Recruiting open textbook authors

This post was written by Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

For many Australian institutions, open education represents a new opportunity that offers advantages and freedoms for staff but can present challenges of workload, buy-in, value, and even the risk of being seen as ‘the newest higher education fad’. Therefore, librarians advocating for open text adoption and adaptation need to demonstrate the value of open approaches, which means aligning with their academic colleagues’ existing needs. What follows is a list of methods that have yielded positive results by positioning openness as an extension of existing practice.

This approach uses Professor Emeritus Geoff Scott’s ‘Listen, Link, Lead’ maxim; that is:

(i) Listen for the problems and opportunities when working with academic staff. Liaison librarians do this daily and have excellent relationships with Faculty, often based on a ‘problem solver’ reputation.

(ii) Link (where appropriate and relevant) the issue at hand with open education. There are plenty of examples below, and again, part of the daily practice of any liaison work.

(iii) Lead. Be prepared to offer a strategy evidenced by practice examples.

Whilst ‘Listen, Link, Lead’ is core business for most librarians, it’s a handy way to frame discussions.

Linking examples

The examples below might serve as a touchstone for your experiences or as a base for extending practice with potential academic authors.

Textbook design and use

Custom texts: There are many good reasons to create custom texts, from providing a curated selection of the most relevant chapters for students to broadening the disciplinary narrative beyond a single author to providing varying points of view on key concepts. Commercial publishers will provide these texts, but they are often very expensive for students, and the legal frameworks for sharing may restrict the content. The same approach can be used with open textbooks when the licences are compatible. Faculty can select a range of free and open texts and construct a custom text. They also have the freedom to add or revise content that provides introductory or bridging information to create context.

Edition wars: Sometimes, a new edition creates chaos and miscommunication between the lecturer and students. Based on course/unit renewal cycles, transitioning to the new edition may be problematic. This, of course, creates supply issues for students, potential challenges for the campus bookshop, and plenty of opportunities for misunderstanding. Given that open texts remain free and openly accessible, lecturers might consider adopting a text and then slowly updating and contextualising the content over semesters. Then, they can publish the changes at the beginning of the semester and link to the texts via the learning management system.

Online and interactive content: Interactive activity design has been a staple of higher education. Keeping students engaged with study during disruptive events (such as COVID lockdowns) is even more important.

Most universities offer online modes from 2020 onwards, and open texts can support that transition. Lecturers who want to embed existing assets or have expressed interest in tools like H5P could be your next authors. Suggest they use legacy content (appropriately checked for third-party Copyright) with embedded activities as the frame for an open text. For example, they might consider a smaller-scale text that slowly grows each semester.

Access issues

Supply chains: Do you know any lecturers affected by supply chain issues during COVID? Delays on shipments led to student access issues, library closures made accessing texts (as opposed to purchasing them) more difficult, and Australian unemployment levels also exerted financial pressure on students. Textbooks are the only cost a lecturer can directly influence, and online open texts are readily accessible in various formats on the first day of semester.

Access and achievement: Many lecturers will report that enhancing engagement with learning resources is challenging. Whether it is due to cost, hesitancy to purchase, supply chain issues, or even perceived relevance to learning, there are several reasons why students do not engage with set texts. Ask lecturers ‘if we could guarantee access to the text on the first day of semester, would it affect student engagement and achievement?‘ Open texts can be stored locally, redistributed legally, and linked to via the learning management system, providing multiple access points.

Open-book exams: Librarians know that access to electronic texts is predicated on publisher restrictions – how many concurrent users? Does the version in the catalogue include the same features as a private version? How timely are publisher notifications of ‘downtime’ for maintenance and other issues? What is the cost to the library? If you know lecturers who are reluctant to assign an electronic text for these reasons (or have a negative experience), open texts could be a solution. 

Workload

Course renewal cycles: If you are involved in course/unit renewal or program accreditation cycles, this is an opportunity to suggest open texts. If the workload has been allocated to redeveloping the curriculum, existing allowances could be tasked to open education, with support from the Library. Additionally, a newly accredited program might become more attractive to students if they never need to purchase a text – so there is a market differential to consider. Open texts are then aligned with existing processes for setting and developing resources.

