More Theme Improvements on the Way!

We’ve got a big series of changes to Pressbooks book themes coming up. Depending what stage your book is in, you may want to take action. Read on for details.

Why the changes?

The Pressbooks team has been working on developing better, standardized, more user-friendly book themes for almost a year now. If you’ve been using the McLuhan, Asimov, Clarke, or Jacobs themes, you may have noticed that there are more settings available in the Theme Options than you’re used to. These improvements are part of a major project to overhaul and enhance all the book themes on Pressbooks.

We’re now expanding the number of themes these options are available on. Starting on Aug. 22, we’ll be rolling out updates to a few more themes every two weeks. The updates will improve each theme’s baseline structure, allow us to issue continuous improvements, and make it easier for you to customize your book’s design without having to know CSS.

The changes improve each theme’s available design customization options. However, they also improve the standard, overarching design of the theme. While we have made every effort to maintain all of the design elements that make each theme unique, some elements of your book may be slightly altered after it undergoes the upgrade. However, you can lock your theme to prevent these changes from affecting your book.

If you don’t want updates to the base theme to affect the layout of your book, lock your theme before Aug. 21.

Do I have to lock my theme?

No, you don’t. Locking your theme means not receiving any future updates, including bug fixes.

You should only lock your book theme if:

  • You are happy with the way your book looks, AND
  • You need to preserve the current page count of your book (ex: you have already sent a copy to the printer, or you have manually created references to specific numbers)
  • OR You want all design elements of your book to stay exactly as is in every format, regardless of current potential bugs or quirks that may be resolved by future theme updates.

This is the only notification you will get about the upcoming theme changes. We will not send further reminders. If it is important to you to maintain your exact page count or layout, we encourage you to enable theme lock now by going to Settings > Export from the left-hand menu of your book’s dashboard and checking the Lock Theme box.

Have questions about the upcoming changes? Contact support@pressbooks.com.

The Ohio State University Has 60 Books in Development as Part of Textbook Affordability Initiative

At The Ohio State University, Pressbooks has become an integral platform for the university’s open textbook affordability initiative.

The university already has 18 published books on its Pressbooks network, a handful of private books being used in OSU classes, and almost 60 new books in development, says Michael Shiflet, Digital Publishing Coordinator, Affordability and Access, at The Ohio State University.

Among these are Environmental ScienceBites Volume 1 and Volume 2. The books are part of an open pedagogy project in which undergraduates in the Introduction to Environmental Science class at OSU produced content for the texts.

Writing for Strategic Communication Industries is another popular open textbook from the OSU collection. It was produced by lecturer Jasmine Roberts. The nature of a traditional publishing cycle made it hard to produce textbooks sufficiently up to date in her fast-changing field, Michael says. “She found authoring her own work was just a much more effective teaching strategy.”

Michael says single-author textbooks like Roberts’ are the bulk of what’s being produced on their network.
“We haven’t seen a lot of the “adopt and remix” kind of traditional Creative Commons open work. What we’re seeing is a lot more people authoring their own original material,” he says.

Michael says a lot of authors come to him to produce open textbooks because there is no text out there for what they want to teach.

This has led to some extra-specialized titles in the catalog, such as Atlas of Renal Lesions in Proteineuric Dogs, a book about dog kidneys intended for veterinary pathologists and nephrologists.

“It’s the only thing out there in this highly specialized field,” Michael says.

Other faculty may have books already in progress and need a tool to produce them with, or have an ebook that can be converted using Pressbooks.

Faculty come to the open textbook program through their grant program or learn of it through word of mouth. Sometimes they hear about it by being asked to contribute to another book, or from a faculty colleague in their department who participated.

As the digital publication coordinator, Michael provides project management – including weekly check-ins, a roadmap with milestones, and tech support – for all projects funded by the affordability initiative. He also provides tech support for OSU’s Pressbooks network to projects not funded by the initiative.

Michael runs a Pressbooks user group at the university, which meets virtually every two or three months to share updates, show and tell, and discuss best practices.

