Supercharged OER at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Many of you who are active in the OER community will already know Rajiv Jhangiani’s name. Besides being the co-editor of a well-regarded 2017 book on open education, “Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science,” and an outspoken advocate for open pedagogy and improving global access to educational opportunities, Rajiv currently serves as special advisor to the provost on Open Education and is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He was instrumental in KPU’s 2017 launch of the first “Zed Cred” program in Canada, in which all of the courses for a credential are available with zero textbook costs. A second Zed Cred program launched in 2018.

In his role at KPU, Rajiv leads a mission to “supercharge” OER efforts university-wide.

KPU is the leading institutional adopter of OER in Canada. In the past, the university has worked with BCcampus to adopt dozens of open textbooks hosted on BCcampus’s open source Pressbooks instance. Now, KPU also hosts adaptations and new open textbooks on their own Pressbooks network.

Rajiv, himself a long-time practitioner of open pedagogy, adapted two OERs for BCcampus, and a third for his own use, early in his days in the OER community.

When he began these projects, he wasn’t aware of Pressbooks and was using a Word document for the manuscripts. However, “Once I learned about Pressbooks’ existence, it became the default tool,” Rajiv says. Now he even uses it to create non-textbook materials, such as KPU’s strategic plan and OER workshop training materials.

KPU now boasts more than 300 courses with zero textbook costs–many of them utilizing open textbooks on a Pressbooks platform.

As KPU’s OER initiative grew and evolved from adoption and minor adaptation into publishing of open textbooks, they identified several benefits to having their own individual Pressbooks network on which to produce, publish, and distribute open textbooks.

Investing in an institutional network allows KPU control over the network and the branding of their own open textbook catalog, and also instills confidence that the system is routinely maintained, optimized, and up-to-date with the latest features.

Rajiv says after the initial institutional cost of subscribing to Pressbooks, the potential for OER production is virtually limitless.

“There’s nothing to prevent us from cloning away,” he says.

So far on KPU’s network they’ve built resources for the Learning Centre, such as books on learning to learn online, time management, and study skills. Some recent OER grant-funded projects include consumer behavior, ancient and medieval history, and mathematics adaptations.

KPU plans to formally launch OPUS (Open Publishing Suite), in March.

“The academic areas are really what’s going to ramp up quite a bit,” Rajiv says.

He envisions their catalog including a number of adaptations of OpenStax or BCcampus textbooks for high-enrollment courses.

After making a “master” clone of each of these books onto their Pressbooks system and revising the text to localize its content, KPU can clone each book again multiple times, so that each instructor of these courses with multiple sections can make their own instructor-level customizations. For instance, instructors might want to rearrange the chapters to match the order they teach, add research examples from their department, or otherwise tailor the book to their teaching style.

OER creation on Pressbooks is just one piece of KPU’s overarching open publishing suite of tools and services, OPUS, which also includes assistance with Open Journal Systems, Zed Cred preparation, and embedding open content in courses. Grants are available for faculty wanting to create or adapt a textbook. So far efforts have been split evenly between the two, but Rajiv says he expects to see more adaptation in the future.

Faculty can submit a project for consideration on the OPUS website.

For selected projects, faculty can use Pressbooks in one of three ways: 1) They can create a resource from scratch in Pressbooks. 2) KPU can assist them to clone an existing book, and they can make their edits in Pressbooks. Or 3) a Pressbooks conversion service is available to faculty who already have materials in Word or similar programs.

Rajiv says they try to be flexible, and “meet faculty where they are.”

OPUS is a partnership between Open Education and the Library. Two librarians, Caroline Daniels and Karen Meijer-Kline, are the key point people for the project, which is strongly supported by University Librarian Todd Mundle.

A big push to apply for the Pressbooks Conversion Library Service will be kicked off on March 7 at events during Open Education Week. A panel of speakers already using Pressbooks will speak about their experiences, and hands-on training for the software will be provided. This training is guaranteed to be offered on at least three of KPU’s five campuses every semester. Online, asynchronous training, as well as “just-in-time” training for faculty are available, and Rajiv says they are in the process of building videos and digital assets to promote Pressbooks internally. They also send frequent updates about newly published OER, KPU events and speakers, and anything related to open education to an open ed listserv of more than 150 subscribers.

At KPU, the open ethos has been embedded into practices and procedures: “Open ed is part of the identity of the institution now,” he says.

Rajiv says KPU chose Pressbooks out of pragmatism.

“Pressbooks has become the standard, as you know,” he says, with lots of big organizations like BCcampus using it for the creation and cloning of open textbooks.

It hasn’t been too hard for faculty to pick up, as Rajiv has observed.

“It has a learning curve, but it’s not ridiculous,” he says.

There were several factors that made Pressbooks attractive to KPU. Among these were language support (such as Punjabi scripts), LaTeX support, support for print-on-demand, and interactive tools like the H5P plugin now available on PressbooksEDU.

So far, they’ve been using H5P for formative quizzing Rajiv says the “desire for that is pretty big.” They’ve also used H5P for timelines and clickable hotspots, which can “make a static visual resource a little more interactive.”

Pressbooks’ commitment to providing an accessible, open source software was also an important factor in the institution’s decision.

“A piece of open source software makes a huge difference philosophically,” Rajiv says.

Likewise, the ability to take Pressbooks exports and easily and affordably create print-on-demand versions was crucial. KPU has its own print-on-demand wing, a partnership between the bookstore and the print shop. KPU’s bookstore manager is a member of the Open Education Working Group.

They started with a few courses and tweaked existing procedures six months ago using Verba Collect, the platform where KPU professors specify the textbooks students should buy for their courses. Now, professors can use the same platform they use to identify a traditional textbook to point to an OER that can be printed by the bookstore.

When a student decides to buy a print copy of the OER, the purchase sends the Pressbooks PDF export to the print shop, generating an affordable print-on-demand version for them that’s available within 1-2 days. Rajiv says while the books are priced very affordably, it’s still a new revenue stream for the bookstore. Even on Creative Commons NC (non-commercial)-licensed books that they print, the bookstore can still see an indirect revenue when the students come into the bookstore and see other merchandise for sale.

Rajiv knows he’s lucky to be at an institution that proudly supports open education as part of its culture. For programs that are just emerging, though, he advises starting small and focusing on proving impact.

“It is important that [OER efforts are] properly supported,” he says. “I think you could start without the support, and then it’s almost worse than not starting.”