‘Scratch-the-itch’: Some lecturers have driving passions in learning and teaching and seek certain freedoms or innovations to support this drive. If you know lecturers like this (often ‘early adopters’ or ‘early followers’), you could align the freedoms of open licencing with their needs.

Collaboration: Reviewing, revising, and/or writing an entire text is daunting. Collaborative authorship can reduce the workload, has an in-built circle of peer reviewers, and (if the co-authors are across different institutions) provide an immediate impact on a large number of students. Authors seeking to demonstrate impact and even engage in research publication arising from their open education work would be well advised to seek out colleagues.

Research

Reputational: Open texts provide seamless access to a lecturer’s work, potentially expanding both reach and attention. Like the dialogue supporting Open Access research, open texts provide greater exposure and potential readership. These texts can be prompted via professional bodies and accrete interest based on access. Additionally, for smaller disciplines, researchers may collaborate (writing a chapter or more each) for a comprehensive national text.

Specialist knowledge: Every university has lecturers involved in specialist research that may have a smaller audience. This can mean publishers are loathed to invest in these texts, usually citing a project’s poor financial return. However, sometimes these lecturers have manuscripts (completed or not) that could be an excellent starting point for an open text.

‘Mind the Gap’: Australian research in open education is neither widespread nor sufficiently diversified for contemporary evidence-based practice examples. Nevertheless, researchers seeking to address aspects of Australian practice may be attracted by the prospect of using their open text work to generate research and reputation.

Students

Authorship opportunities: Learning design already includes the appropriate use of student authoring platforms, online annotation, and other types of resource creation. Identify lecturers who already use these assessments and link the activities to open outcomes. For example, students could co-author an open resource, design ancillary learning resources for a text (such as self-assessment quizzes or case studies), or undertake a structured review of existing content using annotation tools (like Hypothes.is). Open assessment practices may be well-aligned with these existing approaches or offer affordances that current approaches do not. There is also a strong connection between student-authored content and portfolios that support graduate employability.

Conclusion

The thirteen opportunities above rely on creating relationships with Faculty, connecting open education approaches with existing and emerging needs, and then leading an appropriate response. This type of practical advocacy is well within a librarian’s skill set and simply a different arena for current practice.

More opportunities and examples exist beyond this list. Add yours to the ‘Comment’ section below. Collaboration and sharing are cornerstones of librarianship and open education so be generous.

Enabling a Modern Curriculum 2022 Conference online program – Call for submissions

Share your work or ideas with peers – pitch your online mode presentation or lightning talk now!

The CAUL EMC Conference aims to bring together industry experts and sharing of evidence based practice, projects and innovations shaping our academic library work within tertiary education. This means your voice and your experiences are a core part to the success of this Conference.

Together we create sign
We want to know about the work you and your Library does! 
The CAUL Enabling the Modern Curriculum (EMC) Project is now inviting submissions for its inaugural Conference in September. Put forward a submission to be part of this hybrid event’s online offering (Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September).

When are submissions due?

Submissions officially open today Friday 29 April! You have until Friday 27 May to get your submission in.

What does a submission involve?

It’s a short, sweet and not onerous format. There are two submission types to pitch for: 

  • Online Presentation (20 mins + 5 mins question time)
  • Online Lightning Talk (7 mins + potential question time)

The submissions need to reflect and engage with the following themes: 

  • Open Resources to Enable the Curriculum
  • Evolving our Digital Practices
  • Bending and Blending in Learning and Teaching
  • Partnering to Enable a Modern Curriculum

Themes are explained in more detail on the Call for submissions webpage.

What’s the submission process?

The submission process is simple. The Call for Submission webpage details information needed and links through to the submission portal. 

Where to find out more?

To check out the conference details or to make a submission visit the CAUL EMC website


This post was written by Lindsey Fratus (University of Newcastle Library), Liz Walkley Hall (Flinders University Library), Arlene O’Sullivan (La Trobe University) and Kat Cain (Deakin University Library)
All four writers are part of the CAUL EMC Conference project.

