Minitex Teams Up with Pressbooks to Offer Discount to Libraries

Academic libraries in MN, ND and SD are eligible for 30% off the annual price for PressbooksEDU Silver and Gold plans.

If you’re an academic library in the Minitex region, you’ll be excited to hear that your institution is now eligible for a discount on PressbooksEDU Silver and Gold subscriptions.

At Pressbooks, our goal is to create a thriving community of open education practitioners who have the tools they need to create open resources. To grow this community, we want to make PressbooksEDU platforms accessible to as many academic libraries as possible.

Minitex, an information and resource sharing program of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the University of Minnesota Libraries, is a publicly supported network of academic, public, state government, and special libraries working cooperatively to improve library service for their users in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

PressbooksEDU is a book production software that enables the creation and distribution of open educational resources. Having an institutional PressbooksEDU network lets you:

  • Showcase and distribute the collection of open textbooks and other resources your institution creates on an OER platform and catalog branded to your university or college
  • Create textbooks and course materials that can be made available for free online to students
  • Produce open textbooks in many digital formats and in print
  • Make engaging course content that incorporates embedded media, interactive content like H5P quizzes, and more
  • Clone any openly licensed public webbook from another Pressbooks network directly into your own network to adapt, remix, and redistribute it
  • Benefit from reliable network performance and security

Pressbooks offers several plans to meet the needs of different institutions. For more information, see PressbooksEDU Plans and the Minitex website.

We’re glad to be forging this partnership with Minitex to grow the success of the OER community, and hope to aid higher education institutions across Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota in their efforts to reduce college textbook costs for students.

If you’re interested in learning more about PressbooksEDU, we’d love to talk with you. Send an email to and

Catch Pressbooks (and friends!) during Open Education Week 2019

We’re halfway through OpenEd Week! Hopefully it’s been a good one for you – it has been for us!

Pressbooks Client Manager Steel Wagstaff teamed up with eCampusOntario on Tuesday for ‘The Potential of PressbooksEDU,’ a webinar that included a tour of the updated OER production platform and demonstrated how Ontario educators can use Pressbooks to create no-cost resources for learners.

You can view Steel’s CC-BY licensed presentation slides here.

Steel will also be joining Hypothesis Director of Education Jeremy Dean for Marginalia: Web Annotation for Engaged Teaching and Learning, a live webinar on the potential of web annotation as an educational tool.

logos of companies involved in web annotation webinar hypothesis, pressbooks at marginalia event from University of Texas, Arlington

Catch the free presentation on Thursday, March 7 at 12pm CT. To RSVP and receive instructions on how to join the session, register here:

This event is brought to you by the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries and the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence as part of Open Education Week 2019.

Attendance is limited, so sign up soon!

We’ll Miss You, Ned Zimmerman!

Here at Pressbooks, we’re a small, close-knit team, so we’re going to need lots of cheering up when lead developer and beloved colleague, Ned Zimmerman, leaves Pressbooks next month.

“After nearly eight years as part of the Pressbooks team—as a contractor from 2011–2015 and as lead developer since 2015—I’ve decided to return to my freelance practice,” Ned said in a note to the community on “It’s been thrilling to see Pressbooks grow into what it is today, and to have been a part of that journey. I’m grateful to Hugh, Liz, Steel, Dac, Daniel, Taylor, and Phil (and Apurva and Zoe) for being such wonderful colleagues and I hope to stay involved with the Pressbooks project in the future!”

Ned has been with Pressbooks nearly since its inception, and has been a core contributor to its development ever since.

He worked to adopt coding standards and best practices across our collection of themes and plugins and standardize our development approach to the different parts of the Pressbooks application. He also collaborated with Dac Chartrand to build the Pressbooks REST API. He’s been a tireless moral compass for Pressbooks: an advocate of core principles we strive to embody at Pressbooks, principles such as accessibility, open source software, and the communities around them.

In short, Ned has been an outstanding colleague here at Pressbooks, and an outstanding ambassador in the development and open source communities that intersect with us.

