BY, so it can be revised, remixed, and redistributed, as well as augmented over time.
I became involved in this publication to help Donna shape the narratives and manage the process. As her editor, I brought my own perspectives to what the reports might reveal, both individually and as a collection. I also had enough distance from the original interview-conversations that Donna conducted, so that I could help her make decisions about what to include and what to cut. (Oh, the anguish of having too much great content!) Together, we brought the pieces to a close-to-finished state, at which point the project leads had the chance to review, fact-check, and adjust the texts. Donna and I learned much through the process, including the diverse range of experience that open publishing encompasses.
Here, then, is the result (for now): Ten reports on publishing OER with the Rebus Community. They include a wide range of insights and learnings, as well as innumerable happy outcomes.
Christina Hendricks’ account of how Introduction to Philosophy expanded from one book into nine demonstrates the power of a diverse and willing community. With several of the books released as of September 2019, the project as a whole also represents the importance of working along multiple, parallel timelines when publishing collaboratively. Sight Reading for Guitar, led by Chelsea Green and Nadine Aboulmagd (with advice from Maha Bali), created its own set of rhythms, which continue to play out in both book and video form. The challenges of incorporating multimedia elements and accommodating more than one license also figure in this account. At a different scale of openness, what Deborah Amory, Sean Massey, and Allison Brown have done with the creation of Introduction to LGBTQ+ Studies is to make a complex subject accessible across the planet—both in academic terms and practical ones. For all those who live in societies that are not open to queer discourse, the book is a bridge to understanding and a tool for creating critically needed change.
Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students is an OER created by librarians Linda Frederiksen and Sue Phelps, both of whom witnessed a gap in their fields and then decided to fill it, promptly. Focused and deeply applicable, the book shows how responsive open publishing can be to immediate student needs. Likewise, Michelle Ferrier and Liz Mays were inspired by their own subject when it came to constructing Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Because it is such a dynamic field, books about media studies must be conceived from the start as revision-ready; this book is just that. Similarly, Marking Open & Affordable Courses is an OER about OER, a text that shares the implications involved in demonstrating to students and administrators which of their institution’s courses use open resources. Michelle Reed, Sarah Hare, and Jessica Kirschner dive into the legislation, institutional policies, stakeholder needs, technologies, and communications around marking courses as open. As these issues evolve, so will their book.
Two of the reports describe the process of creating literary anthologies in collaboration with students. Tim Robbins’ Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature and Julie Ward’s Antología abierta de literatura hispana both reveal how making OER with students can improve classroom experiences in many ways. In selecting works to include, doing background research, and writing up introductory texts that contextualize the works, students come to learn what it means to both read and write critically.
Inspired by a meeting with Rebus’s executive director, Hugh McGuire, Werner Westermann took on the process of translating the Digital Citizenship Toolkit into Spanish. His story brings to light how cultural and institutional contexts are always a part of the publishing process. The English-language version of Toolkit was led by Ryerson University’s Michelle Schwartz, and as Werner’s Spanish version progressed, it became clear that ‘translation’ entails more than just language. Rounding out the ten projects is Dave Dillon’s Blueprint for Success in College and Career, itself a success story about process, translation, evolution, student collaboration, adoption, licensing, filling gaps, and iterative development. A winner of multiple textbook awards, Blueprint lives up to its own name, offering innumerable points of guidance for both present-day students and future OER creators.
In reading, editing, proofing, formatting, and trying to summarize these reports, I find myself once again impressed by the power in the ‘public’ aspect of publishing. By making things public—including the process and the product, but also the people, potentialities, and pitfalls—we make publishing a community act, not a corporate one. We learn from each other, both through our successes and roadblocks. And the more those learnings are made public, the better we get at what we do. As Donna has said in her acknowledgements, we are very grateful for the openness that our project leads have offered, as well as for the communities of colleagues and users who surround and support them. Openness is indeed a process, a set of relationships, and a movement that both guides and inspires us.
As ever, we encourage and welcome your feedback on these texts, and on everything we do at Rebus. In the meantime, I hope you find inspiration in this booklet, and in the positive change that it signals for our community.
—David Szanto, Rebus Foundation
Montreal, Québec – September 2019