Rajiv suggests the following strategy for early-stage OER initiatives:

  • Look at your bandwidth and pick two to three high-enrollment projects that you can really support, he says. Make sure you provide those projects with instructional design support and create high-quality books. Ensure they meet accessibility requirements and are designed with UDL principles and individual learning differences in mind. This will ensure the resources are well-thought-through and will be effective and useful for learners once you publish.
  • Leverage those as early wins.
  • Research, at your institution, is a big part of being able to do that. Evaluate and document the impact of adoption on course outcomes. Compare the cost and impact on course enrollment, persistence, and completion. Take a highlighter to the strategic plan and map your proposal to its tenets. Then, it will be easier to get people to say yes to a pilot.
  • How to keep those resources fresh? Conduct open pedagogy projects. Have students in future classes that are using the textbook update the stats, add H5P elements, and annotations. “Supercharge the basic book through the pedagogy piece and then it takes on a life of its own.”

USask’s OER Program Expands from Adaptation into Ancillary Resources

Staff at the Teaching and Learning Centre and Distance Education units at the University of Saskatchewan are steadily building their OER program. They started with the adoption and adaptation of openly licensed textbooks by faculty at the university and are now beginning to develop ancillary materials. To learn more about OER development at USask, we spoke with with Heather Ross, an educational developer (digital pedagogies) who consults with instructors on course development, syllabus creation, and digital literacy.

Heather has been closely involved in several recent OER projects. The inaugural OER project at USask involved content experts, instructional designers, and educational developers working together to produce four open textbook adaptations funded by the provincial government of Saskatchewan. Since then, the university has created or adapted a total of eight open textbooks, which are now available in the school’s PressbooksEDU instance.

Books in the USask PressbooksEDU Catalog

A few of these projects were built from resources that instructors had already created and were giving to their students in various different formats; provincial funding helped USask staff turn those resources into open textbooks.

The first major adaptation was undertaken on behalf of a first-year course offered by the USask’s Edwards School of Business. The program previously required students to purchase a traditionally-published textbook on the topic of college success, but faculty felt that the text wasn’t meeting their learners’ needs. Intrigued by the savings potential and pedagogical possibilities of openly licensed alternatives, the program identified a promising college success book included in the Open Textbook Library. Although the original text had been published by and for American institutions, it was released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, which allowed staff at the USask to edit and adapt the text for their context and publish their revised version as University Success, 2nd edition. This initial adaptation for business students was later modified again for use in the university’s College of Arts and Science, a revision which was renamed Strategies for Academic Success.

Another successful project in the business school involved using the Pressbooks publishing platform to transform faculty-authored material that had previously been provided as course packs into fully online, publicly available open textbooks. Two completed texts written by business school professor Lee SwansonBusiness Plan Development Guide and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Toolkit — have been published with Creative Commons licenses and are now listed in the USask’s public Pressbooks catalog.

Also in the catalog is an adaptation of an OpenStax Physics textbook. In addition, the university is working with the Rebus Community on a human geography textbook and has an adaptation of a BCcampus geology text in the works.

The school has also partnered with BCcampus on a new soil science textbook project that will be collaboratively written by faculty authors from around the country.

Heather told us that she and her USask colleagues were particularly excited to have been able to work on complex multi-institutional collaborations like these.

As USask’s OER efforts expanded, they gradually outgrew the open-source Pressbooks instance that they began self-hosting (which was run on a local server housed in a closet!)

“We didn’t have the resources to continue hosting [an open-source network],” Heather says, “and it became clear that we should move to a hosted solution.”

One benefit of moving to a Pressbooks-hosted network has been that they can focus on the OER content, rather than server and software updates for the platform it resides on.

Access to USask’s PressbooksEDU network is available to any instructor at the university, and for some projects, faculty have added students to a book; this can be helpful for open pedagogy projects or for student workers.

Instructional designers in the Distance Education Unit, graduate students funded by open content grants, and USask instructors all have a hand in bringing new content into the university’s open academic publishing platform.

During the past few years funding has been available for the creation and adaptation of open textbooks. To maximize the impact of current available funding, grants are typically  awarded to support instructors who want to create ancillary materials, such as test banks, that extend the value of existing open resources, rather than creating new texts from scratch.

As an example, the first-year psychology department will be moving some of its sections to using open textbooks next year, and a grant will support the creation of an accompanying test bank.

USask also previously funded the expansion of a test bank for a sessional instructor using an open sociology book.

“I’m actually trying to pitch adaptations of open or ancillary resource creation, by saying, ‘Hey, we can help fund your grad students [laughs],’” Heather says.

Sessional instructors who are paid by the course have also expressed interest in grant-funded opportunities to create ancillaries.

Heather says she will be marketing such opportunities through conventional university channels: an updated open website for the university and an internal communications campaign. She’ll also be driving the program through word of mouth.

“I plug open at every chance I get,” Heather says, “It’s just the conversations that I have with people.”

Heather says USask has learned a lot since they first started working with OER.

Before a project receives funding, the OER program obtains sign-off on the project’s adoption not just from the department head, but collectively from the department faculty, who have considerable influence on textbook adoption.

They’re also learning to work with limited resources. USask does not have an official OER librarian or copy editor dedicated to OER publication. Open content is just one piece of Heather’s role as an educational developer. And Saskatchewan does not benefit from an overarching provincial education consortium like BCcampus in British Columbia, eCampusOntario in Ontario, or Campus Manitoba in Manitoba.

For that reason, Heather says, she’s grateful for the groundwork those organizations have laid in developing workflows for open textbooks.

“I’m so grateful for all the work that [BCcampus]’s done before us,” Heather says. “I frequently state that I could not do my work if it wasn’t for Amanda [Coolidge] and Mary [Burgess], and their whole team — what they’ve done before.”

Heather says they’ll pay the knowledge they develop at USask forward.

“We try and pass on our lessons, because there are other institutions that are in our situation in other provinces, and in our province,” she says.

One of the things they learned was that the choice of platform is crucially important when it comes to creating open resources.

The first open textbook done at USask was by a professor who had written a commercial textbook and wanted to update it. The publisher wasn’t interested in doing another edition, so they gave the copyright back to the professor so she could update it. The professor revised the text and consulted various university resources to make the actual book and obtain some late-stage funding. She ended up working with the media production unit on the format.

“[They] said, ‘Yeah, we can turn this into an ebook for you — it’ll be an iBook.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that’s problematic,’” Heather says. “Because you have to be able to work with that platform to do any adaptations. You have to have all those source files. And so we said, ‘No more. That can’t happen. You can’t be doing this in iBooks.’”

USask initially decided to use Pressbooks for its open program after learning that BCcampus had long used it as the foundation of BCcampus OpenEd.

That, and the fact so many others in Canada were using Pressbooks for open textbooks, was important, Heather says. Their ability to try the open-source version of the tool for free was another factor.

“The multiple formats that [a book] can be exported is a good factor for me,” Heather says. ”It’s an open source tool — you guys are always adding new features to it. And because it is open source, we’re not adding more money into some company that is taking the profits and running, instead of putting it back into the community.”

There are features Heather would still like to see improve.This includes better support for projects containing formulas, as well as a way to prominently link the open textbooks and catalog on Pressbooks to ancillary materials in a repository.