We wish Ned the very best in his freelance pursuits, and hope (and expect) some of those will intersect with Pressbooks again in the future.

If you wish to connect with Ned for freelance projects, you can reach him at

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 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.”

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.

University of Florida Looks to Expand Open Textbook Initiatives

The University of Florida, having recently acquired a hosted PressbooksEDU network in partnership with the Unizin higher education consortium, is looking to ramp up its OER production in the coming months.

Jennifer Smith, director of the Office of Faculty Development and Teaching Experience, tested the tool herself to “ensure that the tool will be helpful to faculty,” she says.

She is currently developing a UF Instructor Guide for faculty and teaching assistants on the platform, which serves a two-fold purpose – first as the resource itself, and also as an example of Pressbooks’ capabilities. “Faculty can look at the guide to see what Pressbooks does, and how it could work for their students.” Smith says. The guide is a work in progress, but the ease of updates and additions make it possible to collaborate with contributors campus-wide.

She also used the platform as part of a student project in fall 2017, when students in her Creative Thinking course decided to write a book as their creative project. Together, the students wrote For Students by Students: Guide for UF Freshmen. They wanted to share the things no one had told them as new college students. “The students appreciated the opportunity to create a publicly available resource,” says Smith. “Because of the ease of adding new authors, future students can continue to add to the guide.”

One thing that worked well on the student-produced book, she says, was dividing the work so each student was responsible for one area. This meant that while all the students had access to work with the content in Pressbooks, only one student was charged with updating the formatting in Pressbooks, which led to greater consistency with styles throughout the book.

Smith has found the new hosting through PressbooksEDU to be reliable and feature-rich with expanded templates and plugins. “I have shared the tool availability with campus instructional designers who will assist faculty with template setup,” commented Smith.

Pressbooks was among the textbook affordability options presented at a mini-OER e-text conference at the university. Smith suggests “Pressbooks is a great option for instructor-authored content, because it provides complete control as well as multi-format export and easy electronic access.

“I am also using it to breathe new life into material that I originally created for an online course in costume pattern making.” Smith is capturing the Flash animations as video and building them into an interactive eText. The text will use features now available in Pressbooks, including the ability to add in-text quizzes using H5P.

Smith recommends collaborating with campus instructional designers to ensure a high-quality product that meets accessibility requirements. “The ID team can customize the .css to meet the needs and vision of the faculty author. Once the ebook formatting is set up, it is fairly easy to write the text.”

The potential for the tool to be used collaboratively can be carried over to faculty projects as well. Overall, Smith says, “Pressbooks is a reliable and robust tool that provides complete control to the author.”

University of Minnesota Publishes Research on Affordable Content

The Evolution of Affordable Content Efforts in the Higher Education Environment: Programs, Case Studies, and Examples, edited by Kristi Jensen and Shane Nackerud, is one of the latest books to be published by University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing on the Libraries’ Pressbooks network.

The book is a compilation of case studies that delve deeply into all facets of affordable educational content. It showcases diverse affordable content efforts across a range of higher education institutions, from the use of library licensed content, to creating and publishing open content, to inclusive access and other models from commercial publishers.

Kristi, who works with the University Libraries’ eLearning Support Initiative, says the breadth of affordable content options had been on her mind for several years.

“In a lot of settings, folks sometimes want to limit the conversation to a particular aspect of affordable content work, and in the day-to-day work that we do we found that it’s really necessary to explore all of those options so that we can meet faculty needs,” Kristi says.

In her role as Program Development Lead for the eLearning Support Initiative at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Kristi liaises with campus partners, including the Office of Information Technology, the Center for Educational Innovation (focused on teaching and learning), the Disability Resource Center, collegiate academic technology units, and the University Bookstores. She is the co-chair of the Campus Course Content Strategy Planning group, which includes students, faculty, IT professionals, and academic technologists. The group looks at data about the course content faculty are using. In addition, Kristi co-leads UMN’s Partnership for Affordable Content grant program, which offers mini-grants to faculty who want to write books, create digital course packs to replace more expensive materials, or utilize other strategies to make course materials more affordable.

