The cost of textbooks for courses in post-secondary institutions has risen dramatically over recent years. With a lack of any affordable alternatives, textbooks became cost-prohibitive to students trying to earn and afford an education. In response, the academic community has begun to support and implement new affordable content solutions. One concept being explored as a viable alternative to the traditionally published textbook are open educational resources. Open educational resources (OERs) are learning materials such as textbooks, videos, and other media that are openly licensed and free to read, redistribute, or modify. These resources are typically distributed and read in digital formats because of the relatively low cost of publishing on a web, though they may be made available in print formats as well. Because OER are intended to be freely modified, original versions can grow into improved versions, or be taken apart and used in different, new resources; it’s in the nature of OER to be shared and built upon, so, in the ideal case, every textbook creation project becomes a community project with the involvement of all the creators, where the resulting work feeds back into the ecosystem organically.
With motivations that diverge from those of the traditional publisher, creation of open textbooks and other resources had to find a new home in higher education. This mantle has been taken upon by the post-secondary institutions themselves; instead of outsourcing textbook production for offered courses, universities create textbooks they intend to use. This has in part been done by starting OER production programs in existing departments or units at the institution. One common choice for the OER production program was the library. In many ways, the mission of the library pairs perfectly with that of the OER movement: both are driven by a commitment to public access of education and resources. However, the title of publisher is still new to librarians in the emerging space of open education, and the processes of how to run a successful OER production program are not yet set in place. To facilitate OER production, some libraries have turned to Pressbooks, a software that can be used to design and format books to make them available in various formats. Pressbooks has been adopted into the workflow of OER production programs as a tool for creating and distributing open textbooks that meets the needs of both faculty authors and an institution’s students.
The following research offers insight into the workflows of several OER production programs run through the libraries of post-secondary institutions in Canada and the United States. This report can educate readers on the use of OER and establish an understanding of how Pressbooks fits into the open education environment. The core of the report is a series of in-depth interviews with representatives of the OER production programs at SUNY, Seneca College, University of Guelph, Ryerson University, University of Washington, and the University of Texas at Arlington. Following these interviews is an analysis of the similarities these programs have in their workflows and experiences. After, the report includes observations on what obstacles the OER community faces in creating a standard approach to OER production within the context of a library-hosted program. This report is intended to educate readers on the current practices and perspectives of the OER community and provide a stepping stone to future research on successful workflows for OER production.
- Kathy Kristof, "What's behind the Soaring Cost of College Textbooks," CBS News, January 26, 2018, accessed October 01, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-behind-the-soaring-cost-of-college-textbooks/. ↵