“We’re looking at setting up an OER repository,” Heather says. “And one of the big reasons for that is that we have no place to host the ancillary resources. And so, if we could find some way of better connecting our books to our ancillary resources using Pressbooks, that would be great.”

Pressbooks 2018: The Year in Review, part 2

In a previous post, I took a look at the year in review for the Pressbooks community (the people who make and use our software). In this post, I’ll take a closer look as Pressbooks as a product, covering some of the exciting changes and developments to our software made in 2018 by our hard-working developers and generous contributors.

On January 1, 2018, Pressbooks software was the following:

  1. Pressbooks (our core plugin): version 4.5.0
  2. Pressbooks default book theme: pressbooks-book 1.12.0 [Luther]
  3. Pressbooks root theme: Pressbooks Publisher 3.1.3
  4. A handful of smaller plugins, including Pressbooks Stats 1.4.0 and DocRaptor for Pressbooks 2.1.0

Over the course of the year we made major updates to each piece of our core product and introduced several new tools and plugins. The most significant new releases were our new Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) provider and single sign-on (SSO) plugins, designed to help educational institutions connect their Pressbooks networks with their Learning Management Systems and enterprise login systems, and Buckram, a set of style components that makes book theming easier and more powerful.

In 2018, we also made it easier for anyone who wants to get a more granular look at planned releases and ongoing development work by creating and maintaining GitHub project boards for the project in general and for versioned releases of specific components like Pressbooks, pressbooks-book (McLuhan/Buckram), Aldine, and Pressbooks LTI Provider. These project boards are regularly updated by our dev team to include reference information about planned and completed releases.

We’re enormously grateful to the various institutions who funded different parts of this work and for their shared interest in contributing back to an open source product that benefits the entire community of users. eCampusOntario, Ryerson University, Rutgers University Libraries and Bay Path University each made significant contributions to our 2018 development work, and Brad Payne and Alex Paredes from BCcampus contributed code to two big new features that were added to our core product this year. Thank you, all!

Pressbooks

Our core product is Pressbooks, a WordPress plugin that transforms a WordPress multisite into a powerful book publishing system that makes accessible webbooks and several types of exports, including ebooks, print-ready PDFs, and various XML flavors.

In 2018 we brought out 25 minor releases and 7 major releases of core Pressbooks (beginning with Pressbooks 5.0.0 in late February, running all the way up to Pressbooks 5.6.0, released in November). The last version of Pressbooks to be released in 2018 was 5.6.3, which came out on December 12. All told Pressbooks received a net addition of more than 16,000 lines of code from humans in 2018, with ~10,000 coming from Dac (across 161 commits), ~5,000 from Ned (across 322 commits), ~1,600 from BCcampus’ Brad Payne (across 8 commits), and ~100 from Lukas Kaiser (across 3 commits).

So those are the raw numbers. But what do they mean? How did Pressbooks improve over the last year? Well, in lots of ways. The obsessive among you are welcome to view a detailed changelog for a more exhaustive record of everything we shipped this past year, but the following list is a baker’s dozen of our favorite improvements from the past year:

  • Major overhaul to the ‘Organize’ page: We improved the page’s accessibility for keyboard navigation and screen reader users and its usability when displayed on mobile devices. We made it easier to manage the visibility of content across web and exports; all content now has two binary options: “Show in Web” and “Show in Exports.” We also added book navigation options to the edit screen.
  • Import & Export improvements: We added support for importing individual chapters from Pressbooks webbooks and for importing all supported file types from local and web-based sources. We added graceful fallbacks for interactive content that can’t be fully experienced in ebook and PDF exports. We enabled the inclusion of TablePress tables in eBook and PDF exports. We allowed users to produce HTMLBook exports, made our XHTML and HTMLBook outputs cleaner and more readable, and added a link to the diagnostics page which lets users to preview and debug PDF export issues directly in their browser using the XHTML source preview without having to repeatedly generate PDF exports.
  • Cloning improvements: We also built on the book cloning feature (funded by Ryerson University) and the chapter-cloning feature (funded by eCampus Ontario) with a whole raft of cloning improvements, like adding a book source URL to Book Info for cloned books; allowing users to specify a new title for cloned books at the time of cloning; adding a theme option to let readers compare a clone book to its source; and adding cloning support for media attachments, media metadata (including attribution statements), and glossary terms.
  • Glossary tool: We added a native glossary tool that allows authors to provide rollover and clickable definitions for glossary terms and to auto-generate a glossary list as a back matter type in their books. We’re very grateful to Brad Payne and Alex Paredes of BCcampus for contributing the first version of this feature.
  • Shortcodes for authors: Thanks to support from Bay Path University, we added more than a dozen new shortcodes that work in both the visual editor and in document imports. These shortcodes make it easier for authors to include well-structured HTML elements without having to learn HTML.
  • Interactive and other third party content: We added support for interactive content (like H5P activities, PhET simulations, Open Embeddable Assessments, Knight Lab timelines, and eduMedia interactives). We made it so that iframes embedded from trusted sources were automatically converted to shortcodes rather than being stripped and deleted. We also disabled the display of related videos in YouTube OEmbeds once videos are finished playing.
  • Cover generator tool: We made our self-service cover generator tool part of our core plugin, making it available to open-source users. This tool makes it easier for authors to make attractive print-ready covers for their books.
  • LaTeX and Mathematical Notation: We made it easier for users to use mathematical notation by improving support for WP QuickLaTeX, adding support for QuickLaTeX rendering within TablePress tables, and permitting the use of TablePress tables and SVG files in ebook formats.
  • Centralized contributor management: We made it much easier for book admins to manage and display authors, editors, translators, reviewers, illustrators, and generic contributors to books. We also moved contributor management from the “Organize” menu to a more logical place under the “Book Info” menu in the dashboard.
  • Better Textboxes: We improved the markup and display options for educational textboxes (learning objectives, key takeaways, exercises, examples) and added a new “sidebar” textbox that’s especially helpful for textbook content.
  • Licensing and Attribution Improvements: We moved license types into a taxonomy and now differentiate between the CC0 license and public domain work. Pressbooks now allows users to add and display image attribution metadata, making it easier to properly credit CC and other openly licensed images when they’re reused in book (big thanks to Brad and Alex from BCcampus for their work on this feature).
  • GDPR Compliance: We added support for WordPress 4.9.6 privacy policy management to help Pressbooks networks comply with the new requirements of The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a regulation on privacy and data protection now in effect throughout the European Union.
  • More script and language support: We added support for the Devanagari script and several languages, including Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, and Telugu, making our software more inclusive of the millions of people who use this script or these languages.