Michael says he used to encourage users to author outside of Pressbooks using something like Google Docs or Word, then bring their manuscript into Pressbooks when it was about 90 percent complete. But as Pressbooks has improved, he’s become less adamant about this workflow.

The revision history and editing capabilities of Pressbooks have undergone major improvements, Michael says. “I’m kind of less insistent that people do that these days. It’s a lot easier to recover things if you do make a mistake, [and] it’s easy to track.It’s really hard to lose something forever, so I’m more open to people finding a workflow that works for them.”

He thinks the new H5P plugin, which enables faculty to add quizzes in their books, will be a big selling point to instructors considering making open educational resources in Pressbooks.

The cloning tool has also proved useful, Michael says, enabling his team to clone great books they’ve seen elsewhere and then suggest those books to the subject matter librarians who can encourage adoption.

OSU originally came to Pressbooks in March 2016 when the program was piloted and presented as an option to them by Unizin, a consortium of which OSU is a member.

“We weren’t necessarily looking for something new,” Michael says, but they were unhappy with their current solution, which required editing code in an XML editor to create EPUBs.

When approached by Unizin, they did a landscape survey of five or six other options, including existing tools, but found that “Pressbooks was by far the best option.”

Michael says one solution they looked at required a regular dedicated server for every book. “We weren’t going to go around giving faculty members servers,” Michael says.

They had also tried iBooks, but the learning curve was problematic – they were spending two to three months of a six-month book development process getting people used to the tool. Plus, students who weren’t on Mac computers couldn’t access the books published in iBooks.

With Pressbooks, Michael says, “Now we’re down to a couple hours, if that, and most of that’s dealing with minutia, not necessarily related to the tool itself.”

One of the things that drew them in initially was the fact Pressbooks was built on WordPress and had a familiar interface.

“Most faculty have some familiarity with WordPress, and even if they don’t, it’s pretty intuitive,” he says.

Having multiple output formats was another selling point. In a research project conducted by OSU, it was discovered that 90 percent of users were reading the texts online, but that they still liked having the option to download other formats.

“The fact that now we can send it to a Nook or a Kindle or just a kid’s PC laptop [is an asset]”, Michael says.

He also likes having the responsive webbook version.

“A lot more students than we would care to admit are simply using their phones and not using anything larger than a tablet [to read the books],” he says.

In the future, Michael would like to see more of the books in progress become a reality, and going forward, he is focused on increasing the completion rate.

“I’d like to see more books get finalized and in the catalog,” Michael says.

We’re Partnering with Unizin to Host PressbooksEDU Networks at 14 Higher Education Institutions

At Pressbooks, we’re beyond excited to be partnering with Unizin, a nonprofit consortium of leading higher education institutions, to host PressbooksEDU networks at 14 U.S. universities.

The universities include:

  • Indiana University
  • Ohio State
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Florida
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • University of Nebraska – Omaha
  • University of Nebraska – Kearney
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Through this partnership, each of these member universities will get their own PressbooksEDU network, open-source book formatting software widely used in higher education to develop open textbooks and OER that are accessible in multiple formats: EPUB, MOBI, PDF, XML, HTML, OpenDocument, and others.

The new systems will be hosted by Pressbooks’ team of developers, experts in the nuances of Pressbooks. We will provide hosting, maintenance, backups, and regular updates and ensure the systems are always running the latest release of Pressbooks.

Each standalone PressbooksEDU network will be brandable to its institution, and include Pressbooks educational features: H5P, for adding quizzes and interactives to books; and cloning, which allows remixing and revising of open content built by others on Pressbooks.

The Unizin PressbooksEDU networks will also include new features, developed with input from the Unizin consortium, including LTI integration for the Canvas and Moodle learning management systems.

Collaborative publishing models are an important part of an evolving environment for educational resources. The Pressbooks implementations will make Open Educational Resources (OER) more accessible than ever to faculty and staff at Unizin institutions. OER is revolutionizing education by lowering students’ barriers to educational resources and allowing faculty and staff greater control over their curriculum. Openness and creation are two of Pressbooks’ core principles, and we’re proud to be part of Unizin’s innovative efforts to support new kinds of faculty- and student-driven publishing.

