Open textbooks

“If you could tell a new open textbook author one thing, what would it be?”

Earlier this year, Linda Frederiksen (Head of Access Services, Washington State University Vancouver) reached out to me (along with several others) and posed this question. She has since done a wonderful job of synthesizing these suggestions into a chapter titled “Ten Tips for Authoring Success,” itself part of a new guide for Authoring Open Textbooks, edited by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen from the Open Textbook Network.

I encourage you to read all of the ten tips provided by brilliant colleagues such as Amanda Coolidge, Lauri Aesoph, Dianna Fisher, Quill West, Amy Hofer, Mike Caulfield, and others. Here is what I wrote:

To your question, “What Is The One Thing Every New Open Textbook Author Should Know?”, I would say that although constructing an open textbook is easier when you think about it in terms of a conventional textbook structure (e.g., sub sections within chapters that may also be grouped into sections), know that the most exciting elements of OER have to do with the greatest weaknesses of conventional textbooks. With an open textbook you have the ability to update content frequently, so write with this in mind (e.g., do not keep referring to one particular study as this may be replaced over time). Think about how you might take advantage of the digital platform by embedding interactive simulations, videos, and online activities. Consider how you can invite students into the process of OER creation, even if through personal application questions or small exercises. And finally, do not wait for your open textbook to be in some mythical “perfect” state before releasing it to the community. Pilot it, collect student feedback, and revise. Consider this an iterative process that you own. And if you are feeling a bit bolder, develop the textbook itself in the open, permitting and even inviting feedback from colleagues as you develop each sub-section. It may seem daunting to open yourself up to that level of scrutiny, but the resource will be far stronger for it. If you think about it, this is what the process of opening education is all about.

One thought on ““If you could tell a new open textbook author one thing, what would it be?”

  • Your tips and the other tips mentioned in the “Ten tips for authoring success” are very useful. One other important consideration is that having an open textbook gives one a chance to ask the question “What is it that I expect the students to get out of the textbook”. For example, I spent a fair amount of time looking for traditional genetics texts that did a good job of explaining how to do genetics problems. However, I found that most of the students did not learn this well from the book; they did better by in class practice. So right now, for my biology classes, much of the text that I use is to get them exposed to the material. I also have reading quizzes to make sure that they have read the material (and now they have no excuse not to). I do use various activities that I have found or made to help in areas where the text may not cover well, but having an open text does allow me to gear the text to what the class needs and not the other way around.


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