“Over time we felt like there was a need to explain the conversation about affordable content beyond just OER,” she says. “And so the book was kind of like the culmination of that desire to help people understand this complex environment and all of the options that are really happening in so many places.”

Shane, for his part, is the Technology Lead for Library Initiatives at the University of Minnesota Libraries. He is part of the eLearning Support Initiative, where he identifies tech tools and works with projects such as the open textbook publishing initiative and Digital Course Pack project. Along with developer John Barneson, he manages the university’s Pressbooks instance.

“We tried with this book to really promote all the different things you can do to advocate for  affordable content on your campus or to make it happen–OER being one, digital course packs could be another, and the use of reserves–library licensed resources, fair use claims, freely available content on the web…there’s just a whole lot of options,” Shane says. “We can argue that the more options that you choose, the more affordable content you will have for your students.”

The University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing issues a call for proposals for new publications twice a year. Kristi wrote up a proposal for the affordable content book.

Their project was selected, and Kristi, who has been a librarian at UMN for 14 years, applied for her first professional development leave, which gave her two six-week blocks of time off.

In the first block, she wrote an author guide and agreements, communicated with authors, and analyzed student survey data for the chapter she would ultimately write.

Because of their work and the conferences they attended with peers at other universities, both Shane and Kristi knew individuals who had worked on different types of affordable content projects to reach out to in the hopes that they might contribute to the book. They also put out an open call, which Kristi says received traction on listservs popular among librarians.

More than 50 people, including the editors, contributed to what ended up being 26 chapters.

“That’s a lot of chapters about affordable content,” Shane said. “We’re happy that people felt so strongly about it to contribute.”

Once Kristi and Shane knew who the authors would be and what chapters they would write, they put the abstracts from selected chapters together into book format in Pressbooks. They shared the public book shell with the authors, so they could understand the context in which the work would live, and, if needed, connect with their fellow authors.

While the authors drafted their chapters, Kristi got back to work. In her second six-week sabbatical, she worked on the content editing. Shane and Kristi both edited the chapters, which they sent first to the authors to review, then to a professional copy editor provided by UMN Libraries Publishing for editing.

Shane says they enjoyed working with the copy editor, Sue Everson, and that she played a crucial role in the book’s development.

“Editing a book is not trivial,” Shane says. “It’s so much work to edit a book of this size.”

Following the edit, they sent the chapters back to the authors for a second review.

Next, Shane imported the chapters into Pressbooks and styled them with consistent visual elements, such as pull quotes, tables, and other formatting.

“We promote this tool to faculty,” Shane says of Pressbooks. “So we’re going to use this tool for our own open content as well.”

Kristi and Shane say they found the Pressbooks interface easy and helpful for formatting the work.

“I was able to go in there and more quickly create this openly licensed book than I could if I wanted to use something like InDesign,” Shane says. “Pressbooks made it very fast and easy.”

Rearranging the chapters was easy using the drag and drop feature on the Organize dashboard. Shane used pull quotes to create emphasis and break up long pages of text. He also used some CSS to customize various elements. Colored textboxes helped highlight important information. The editors also inserted clickable images and created an author index easily in the backmatter that links to chapters with authors’ names. They were pleased with the fact they were able to export and make the book available in different formats for download from the book homepage.

“It’s so easy to create all those things,” Kristi says. “Not just in creating this book, but working with faculty on creating books, it is just so streamlined and easy in the Pressbooks environment.”

Kristi says she was grateful to have a partner and colleague on the project.

“I don’t think you can do something like this alone,” she says.

The Evolution of Affordable Content Efforts coverShane and Kristi promoted the completed book through similar channels, distributing it through library listservs, the Unizin listserv, on Twitter, through word of mouth, and at conferences. The book had its official launch at the Open Textbook Network’s Summer Institute, with several authors in the room. They’re hoping for some press coverage from higher education publications and are also looking out for opportunities to do webinars on the book with related organizations.