Etienne Pelaprat, director of product management at Unizin, speaks highly of our work at Pressbooks.

“Pressbooks offers products and services that enable our Universities to build and deliver media-rich, low-cost, and free content that drives learning experiences,” said Pelaprat. “They share our view of a content ecosystem where content is designed, published, discoverable, and adopted across institutions who collaborate in digital pedagogy. In Pressbooks, we feel we have strong partners who understand higher education’s need to create affordable, standards-aligned, and data-driven digital content at scale.”

Any Unizin member institution is eligible to buy PressbooksEDU (under special pricing arrangement) through Unizin. For more information, contact Brad Zurcher, Brad.Zurcher@unizin.org, at Unizin, or Liz Mays at Pressbooks at liz@pressbooks.com.

About Pressbooks

PressbookEDU is an open-source publishing platform used widely in higher education to develop open textbooks and OER that are accessible in multiple formats: EPUB, MOBI, PDF, XML, HTML, OpenDocument, and others. Our technology and our business are driven by a set of values aligned with educational institutions: openness, user control, accessibility, and the power of creation. To learn more, visit pressbooks.education. PressbooksEDU is built and maintained by Book Oven Inc., in Montreal, Canada.

About Unizin

Unizin, Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit consortium of leading universities committed to improving teaching and learning through technology. The collaboration happening at Unizin empowers institutions to enhance, diversify, and evolve their unique learning environments. By supporting interoperability, open source, and standards-based solutions, Unizin saves their Members valuable resources they can use to provide extraordinary learning experiences that improve student outcomes.

Unizin Product/Service Information Contact:

Brad Zurcher

Brad.Zurcher@unizin.org

Unizin Media Contact:

Mariah Aguilar

mariah.aguilar@unizin.org

Pressbooks Contact:

Elizabeth Mays

liz@pressbooks.com

LTI and CAS Integrations Now Available on Pressbooks Networks

This week, we’re releasing two new features that will make Pressbooks systems even more powerful for use in education.

These include the V1 releases of our learning tools interoperability (LTI) and Central Authentication Service (CAS) secure sign-on plugins.

LTI V1

Over the past year or so, we’ve received numerous requests to integrate Pressbooks with universities’ learning management systems – the online classroom students log into to access the readings, assignments, discussion forums, etc. for each of their courses.

Without LTI integration, instructors can still easily link to any public book built on Pressbooks from within their LMS. However, a desire was shared among universities to make the textbooks accessible to students while they are inside the interface, reducing the cognitive load of clicking out of it.

Our new LTI feature will enable users to embed Pressbooks content  within the LMS interface in Canvas and Moodle and have it appear natively.

This feature is available on PressbooksEDU Gold, Titanium and Platinum plans, and on Pressbooks open-source networks. It is not available on PressbooksEDU Silver plans or Pressbooks.com.

Use these instructions to integrate Pressbooks with your LMS.

Integrated Information Systems, Rutgers University Libraries funded the development of this release.

SSO V1

CAS SSO integration (available for an additional charge on Gold systems and included free on Titanium systems) allows users on a PressbooksEDU network to bypass the Pressbooks login form and log in through their institution’s CAS SSO system, using their institutional NetID and associated password as login credentials.

Integrated Information Systems, Rutgers University Libraries funded the development of this feature.

Next, we are working on supporting other frequently requested SSO protocols, including Shibboleth. 

QuickLaTeX

In other updates, we recently added QuickLaTeX as an optional plugin for Pressbooks networks. This plugin offers many improvements over the existing PB LaTeX tool, such as the ability to compile mathematical graphs and the display of mathematical formulas in higher resolution, both on the Web and in exports. The plugin also allows users to write native LaTeX syntax directly into their books.

Please note that to use QuickLaTeX in your book, you must first enable the plugin on your book’s Plugins page. For instructions on how to enable and use QuickLaTeX, click here.

Cloning Comparison Tool

PressbooksEDU networks now come with a built-in comparison tool that lets you compare the current version of a cloned book with its source. This feature will only appear in cloned books, and can be found under Appearance > Theme Options > Web Options.