Pressbooks Default Book Theme

At the start of 2018, the default book theme for all Pressbooks networks was Luther (also known as pressbooks-book 1.12.0 for any version heads out there). When we released Pressbooks 5.0.0 in late February 2018, it was accompanied by McLuhan, a new book theme. Upon its release as pressbooks-book 2.0.0, McLuhan replaced Luther as the default theme for all new books, and Luther subsequently became available as a separate, standalone legacy theme. The development of McLuhan was supported by eCampus Ontario, and the theme itself was designed with textbooks in mind, although it supports all kinds of content.

Since its initial appearance, McLuhan has seen more than a dozen additional releases and is now on version 2.6.1 (interested readers can consult the detailed changelog). All told the pressbook-book repo saw the net addition of more than 80,000 lines of code by humans, with ~78,000 coming from Ned (across 397 commits), ~3,000 from Daniel (across 59 commits), and ~200 from Dac (across 19 commits). Of the many improvements we made to the default book theme in 2018, here are some of the biggest highlights:

    • Support for new features: We added support in this theme for a number of new features now available in Pressbooks, including: an increased default webbook reading width and three new variable reading width options; collapsible sections; automatic resizing of webbook contents when the Hypothesis annotation pane is expended; optional lightbox for linked images; book and section Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs); glossary term lists; automatic graceful fallback for interactive content in ebook and PDF exports; and differentiated link styles for print and digital PDFs.
    • Accessibility improvements: Thanks to support from Ryerson University, we added a keyboard-accessible table of contents and customizable colours and logos (inherited from network settings). We also improved webbook accessibility by adding more context to webbook navigation, using better HTML5 markup for images, improving focus styles, and enhancing the markup for headings and our table of contents.
    • New theme options: Book admins now have several new theme options for customizing the appearance and functionality of their webbooks as well as eBook and PDF exports. These additional theme options are currently only available in the 8 themes we’ve converted to use Buckram (more on that later).
    • Better navigation: We made webbook navigation consistent on all screen sizes, allowed authors to customize part/chapter labels in the webbook display and in exports, and now display more descriptive labels and/or chapter short titles in previous/next nav links.
    • Table of Contents improvements: Books now indicate the current section in the dropdown ToC. We also added  “Show All”/”Hide All” buttons to the webbook ToC, and improved the appearance and overall functionality of ToC in all locations.
    • New features for cloned books: Cloned books include a reference and link back to their source and an optional comparison tool that lets you compare current versions of cloned and source texts.
    • LMS-specific theming: We also added settings which allow extraneous navigational elements to be suppressed when content is loaded via LTI within a Learning Management System (as these typically have their own internal navigation).

Pressbooks Root Theme

In late February, we replaced Pressbooks Publisher with a new Pressbooks root theme, called Aldine. Aldine’s creation was one of the major improvements supported by Ryerson University. Since its initial appearance, Aldine has seen an additional eight releases and is now on version 1.5.0 (interested readers can consult the changelog).

Aldine was designed to make customizing the look and feel of Pressbooks networks easier. It gives network managers tools to add institutional branding to a Pressbooks network by letting them globally change default colors, logos and contact information for a network, introduces a standalone catalog page which can be sorted, filtered, and searched by subject or license, and makes it much easier to create and display additional pages to the network root (like “About Us,” “Get Help,” “Terms of Service,” etc.).

Following its initial release, we’ve added specific buttons to the page editor to insert shortcodes for page sections and calls to action; added more customizer options; made it possible to edit the contact form email directly from the Customizer; and made privacy and anti-spamming improvements.

Other Plugins

We made a few minor updates to the small Pressbooks Stats plugin, with some bigger work planned for early 2019 (‘improving usage statistics at the network level’ refers to ongoing efforts to give network managers better tools for understanding how their networks are being used). The current version of Pressbooks Stats is now 1.6.2.

At the beginning of 2018, we also maintained a plugin which implemented a DocRaptor export module for Pressbooks as a drop-in replacement for PrinceXML. This standalone plugin was rolled into Pressbooks core with the release of Pressbooks 5.4.0 in July, and we are no longer maintaining the standalone plugin separately.

New Development

LTI Provider plugin

In May, we released a stable version of Pressbooks LTI Provider, thanks to support from Rutgers University Libraries. This plugin allows Pressbooks to act as an LTI provider, registering any number of LTI consumers, and supports both deep linking and the creation of Thin Common Cartridge exports with LTI links. LTI, which is short for Learning Tools Interoperability, is a specification maintained by IMS Global which allows third-party tools (like Pressbooks) to integrate with Learning Management Systems (like Canvas, Moodle, and Blackboard) in a standardized way. Using LTI makes it easier and more convenient for schools to securely plug learning tools and content into their LMS and make those tools and content feel native/seamless for learners.

In late 2017, while still employed at UW-Madison, I wrote in more detail about why I was so excited about using LTI to connect Pressbooks with LMSes. Much of what I wrote then still rings true for me today. In my opinion, our LTI Provider plugin is a hugely exciting feature for anyone interested in using Pressbooks content inside of a Learning Management System (a common desire for teachers, both in K-12 and higher ed settings). Our plugin is now on version 1.1.2, released in November (changelog). In Q1 2019, we plan to pursue official IMS Global certification against both the LTI and Thin Common Cartridge standards.

SSO plugins

In 2018 we also developed and released two plugins that enable single sign-on for common authentication systems used in higher education. These integrations allow log in to Pressbooks networks using using their institutional NetID and password as login credentials (authenticating through either CAS or SAML2).

  • In May, we released the stable version of our SSO plugin for CAS (Central Authentication System). Our work on this plugin was funded by Rutgers University Libraries. This plugin is now on version 1.1.1.
  • In late July, we also released the initial version of our SSO plugin for SAML2 (Shibboleth). This plugin is now on version 0.0.5.

These SSO plugins are now available on Gold PressbooksEDU networks with a one-time configuration fee.

Buckram

In April, our lead developer Ned Zimmerman published a helpful introduction to Pressbooks themes on our open source blog, and in July he did the same for Buckram, “a set of styled components for book theming, with corresponding markup, that can be customized with SASS variables,” which we released in an initial stable version that same month.

While it’s largely invisible to most end users, the work we did in 2018 to develop and release Buckram is important because it is provides the foundation for some really exciting theming and customization possibilities for Pressbooks. Buckram is what enabled all of the new theme options that we introduced in Clarke 2.0, for example. In 2018, we converted a batch of Pressbooks themes to use Buckram [Andreessen, Asimov, Jacobs, McLuhan, Andreesen, Dillard, Christie, and Baker], and development work on Buckram continues apace (it’s now at version 1.2.1), with many more theme conversions planned for 2019.

In the course of researching and writing this two part series, my already considerable esteem for my new Pressbooks colleagues grew enormously. I hope that you’ll agree that 2018 saw really significant improvements in Pressbooks as a software product and a community. If you want to know more about what we’ve got planned for the first few months of 2019, we’d invite you to take a look at our published Q1 roadmap and give us your feedback.