The UMN Pressbooks instance has Google Analytics data tracking activated, so they know that the book received approximately 5,300 page views in its first month of release.

Shane says it is getting about 100 hits a day now.

The complete work is 26 chapters, but the editors intentionally built in modularity. Kristi says she doesn’t expect most readers to read them straight through in one sitting.

Even within individual chapters, they consistently included an intro at the top and a summary at the end, which she hopes will help the potential reader scan and quickly figure out which chapters they would like to dive deeper into or which will be most relevant for their purposes.

“My hope would be that people find the chapters that resonate with them,” Kristi says. “In this case, when you’re doing case studies and examples and projects, it should definitely be something where people can find the type of institution that they’re at. Are they at a private institution? They can find the private institution chapters. Are they at a large public institution? They can find those easily.”

Kristi is not quite ready to think about a second edition, especially when another leave might not be possible anytime soon. But she is considering an annual blog post, which might include an update to certain chapters. Then, they could link to those blog posts from within the book.

Also, she says there were a few voices that, despite all efforts, they weren’t able to find and include in Version 1. For instance, there were no student authors, and community colleges were not represented as well as she had hoped. These too might be areas for expansion.

Kristi and Shane hope the finished work will be of interest to anybody in higher education–not just librarians, but administrators, educational technologists, and anyone thinking about retention issues or enhancing teaching and learning.

“From my perspective, the work that we are doing here at the UMN is work to change culture, and the way that culture changes is a little bit at a time,” Kristi says. “And it is faculty and other colleagues hearing about it not just from us but from others. The book has all of these voices. So it demonstrates to faculty and others that we talk to that this work is going on at a wide range of universities by a wide range of people.”

Shane says he was happy to be part of an important conversation around affordable content and promote the many models that are out there.

“Hopefully if people read the book they will realize that libraries have a lot to offer in terms of affordable content beyond OER and in addition to OER,” Shane says. “I think we have a nice toolkit that we provide to faculty that are interested in this, and I hope makes a difference in the lives of students.”

University of Texas at Arlington Kicks off OER Program with Eight Books in Development

University of Texas at Arlington is using its PressbooksEDU system as a platform on which to build open educational resources as part of UTA Libraries’ open education program.

Open Education Librarian Michelle Reed says the program supports open education broadly, including distribution of grant funding for the creation and adoption of OER, as well as the incentivization of open pedagogy.

Anyone affiliated with UTA can get access to the UTA Pressbooks network to develop openly licensed content. (While UTA recommends and prefers the CC BY license, they will allow any Creative Commons license except for Non-Derivatives.)

In June, Michelle hired a student worker who spent the summer moving content into the Pressbooks platform and readying the OER for publication.

The first book ready to publish was Matt Crosslin’s Creating Online Learning Experiences, which is also available for print through Lulu. Read more about this project.

Michelle says this text was a bit of an outlier compared to many of the resources they’ll be using Pressbooks for, but it’s a step into OER and open access monograph work. A typical OER from UTA will be designed to be shared with students; this work was instead created to be shared with instructors of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in the LINK Research Lab. (It was later expanded to be a resource to anyone building an online course.)

So far, UTA has seven  other texts in development on the Pressbooks platform. Half of these are also UTA CARES Grant Program grantees.

The second book UTA Libraries released, in partnership with UTA’s Division of Student Success, was a customized textbook for use in first-year experience courses.  It replaces a $20-$25 book that UTA owned the copyright to. They decided to move the resource into Pressbooks instead and make it available to students for free as an OER. With approval at the provost level, the resource will be used by all first-year experience courses in fall and revised in time for the following year’s courses. In its first semester of use, the OER will impact over 3,000 students and result in approximately $75,000 in cost savings for incoming first-time-in-college students.

“It’s a huge moment for our campus because so many people in different disciplines teach that course,” Michelle says.

Two of the books being built on UTA’s Pressbooks instance are from OER grant recipients in civil engineering. One of the texts is a resource originally developed on Google Sites, which the team is moving into Pressbooks.