In Other Updates

In the last month, you may have noticed we released a host of updates. These include:

  • Updates to the Andrews, Asimov, Clarke, Jacobs, and McLuhan themes to now allow for collapsible subsections
  • Updates to the Andrews, Asimov, Clarke, Jacobs, and McLuhan themes to provide theme options for customizable textbox colors
  • The ability to add captions to your table without editing HTML code on any book

You can read more about these features here.

As always, drop us a line if you have questions about any of the new features!

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said Oauth is also already supported in EDU networks. That is incorrect. We regret the error. 

Pressbooks Q3 Roadmap Forecast

We’ve just completed our quarterly planning meeting. Here’s a review of our year so far and a glimpse of the features we’ll be working on in Q3.

We’ve introduced a TON of improvements in the past two quarters, as part of an array of custom development contracts.

In Q1, we:

  • redesigned the Pressbooks webbook
  • introduced the new customizable network theme (Aldine)
  • added two new themes designed for academic use
  • added a new contributor management feature
  • added support for chapter-level importing from Pressbooks
  • improved the accessibility of our Organize page
  • added support for interactive elements and the H5P plugin

As we close out Q2, we are finishing up the following improvements:  

  • LTI integration, via Common Cartridge, starting with Moodle and Canvas
  • CAS integration (one of several single sign-on methods we’ll be adding)
  • adding the QuickLatex plugin to improve math formula display
  • improving the functionality and display of our tables with the addition of the TablePress plugin
  • working on a process for handling premium plugins and plugin feature requests

Q3 is going to be about improvements to our overall infrastructure and processes, which will make it far easier to add features in the future.

On the horizon, we will be:

  • improving support for shortcodes, to make it easier to import content from Word files into Pressbooks.
  • adding Shibboleth as an SSO authentication method
  • doing R&D into analytics (If you’d like to fund the work that results from this, please reach out to sales@pressbooks.com)
  • converting seven more of our themes to enable the new, more user-friendly theme options
  • continuing to make improvements to how we handle spam on our networks
  • improving the LTI integration built in Q2
  • keeping our eye on WordPress’ Gutenberg update, as it may affect Pressbooks

Most important, we’ll be doing some general housekeeping, making improvements to our infrastructure, internal dev and management processes, testing and release cycle, and user experience.

Have questions about any of these upcoming additions or want to provide input about what you need from one of the features above? Or, would you like a hosted PressbooksEDU network with these new features? Get in touch!

New Admin Menus for PressbooksEDU Network Managers

In response to feedback from network managers, we’ve made some improvements to the user interface for admins on Pressbooks networks.

We’re adding two new tabs to the existing menu in the Pressbooks dashboard for network managers.

The first of these is a new “network admin” option. This takes network managers to the areas they’ll need to go to administer their Pressbooks network. Hovering on this menu, they will see various options:

  • Dashboard: This takes network managers to the network admin dashboard.
  • Books: This menu takes the manager to a place where they can see a list of all books on the network and administer (view, add, delete, deactivate, or archive) books as they wish.
  • Users: From this menu, managers can see a list of all network users, and add, edit, or delete users.

The new top menu also includes a tab to administer the content and appearance of the network homepage. Hover on the menu for your university network. Visit website will take you to the home page of your network. The dashboard option allows you to get to several important menus:

  • Appearance, from which you can activate and/or customize your network’s theme
  • Settings, which allows you to customize aspects of your network, for instance, the settings on Hypothes.is as it interacts with your book

network admin menu

Network admins will still see the My Catalog menu. However, its options have changed. Previously this menu included links to the network admin dashboard and network homepage. Now that these areas are accessible from the other additional menus, they have been removed under My Catalog. Now, the My Catalog menu only includes items related to books.

Network Manager Guide

Our Network Manager Guide is (finally!) out! Please note that this is a basic v.1 version that will be updated, improved and incremented on an ongoing basis.

We hope these new options improve the user experience for network managers on PressbooksEDU networks. If you have feedback, or run into challenges, let us know.

Updates and Bug Fixes to 5 Themes Coming Soon!