Pressbooks 2018: The Year in Review, part 1

When others ask me what Pressbooks is, I often say that it’s two things: 1) terrific open-source book publishing software and 2) the people who make, use, and care about that software. If there’s still time and interest, I go on to explain that Pressbooks is a collection of open-source software components, largely built on top of the WordPress Content Management System, that gives authors, teachers, publishers, and educational institutions a powerful and relatively easy-to-use book publishing system. Pressbooks is also the small team of employees that makes and supports Pressbooks software and a larger global community of contributors, users, and backers who collectively give our software life.

In a series of two posts I want to talk about what 2018 meant for Pressbooks, looking at both the software product and the human community that shapes and sustains that product. I’ll talk about the people first, well, because that’s how we try to do things.

The People

2018 was an exciting year for for Pressbooks and brought with it some pretty dramatic changes. Nothing makes this more obvious than a closer look at the people making and supporting Pressbooks. At the beginning of 2018, Pressbooks had two people working on the project full time (our developers Ned & Dac) and another four (Hugh, Liz, Zoe, Apurva) who split their time between Pressbooks and other projects. Throughout 2018, our team grew, matured, and specialized in response to the needs of our user communities.

Departures

In June, the Rebus Foundation (a non-profit organization founded by Pressbooks CEO Hugh McGuire), received a large Mellon Foundation grant to develop a web-based application for digital reading, research, annotations, and collections management. This change in Rebus’s fortunes meant that Zoe Wake Hyde and Apurva Ashok, two colleagues who had been splitting time between Rebus and Pressbooks, left Pressbooks to devote their energies full time to Rebus work. Midway through 2018, Pressbooks bid Zoe and Apurva a fond farewell. All of us working on Pressbooks continue to wish them well as they advance Rebus’s efforts to build a vibrant community of collaborators on open textbook projects; resources, best practices and software to support that community’s open publishing efforts; and a better scholarly reading ecosystem.

A growing Pressbooks team

Early in 2018, Pressbooks added three new team members: JC Guan, our first official product manager; Daniel Fernandes, who spent most of the year improving our existing web themes; and Phil Nelson, who had previously worked with Pressbooks as a contractor but began managing DevOps, systems administration, and infrastructure issues for our SaaS hosting offerings in a more formal capacity.

In 2018, Pressbooks also brought Liz Mays into a full-time role as our director of sales and marketing (she had previously been splitting her time between Rebus and Pressbooks) and welcomed Taylor McGrath to our team, first as an intern and later as a full-time communications and support specialist. Finally, in November, I joined the team as our first educational client manager, with a specific mandate to support our growing base of educational clients using Pressbooks as a platform for open education and open textbook initiatives.

Much of this change in staffing was undertaken in response to our growing base of educational clients and their desire to use Pressbooks networks to develop open educational resources in a variety of modalities and deliver them at no cost to students. While Pressbooks began as and remains an excellent tool for individual authors to self-publish their own books, we’ve been gratified to see our SaaS hosted platform for educational institutions (PressbooksEDU) become a popular choice for colleges and universities around the world who are interested in developing and publishing open educational resources. By the end of 2018, we were thrilled to be hosting standalone PressbooksEDU networks for more than forty colleges and universities in North America and Australia.

PressbooksEDU News

Along with growth in the number of educational institutions using Pressbooks to support their publishing initiatives and a corresponding growth in Pressbooks staff to support them, 2018 also saw invigoration of our PressbooksEDU news blog. Our EDU-focused blog averaged a new post every two weeks in 2018, focusing primarily on an audience of educational users and network managers of hosted EDU networks. Over the past year, Liz and Taylor used the blog to draw attention to educational uses for new Pressbooks features and provide a detailed glimpse into how Pressbooks has been used in OER publishing efforts undertaken by a retired professor, the University of Florida, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Ohio State University, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Central Florida.

The story from 2018 that we’re most proud of at Pressbooks, though, was the announcement in March that A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students, a collaboratively-built resource edited by our very own Liz Mays, had won the 2018 Open Education Award for Excellence in the Open Textbook category from an international panel of judges at the Open Educational Consortium. A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students was originally published by Rebus Community using Pressbooks in August 2017 under the CC-BY 4.0 license, but continued to attract attention and praise throughout 2018.

We’ve got another series of case studies and feature updates planned for 2019, and are really excited to continue learning from and sharing the successes of our educational users. One of my biggest goals for 2019 will be establishing community resources and venues that meet the needs of network managers and our educational clients. Stay tuned for more news on this in the first half of 2019.

Support

No matter how easy to use its makers think a piece of software is, everyone who’s ever been involved in learning a new program will tell you that end users often need help and support. Pressbooks is no exception. While we work hard to make our software accessible and accompany it with clear technical documentation and helpful user guides, we still get a lot of support requests from our Pressbooks.com and PressbooksEDU offerings. In 2018, for example, Pressbooks staff received and responded to nearly 3,500 support requests. When it came to client support, Taylor, Liz, Apurva, and JC led the way in 2018, each resolving hundreds of support tickets.

In fact, most of the Pressbooks staffing changes in 2018 were made to ensure that we could continue to provide best-in-class support for our clients. To that end, Taylor overhauled and improved our Knowledge Base/FAQ documentation and Pressbooks user guide and published and now maintains a new guide explicitly for network managers. JC, Taylor and I also provided personalized training and support for dozens of network managers at client institutions throughout the year, a responsibility that I’m looking forward to continuing in 2019. In late November, Taylor and I also began offering regularly recorded webinars for our EDU clients highlighting how users can leverage new features to do more with Pressbooks; we held the first webinar in the series to accompany the release of Pressbooks 5.6.0.

Because I joined the team specifically to help educational clients succeed with their OER and other publishing efforts, my top priority for this year is to better understand the needs of our growing educational user base and to provide even more ways for PressbooksEDU network managers to engage with us, our software, and each other. Before making any specific plans, my first order of business is to conduct a thorough ‘listening tour’ of all of our existing educational clients so that I can better understand what their hopes, needs, and ambitions are. Over the next few months we will begin synthesizing responses and formulating new approaches and support tools that meet common needs.

Forum Improvements

Some of these changes are already underway in our open source and developer community. For example, in September 2018, we decided to close our open source Slack channel and focus our open source community efforts on the public Discourse forum, which we’ve been operating since early 2016. We now hold our monthly open source development calls (these are open to all!) in Zoom rather than Slack, and post regular public updates about development and upcoming calls on our open source blog and in the Development category of Discourse.

Our Discourse forum continued to flourish as a place for Pressbooks developers and other users to ask technical questions of each other. 2018 saw the addition of more than 60 new members, 340 new topics and 1,400 new posts, such that the forum now contains over 100 members, nearly 600 topics and almost 2,800 posts.