Author Sharareh Kermanshachi, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering, had created an open website with interactive OER course materials to use instead of a traditional textbook, in her fall 2017 course. She also collected data about students’ perception of OER and academic performance in the class. Among her findings, students with loans had a more positive perception of the OER, and in this particular course, students using this OER did better than students who had used a traditional textbook in her same course the prior semester.

She presented her research at a conference, where the resource gained interest from other institutions. The OER will be released publicly on Pressbooks where it will continue to be updated.

Another civil engineering instructor runs a flipped classroom in which students watch the video lectures as homework and come in prepared to work hands-on with equipment. He received a $10,000 OER innovation grant for a project in which he will develop a video series and interactive assessment lab manuals.

An intermediate French textbook, which was initially developed in a Word document, will also be converted into book format on Pressbooks.

Even students have gotten involved in OER production at UTA, helping to retrofit a lab manual for a biology class with openly licensed, attributed images.

Human Anatomy Lab Manual book Cover

While they received high-level assistance from faculty and training in Creative Commons licenses, “students were the ones driving that effort,” Michelle says.

“When I told them how it was going to be distributed and how their work would be acknowledged, they got really excited.”

Michelle says they’ll be using the Pressbooks platform for both authoring and adaptations. (A recent UTA Libraries blog post talks more about how they plan to use the system.)

In some cases, a school or department want to use OER, but find that no open access (or commercial) resource currently exists that meets all of their qualifications.

“Now that we have Pressbooks, we have a real alternative for people to modify the content that doesn’t quite fit their needs,” Michelle says. “I think it will increase adoptions across the board. But I think we’ll also see a huge increase in people modifying OER through the Pressbooks platform because it makes it so easy – particularly if something’s in Pressbooks already – with the cloning feature.”

PressbooksEDU users can use the cloning feature to instantly copy any book on a Pressbooks network that has a CC license and allows derivatives onto their own institutional network. Users can then modify and adapt that book to include whatever content they need for their own use of the book.

“We’re showing off cloning, because it’s just, it’s so easy,” Michelle says. “We’re hoping that we can [use this feature to] reach people who are very interested in OER but resistant because it feels difficult.”

UTA Libraries plans to market the program more heavily over the next academic year.  Michelle spoke about OER at new faculty orientation this falls. They also hope to partner with the university’s IDEAS Center. Currently they’re looking for early adopters to demonstrate what’s feasible and learn what infrastructure they’ll need to develop to support future instructors who sign on. Over the summer they hosted community meetings every other week, and they also offered a series of Pressbooks exploration sessions.

“People love it. They’re just so excited to see that it’s easy to use and it makes the whole revision and remix process – which can be hard for people to understand when they’ve never tried to do it – Pressbooks makes it real for them.”

At this point, she says, a key goal is to make more resources available so people can see that this work is happening on the campus.

Michelle and her team are currently doing a lot of the work to help faculty get content from where it lives now into Pressbooks, as well as to make sure it’s accessible. However, the long-term goal is to build a community of practice and empower faculty and their student workers to do this work.

She says features such as H5P integration, which enables interactive assessment, have been very attractive to faculty and help OER compete with content from commercial publishers, or commercial platforms such as Top Hat.

“That’s what gets people excited,” she says. “That’s really what they’re looking to commercial publishers to provide.”

She is also optimistic about the cloning feature. Much of UTA’s OER program has been inspired by learning what other leaders in this space have been doing. Michelle says they looked at work by BCcampus, by Steel Wagstaff at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and by Billy Meinke at University of Hawaii.  It was also appealing that the Open Textbook Network offered a discount on Pressbooks to its members.

“A lot of the people who are leading work we admire are moving this direction,” Michelle says.

The more open content there is in Pressbooks, the more powerful the cloning feature becomes, she says.

“As more open educators move to this system, it’s going to really benefit us all because it makes our job easier.”

Update 8/31: We updated the post to note that Creating Online Learning Experiences has been updated to be a resource to anyone building an online course.