Note: This communication applies to PressbooksEDU and hosted client networks only, NOT to Pressbooks.com. Go here for the communication that applies to Pressbooks.com. (Note: There are a few exceptions–your network manager will have received an email if you are one of them.)

We’ll be releasing some improvements and bug fixes to five themes (McLuhan, Andrews, Asimov, Clarke, Jacobs, Rothbard) in early July.

If you are not using any of these themes on your book(s), you will not be affected.

The improvements and bug fixes include small formatting changes in some headings, changes to the default formatting of lists, or user-reported issues such as handling of images, padding between quotes and paragraphs, and issues where long running headers that would bump content to new pages.

These changes could impact page counts for print book files. If you wish to avoid these changes (and the bug fixes), you can apply the theme lock to your book(s) before July 5. You can find instructions on how to do this in this chapter of our user guide.

Note that once you remove the theme lock, you cannot return to your theme’s previous state.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions about this change!

Open Resource Built on Pressbooks Wins Open Education Award

A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students, built on Pressbooks, has been recognized by the Open Education Consortium. Other winners include the H5P plugin, now available on PressbookEDU.


A Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students coverA Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students just won a 2018 Open Education Award for Excellence in the Open Textbook category, and it’s built on Pressbooks!

The awards are given by Open Education Consortium to recognize “distinctive open educational resources, open projects and initiatives.” The international selection committee includes educators and opken education advocates.

Elizabeth Mays (who some of you may know from Pressbooks) was the lead editor on this project for the Rebus Community.

The book includes major contributions from educators and students prominent in making open textbooks: Robin DeRosa, Rajiv Jhangiani, Timothy Robbins, David Squires, Julie Ward, Anna Andrzejewski, Samara Burns, Matthew Moore, Alice Barrett, Amanda Coolidge, Maxwell Nicholson, Steel Wagstaff, Gabriel Higginbotham, Zoe Wake Hyde, and Apurva Ashok.

A Guide to Making Open Textbooks With Students contains:

  • An introduction to open pedagogy from experts Robin DeRosa, director of interdisciplinary studies at Plymouth State University, and Rajiv Jhangiani, University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Project ideas, case studies, interviews with and first-person accounts from faculty and students engaged in open textbook projects in the classroom
  • Three sample assignments for creating or updating open textbooks from faculty who have done such projects
  • Resources such as a guide to CC licensing, an MOU for students and faculty
  • And more!

“Building the book in Pressbooks, with its public webbook feature, allowed the resource to spread virally,” Elizabeth said. “More than 20 education-related sites had linked to the webbook at last check. Others have requested we send them copies of the book in print, which we canc easily have made from the Pressbooks PDF.”

The resource is one of 10 winners.

H5P plugin also wins a 2018 Open Education Award for Excellence

H5P, which is now available on PressbooksEDU enterprise networks, won the award for Free and Open source Software (FOSS) for Education.

This award category was for an “efficient software application proven to be an essential tool for professionals, trainers and teachers for building, and delivering OER.”

The plugin was developed by H5POrg in Tromsø, Norway, and is a popular tool for faculty and instructors building dynamic open textbooks on PressbooksEDU.

The full list of winners is available on the OEC website.

New Features Coming to Pressbooks EDU in Q2!

We’ve heard a lot lately from Pressbooks’ educational users about what they’d like to see in PressbooksEDU networks. And we’re responding at lightning speed!

So far in Q1, we’ve redesigned the look and feel of webbooks and introduced the new customizable network theme (Aldine). (This work was done with Ryerson University, funded through an eCampusOntario grant.)

We’ve also added two new book themes designed for academic use (McLuhan and Jacobs), added a new contributor management feature, support for chapter-level cloning from Pressbooks, and added graceful support for interactive elements (audio, video, phet, and more), as well as supporting the H5P plugin. (A big thanks to eCampusOntario for supporting these developments.)

With this first batch of work wrapping up, we’re now looking ahead to the next three months and will once again be ticking off many more of your requests. Keep reading for a preview of what’s to come.

In addition, we’ll be looking at popular enterprise integrations for Pressbooks, including LTI and various single sign-on (SSO) methods, with the goal of ensuring that Pressbooks better supports these integrations.