The most popular posts from 2018 in our community forum included a post Ned made about the developer’s guide to accompany the release of Pressbooks 5.0 and inquiries from Pressbooks users on topics ranging from importing content into Pressbooks, PrinceXML, iFrames and oEmbed customization, book theming, automatic line numbering, and watermarks and DocRaptor exports.

Working on an open source software project means that questions come in all the time on surprising topics and unexpected use cases. Observing and responding to these forum interactions over the last year helped us better understand our own software and its users, catch and fix bugs, and make more useful software. We’re grateful to everyone who engaged with us in 2018, and look forward to another year filled with rich, positive engagement with developers and other contributors.

Whether you’re an old hand or are new to Pressbooks and looking for a way to get involved in contributing to the open source project, we hope that you will feel welcomed and valued in our forum, and that you will treat others with kindness and respect. If you have any feedback for us on how we can make participating easier or more inclusive for you or others who might want to participate, please let us know by sending Ned and/or Steel a private message on the forum or by sending a Twitter DM to @pressbooksdev.

GitHub Ideas Forum

In March, our development team created a dedicated Ideas forum and connected Ideas board on GitHub for users to submit development ideas and suggestions for the Pressbooks team. Since then, we’ve received more than 150 unique ideas from almost 20 contributors (including the author of this post). We’ve already added several of these suggestions to our core product, with plans to address many more in 2019.

If you’ve got an idea for something that you think would make Pressbooks better in 2019, we encourage you to share it with us in this Ideas forum, which features a basic template asking you to provide a feature description, use case, and any other notes that might help us in evaluating or implementing your idea. If you’re new to GitHub, we recommend starting with this guide to submitting contributions to open source software projects or this guide to GitHub issues.

GitHub Snippets

A the same time we established the GitHub ideas forum, our dev team also created a GitHub repository to house useful code snippets for others working on/with Pressbooks. It’s currently a little-known and under-used resource, but we hope that by highlighting it here, interested community members might add useful snippets of their own more frequently in 2019.

At this point, I’m beginning to verge into product territory, so it’s probably a good stopping point for now. Keep an eye out for part two of our Pressbooks 2018: Year in Review, which will review highlights from our development work on Pressbooks software, in the near future.

Featured image by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Pressbooks 2019 Q1 Roadmap

The Pressbooks team recently spent some time planning our roadmap for Q1 2019. We’ve got some exciting projects planned for the next few months. Here are some of the major improvements we’ll be working on:

Network-level improvements:

  • Better usage statistics for network managers
  • More tools for network managers to control default settings on their network, including the default theme for newly created books
  • Improved functionality for the network catalog

Improvements to import/export and cloning routines:

  • Rebuilding the ‘export’ page with progress indicators during exports, improved management of export files, and full keyboard accessibility
  • Adding support for cloning H5P activities
  • Progress indicators for cloning and import processes

Metadata and book info improvements:

  • Adding JSON-LD metadata to webbooks. This will provide more context about what comprises each book in a linked, structured format, making public books easier to find by search engines.
  • Adding metadata to webbooks to make it easier to cite them with Zotero
  • Adding ORCID support for contributors (ORCID is a persistent digital identifier for people often used in scholarly publishing)
  • Improving support for books with editors or translators as primary contributors
  • Adding a central database table of book metadata to Pressbooks networks to support planned improvements to network-level analytics

These are the big projects we have planned; as always, we’ll continue to refine and improve Pressbooks with smaller updates and bug fixes released throughout the quarter.

If you have any questions about the improvements coming this quarter, or would like to tell us what you want to see on our roadmap this year, please contact our support desk!

What’s New on PressbooksEDU: Glossary Creation, DOI Integration, and More

Happy (early) Holidays! It’s our last major release of the year, and the gifts we have to offer include a few features that we know you’ve been waiting for. Read on for details about what’s included in this release.

The New Glossary Feature

Thanks to code contributions from Brad Payne and Alex Paredes at BCcampus, you can now insert glossary terms and full glossary lists natively into your books in Pressbooks.

Individual Glossary Terms

You can create and insert tooltips for individual glossary terms directly from the content editor.

A new button on the visual editor toolbar (GL) allows you to insert a glossary shortcode for any new or existing glossary term.

A new button on the visual editor toolbar (GL) allows you to insert a glossary shortcode for any new or existing glossary term.

The shortcode links the word to a definition that opens when readers click the term in the webbook.

Using the Pressbooks glossary tool, the shortcode links the word to a definition that opens when readers click the term in the webbook.

Full Glossary Lists

Pressbooks can automatically generate a full glossary list of all glossary terms in your book.

To add the glossary:

  1. Create a new back matter chapter
  2. Select “Glossary” from the Back Matter Type menu and leave the content editor blank
  3. Click Create (or Save, for an already existing chapter)

To add the glossary: Create a new back matter chapter. Select “Glossary” from the Back Matter Type menu and leave the content editor blank.

Pressbooks generates a list of all individual glossary terms which have been marked to “Show in Glossary Lists” to create a full, alphabetized glossary.

Glossary terms with definitions

For more detailed instruction on how to use the glossary tool, check out our user guide.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI) Integration

Pressbooks now has dedicated metadata fields for DOI handles. Book DOIs will display in the Metadata section on the homepage of your webbook in Pressbooks.

Shows the display of the web book metadata in a Pressbooks webbook.

Chapter DOIs will display underneath the copyright license in the footer of the webbook chapter.

Chapter DOIs will display underneath the copyright license in the footer of the webbook chapter.

To insert a book DOI, go to Book Info from the left sidebar menu of your Pressbooks dashboard. Find “Digital Object Identifier (DOI)” in the General Book Information section.

Find the chapter DOI entry field in the Chapter Metadata field underneath the content editor of a specific chapter.

Webbook Table of Contents Makeover

The table of contents for your Pressbooks webbooks has been improved for accessibility and intuitive design.

The new table of contents for Pressbooks webbooks

Changes include a more obvious hierarchy of parts, chapters, and subsections, as well as improved functions for collapsing and expanding the contents of the book.

Customizable “Chapter” and “Part” Section Labels

Users can now customize the titles for the sections of the book that currently default to chapters and parts.

These section titles will display in all exports and book formats. For example, if a user preferred that parts were chapters, and chapters were sections, those terms can be changed in a book’s theme options to reflect that usage. The terms affected appear in the table of contents and section titles of a book, and can be modified in all Pressbooks themes.

Arrow points to where the customizable section heading displays in a Pressbooks PDF export.

To customize the “chapter” and “part” labels:

  1. Go to Appearance > Theme Options
  2. On the Global Options tab, find “Part and Chapter Numbers” and enable the setting to “Display part and chapter numbers.” The “Part Label” and “Chapter Label” settings will appear
  3. Choose your labels
  4. Click Save Changes

You can customize your chapter and part labels under Theme Options - Global Options.