Lock in the 2022 CAUL EMC Conference into your calendar and your plans

This post was written by Kat Cain (Deakin University Library), Lindsey Fratus (University of Newcastle Library), Liz Walkley Hall (Flinders University Library). All three writers are part of the CAUL EMC Conference project.

What does 2022 look like for you and your work in the academic Library sector? Many of us have strat plans with OER goals or students as partners as top level foci. The moving feast of “Read and Publish” is shaking up Open Access outcomes across the board. And while our core business has always been aligning with tertiary learning and teaching goals, new ways to flexibly engage and enable curriculum have become a heightened priority. On top of this, we’re all dealing with evolving digital practices impacting learning, research and everyday ways of working. 

Exchanging ideas & experiences across industry.

The inaugural CAUL 2022 Enabling the Modern Curriculum Conference has been specifically designed for our academic library community.

It offers new learnings and practice-based knowledge for expert staff across the Australia and New Zealand industry to embed in their work.

What practical action should you take? 

  1. Lock in the CAUL EMC Conference into your 2022 calendar
  2. Start thinking about sharing and showcasing your Library’s work or learnings

What are the dates?

Remember it’s a hybrid event so the conference dates for both in-person and online experiences:

  • Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 September for the online program 
  • Tuesday 13 September for the face-to-face events in five capital cities.

What is the Conference all about?

This conference offers you and your institution the chance to exchange ideas and experience in a novel way. Using a hybrid conference model means flexible attendance options – pick and choose between in-person located learning and digital experiences.

CAUL’s intention in offering a hybrid conference model is to ensure flexibility and access for its member libraries. But it also provides the different but complementary dimensions of national lens and a local, state-based gatherings.

Your voice in this space

One of the great things about the Conferences is sharing thoughts, learnings and new projects outside of our own work bubbles. We will soon be taking submissions for presentation ideas – so start thinking about what you could share with your academic library community!

Attribution: Calendar image on blog is a detail taken from Estée Janssens photo on Unsplash

Connect, learn, and collaborate with CAUL

Our 2022 CAUL conference goal is to bring people together to explore the challenges and opportunities afforded by the modern curriculum.

Do you work in an academic library?  Are you interested in student partnerships, open ed resources, digital pedagogies and practices? Well do I have good Friday news! There’s a new conference on the block that’s right up your alley.

CAUL is launching a hybrid conference in September next year with the umbrella theme “Enabling a Modern Curriculum”. Just as we’ve all been experimenting and adapting Library services to very changeable times, this conference will offer an innovative model. Both online and in-person events will be part of the 2022 CAUL Conference. What’s exciting is that the in-person interactive events will run synchronously across multiple states. Collaboration and communication will be key both on the day and in the organising of it!

The 2022 CAUL Conference is all about connections in both digital and face-to face spaces. It’s about sharing work experiences and showcasing research to better shape our practice. It’s about getting to know experts in your field and building your personal network. It’s about bringing together outcomes from all the CAUL Enabling the Modern Curriculum projects. It’s also about practical workshops that will add to your existing skillsets.

An animated brief

Check out this video (also embedded below) that in less than 2 minutes unpacks the what, when, who and how details of the 2022 CAUL Conference.

If you’re the kind of person who loves to deep dive into data (not uncommon tendency in Library folk) then more information can be found in the CAUL Conference Project brief

Our team

The CAUL Conference Project Team is ably led by Dr Nicole Johnston (Edith Cowan University). With the following team members working with her from across Australia:  Lindsey Fratus (University of Newcastle), Naomi Mullumby (University of Melbourne), Sue Hutley (Bond University), Frances O’Neal (Victoria University), Arlene O’Sullivan (La Trobe University), Liz Walkley Hall (Flinders University), and, yours truly, Kat Cain (Deakin University).

What’s next?

Stay tuned for more 2022 CAUL Conference news in the months to come. The project team will be working to bring you updates and ways to get involved. And I highly recommend subscribing to this very blog to keep in the know.