Also coming soon is an easier way to import content from OpenStax, one of the major creators of open textbooks, using BCcampus’ OpenStax Importer for Pressbooks plugin. This will make it easier for those on Pressbooks networks to adapt open textbooks in a range of subjects. We’ll also review options to support Common Cartridge import and export to ensure first-class support for this format.

Those creating or adapting mathematical texts will be pleased to hear that QuickLaTeX is also on the way, to improve the quality of formulae in PDF exports.

In addition, we plan to improve the functionality and display of our tables with the addition of the TablePress plugin.

In late February, we applied a new theme, Aldine, to networks, which includes a customizable home page and a standalone catalog page. That will continue to get refinements, as will the new webbook. This will also entail continued work to improve accessibility, with input from the Inclusive Design and Research Centre.

We’re also continuing the process of converting all of our themes to offer the same user-friendly theme options currently available in Clarke, Asimov, McLuhan, and Jacobs themes. Keep an eye out, as we’ll be releasing the converted themes regularly as they are completed.

But that’s not all! As part of a new approach to our development process, we will be doing research into future features that will make PressbooksEDU even better for educational use. These include:

  • Tracking adoptions of open textbooks
  • Book and network analytics
  • Mathematics support improvements across formats (beyond Quick LaTeX)
  • Network-level default book settings
  • A process for handling premium plugins and plugin feature requests
  • Improvements to media management and image uploading
  • Implementing a new markup for books, based on HTMLBook
  • Broken link checker tools
  • Support for the forthcoming WordPress Gutenberg editor

As part of our research we will likely be reaching out to existing EDU users to get on-the-ground input on what these features should look like and how they can best work for you. Any specifics you can offer will be helpful before we move forward with development; so keep an eye out for our email!

Have questions about any of these upcoming additions? Want to explore a PressbooksEDU network with these new enterprise features? Contact us!

Enhanced Interactivity (Video, Audio & More) Now Available in Pressbooks

We’re happy to announce some major improvements to interactivity in Pressbooks books.

Previously, if you wanted to include a video (or other embedded content) in Pressbooks, there were three ways to do it. The first was to include a link to the video, which worked well on the webbook, but not anywhere else. Uploading the video or multimedia file into Pressbooks had the same problem, and was not the best use of Pressbooks’ storage space. So as best practice, we recommended option three: including a screenshot and linking that to the resource hosted elsewhere on the web (YouTube, Vimeo, or the like).

But now, when you embed a regular link to multimedia content, not only will it work in the webbook, but that embedded content will also degrade gracefully in non-web formats, such as the PDF for print and the ebook formats. Note that Pressbooks still doesn’t support embedding of iFrames because they pose security risks.

We’ve worked hard to find a solution to the display and behaviour of these elements in the non-web outputs (thanks to eCampus Ontario for funding this development work). Now, you can embed video, audio, or interactive content into your book from select pre-approved hosting sites. Detailed instructions on how to do so can be found in our user guide.

In addition, if you include a video, audio, or other multimedia file in your book, Pressbooks will insert an appropriate visual placeholder for it in your non-web outputs, along with a link so that those readers can go to the resource on the Web. If available, Pressbooks will also insert a thumbnail of the element in the non-web outputs.

audio multimedia icon Pressbooks interactive-multimedia-icon-Pressbooks video multimedia icon Pressbooks

 

 

Placeholders for interactive content or media elements in non-web formats, to be accompanied with text and the URL of the element on the web.

Next to the placeholder, you’ll see a note for the reader: “An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here: URL OF CONTENT IN PRESSBOOKS.”

Want to give the new capability a whirl? You can find instructions for how to embed multimedia in our user guide.

H5P Interactive Content

Pressbooks EDU networks have even more capability than these standard features. By default, all Pressbooks EDU networks will include the H5P plugin, which has become popular among educational Pressbooks users to enable H5P interactive content. Learn more about using the H5P plugin on your Pressbooks EDU network in our user guide.

Is your university interested in a Pressbooks EDU network? Email us at sales@pressbooks.com to learn more.