Webbook Navigation Cues

The part and chapter terminology has been removed from navigational cues in Pressbooks webbooks. Instead, webbook navigation cues will include the title—or the short title, when available—of the next and previous sections in the book.

Pressbooks webbook navigation cues now show titles or short titles.

For example, what would have previously been Next (Chapter) will now be Next: The Third Law of Thermodynamics.

In order for any webbook to meet accessibility standards for digital texts, it is important that navigation cues include more information than just the terms next or previous.

This change, we hope, will allow users to structure their books in the way that works best for their content and students while maintaining the high standard we have at Pressbooks for the accessibility of the webbook interface.

Explicit Metadata Support for CC0 and Public Domain licenses

Pressbooks now recognizes CC0 and Public Domain licenses as clear and distinct. In earlier iterations of the license on our software, the CC0 license was not available in the dropdown menu. You can now apply this license on any book or any chapter.

CC0 license applied to the metadata of a webbook in Pressbooks.

Digital PDF Hyperlinks Enhanced for Greater Accessibility

All hyperlinked elements in the digital PDF export are now blue and underlined to make it much more evident that they are active links. All links will remain as plain text in the print PDF export, which should be used for submission to any printing service.

And More

    • Cloned image metadata. Captions, alt text, and other image metadata will now be cloned from a source book.
    • Cloning order. We were made aware of a bug that caused cloned books to order chapters in terms of chronology rather than the order in which they appear in the source book. This has been fixed, and all cloned books should replicate the order of their source.
    • New language scripts. We’ve added support for the Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, and Telugu language scripts.
    • Knight Lab Timelines. We’ve whitelisted Knight Lab Timeline so that users can embed timeline iframes into their webbooks. For more information on how to embed an iframe, check out our user guide.
    • Change book title when cloning. You can now choose a different title for the book you’re cloning directly from the cloning interface. When the new book is created, the new title will already be applied to the book without anyone needing to change it in on the Book Info page.
    • XHTML source preview. You can now easily access your book’s XHTML source view by clicking the Diagnostics link at the bottom footer of any book in Pressbooks. The XHTML view can help diagnose issues you’re having with your PDF.
    • Improved type scale for headings. The McLuhan and Jacobs themes now have heading style that are better reflective of the intended hierarchy.
    • More logical UI. You can now access the Contributors page via the Book Info page rather than the Organize page.

Have any questions about this update?

Contact support@pressbooks.com.

Pressbooks is Backbone for Nascent OER Efforts at University of Central Florida

It was while searching for a tool to help an American Government professor adapt an open textbook that James Paradiso, an instructional designer at University of Central Florida, discovered his university’s Pressbooks instance.

UCF is a member of Unizin, a consortium of higher education institutions across the United States. Unizin offers access to educational software like PressbooksEDU to its member universities.   

James was looking for suitable tools to help a professor adapt an OpenStax textbook for a high-enrollment course, and after exploration, he found that Pressbooks fit the bill perfectly.

He was able to use a developer instance of Pressbooks to test out the BCcampus-created OpenStax plugin, which allowed him to easily pull in the text. He cleaned up the HTML, then cloned the book over to UCF’s instance of Pressbooks in fall 2017. The book was ready to use for the spring 2018 semester, and has been revised twice since.

“No one told me, ‘Hey, use Pressbooks,’” said James. “I just thought to myself, ‘I want a solution and this seems like a cool platform, and I’m interested in a way to put OER in a customizable space.”

James has created sandbox access for a few other faculty who have also expressed interest in trying out Pressbooks for a project.

“We’re in a very nascent stage,” he says.

James has also used the Pressbooks cloning feature to bring in a few existing open textbooks to the system from OpenStax and Lumen Learning. He started with high-enrollment, general education courses and began bringing relevant texts into the catalog, which he hopes will be good talking points with faculty interested in moving to OER.

“The type of materials that are most interesting to me,” James says, “[are] works that are complete (or nearly complete) and reviewed, so I can provide faculty with an ‘out-of-the-box’ type of solution that can be modified or rearranged. This is why [I took the] approach to build a library/repository, to encourage buy-in.”

James, who has a background in leveraging open educational resources in the classroom, is the main person supporting Pressbooks at his institution. But as his job and caseload have changed—he is now on the Adaptive Learning team—he knows he needs to inspire others to get involved to help this scale.

As the next step, James hopes to gain support from colleagues to help spread the word about Pressbooks and its ability to help faculty revise, remix and/or reuse open textbooks.

“My goal is to try to build some awareness sessions around Pressbooks,” James says. “I need to build a workflow around awareness and training.” He would also like to get some of the cloned and ingested books cleaned up and ready for launch, and get at least two more adoptions by the beginning of the fall semester.

His workflow in Pressbooks first involved using the OpenStax importer plugin (coming soon to PressbooksEDU networks) to clone books.

However, now that more networks are using Pressbooks, the power of the cloning tool has increased. “I can just take a link to the Presbooks book and clone straight from that!” While cloning is technologically easy, faculty may still need to refine the content before the adapted book is ready to use.

“Bringing in a textbook from another university…is quite a bit more time-consuming than some would imagine,” James says. Such textbooks reflect the authors’ personalized preferences for how they taught the subject, meaning the adapted text might need more revision before becoming student-facing.

“So, I find bringing a more ‘base-model’ version from Lumen [Learning], or bringing in from OpenStax might actually save time and effort.”

When faculty are creating an OER from scratch, James finds it’s best “when people are intrinsically motivated to build something that’s directly related to an initiative they’re working on.”

James says the people most willing to work on open textbook projects so far have been instructor-lecturers, who are focused on teaching and have a high percentage of instruction in their responsibilities breakdown. Long-tenured professors, particularly those with expensive textbooks, have also been receptive.

“So that’s what I’ve learned—instructor-lecturers yes, [and] tenure-earning faculty who are willing to shake it up because they’re looking to try something new, or they’re like, ‘Wow, my students are spending a lot of money,’” James says. “Especially in certain disciplines—[students spend] approximately $200 a semester on their textbook, and even an etext is upwards of $120. It seems [these professors] are at the point in their career where they’re reflecting more on that.”

He believes those that fall between these two ends of the spectrum would be best incentivized by top-down programs. It’s tough to combat stigmas around the quality and/or rigor of OER texts, and sometimes departments have long-standing track records with certain textbooks.

“The publishing reps—they live here at my university. They’re in those hallways just as much if not more than I am, talking to the same people I’m talking to, working deals with them, discounted deals.”

James says it’s probably not the same everywhere, citing community colleges where faculty are strongly encouraged and maybe even required to use open resources.

“UCF is working on creating more momentum around OER / textbook affordability,” James says. “I’m happy to be part of it.”

He says some professors have been excited about the idea that, with an open textbook, they could provide first-day access to educational resources for their classroom. Students wouldn’t have to wait for loans and scholarships to come through, or wait for others to buy the text then borrow it afterward.

In a class of 600-1,200 students, not having first-day access can have a substantial impact.

“You can affect a lot of people with that solution if your class offers a book that’s available on day one,” James says. “If someone didn’t read the textbook, there’s no monetary excuse, at least.”

Still, James says, when advocating OER, he is competing with big publishers who have gotten better at reducing such frictions, with inclusive access and other options.

“I feel like I’m contending with big hitters who can offer solutions—quick solutions.”

Writing, or even adapting, a textbook, can be labor-intensive, James admits. And even Pressbooks’ WordPress-based interface can be intimidating for authors who are new to it, a category James includes himself in.

He said there was a learning curve to find ways to adjust the text size, use textboxes, and insert images. Figuring out best practices for these took some trial and error.

“It’s not an obvious process,” he says, adding that professors need that basic functionality of text size adjustment and it’s important to be able to let them know they can create a book that looks professional.

Still, he says, the Pressbooks product has been making lots of helpful updates.

“I love that they’ve recently added a feature where I don’t have to leave the editor to go from chapter to chapter,” James says. ”That was a big headache for me before. When that update hit, I was like ‘yes!’ I was really happy.”

Another thing he’s excited for is the ability to “chunk” content into shorter chapters and click a “next” button so that long chapters don’t seem so overwhelming.

James says he’s glad for the community around Pressbooks, as well as the staff he has encountered.  

“I’ve found the community to be really helpful and all the people surrounding the project to be my saving grace in all of this,” James says. “I can’t speak highly enough about all the people I’ve worked with up to this point. [They’ve been] very accessible, very helpful, and very interested in what, individually, we’re doing.”

In 2018, Unizin moved away from running an open source network and partnered with Pressbooks to host Unizin institutions’ Pressbooks networks.

James says that now that their open source network has moved to Pressbooks hosting, the university will hopefully be able to leverage some of the new Pressbooks-developed features such as LTI and single sign-on.

“I think the improvements have been positive. I’m pretty happy with it,” James says. “The tool is very, very useful and very helpful, and it’s only getting better.”

Q4 Roadmap Preview

In Q3, we added a couple new and exciting features to Pressbooks:

  • Image attributions (thanks to Brad and Alex at BCcampus)
  • New shortcodes to facilitate adding more complex content

We also released a new Open Source plugin, Pressbooks Shibboleth SSO, which provides bilateral Shibboleth SSO integration for Pressbooks networks. And we converted a few more themes to use Buckram, our theme component library, which gives us added flexibility to add new theme options for all themes.

In Q4 we’re wrapping up a few loose ends from our Q3 goals:

  • UX improvements to the webbook Table of Contents
  • UX improvements to the Export page

We’re also working on:

  • UI and UX improvements to the Theme Options page
  • Adding support for DOIs in Book Info and metadata outputs
  • Testing integration with Gutenberg, WordPress’s new editing interface
  • Continuing to convert themes and improve Buckram

As always, we’d love to hear your ideas for Pressbooks, so feel free to share them in the Pressbooks Community Forum!

Welcome Steel Wagstaff, Pressbooks EDU Client Manager

We’re thrilled to announce the arrival of a new team member, Steel Wagstaff.

Steel will work with our EDU clients to help them get the most out of their PressbooksEDU systems for OER initiatives.

We couldn’t have found a more qualified candidate for the role. If you’re in open education, you’re probably already familiar with Steel’s work. As an educational technology consultant in the College of Letters & Science at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Steel piloted the use of Pressbooks and led a robust community of Pressbooks practitioners at the institution. (Read more about the projects Steel has supported on UW-Madison’s PressbooksEDU network, which now contains more than 300 books.)

As a power-user of the software, Steel has long found innovative educational use cases and pushed the boundaries of what Pressbooks could do, while advocating for new features with our developers and the open source developer community.

He has also conducted numerous trainings on how to use Pressbooks to create OER, not only within a community of practice at UW-Madison, but also at conferences and universities across the U.S.

(If you’d like to catch him this week, he’ll be speaking at OpenEd18 on Open Learning Platforms: The Next Frontier of the Struggle with Publishers, with Pressbooks founder Hugh McGuire. Details are here.)

Steel has created instructional videos, presentations and numerous blog posts on how to use Pressbooks in education.

We think there is no better expert to guide fellow faculty, instructional designers, and library publishing staff in using their PressbooksEDU networks to the fullest to further their institutional OER initiatives.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Pressbooks team,” says Steel Wagstaff. “I’ve long admired both the Pressbooks software and the organization’s values, and can’t wait to work with other educational users to expand the reach of their open publication networks.”

We hope you’ll be as thrilled to work with Steel as we are! Please join us in welcoming him to the Pressbooks team.

Improved Internal Linking Mechanism, Removed Suggested Videos, and more

What’s New on PressbooksEDU

This week’s release brings with it a number of improvements to the default behaviors and interface of Pressbooks.

Removed Suggested Videos from Embedded YouTube Videos

YouTube videos embedded in platforms like Pressbooks naturally roll over into suggested videos once the video ends. As a platform for educational texts, we recognized the need to alter this behavior. Now, YouTube videos should end without suggested videos and revert back to the opening screen of the video when they’ve been played out.

Reduced Spam for Your Support Team

We’ve noticed a lot of spam in our support inbox lately, and we bet you have too. To mitigate this recent increase in spam, we’re ramping up anti-spam security for Pressbooks Contact Forms.

We’re using the Honeypot Method. This involves adding an extra, hidden field to the Contact Form that users won’t be able to see but bots will fill out automatically. This automatically filters your spam out from the rest of your Contact Form submissions.

Improved Internal Links in Digital PDF Exports

Users can now link to other content within the same book using absolute links. Prior to this change, absolute links, when clicked, would direct readers to the webbook. Authors would need to make all internal links relative rather than absolute in order for the content to link properly.

Now, absolute links will automatically register as relative links when placed in your chapter, and will allow users to navigate within the digital PDF itself.

Other Great News

You may notice these other changes we’re releasing this week to improve your Pressbooks experience:

    • Improved link insertion interface. We’ve enabled users to search for anchors throughout the entire book instead of just a single chapter. Previously, the link insertion interface only let you search for anchors within the chapter you were currently editing.
    • Improved fallback for authorless clone books. Previously, if a clone book’s source book had no authors, the attribution on the clone book’s cover page would say “by ,” with a blank space where the author name(s) should have been. We’ve improved how this auto-populated content accommodates authorless books.
    • Easier book creation for first-time users. Logged-in Pressbooks users can now create books from the menu of their network homepage. Previously, this functionality was only available to users who already had books in their user catalog.

Have any questions about these changes? Contact support@pressbooks.com.