Office Hours: International Perspectives on Open Textbooks (reopens March 4-9)

International Perspectives on Open Textbooks (reopens March 4-9)

In this special pre-recorded session of Office Hours from Rebus Community and the Open Textbook Network, guests discuss student, faculty, and staff perspectives on the creation, adoption, and awareness of open textbooks in their countries.

Guest speakers include Mark Horner (Siyavula Education in Cape Town, South Africa @mark ); Werner Westermann Juárez (Library of National Congress in Chile); Jessica Stevens (Queensland University of Technology and Creative Commons Australia @jessica-stevens ); Tomohiro Nagashima (Carnegie Mellon University @tomohiro-nagashima0529 ); and Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou (Association pour la Promotion de la Science Ouverte en Haïti et en Afrique and Université Laval @thomasmboa ).

This discussion originally took place Dec. 4-8 will reopen March 4 at 1:00 am CLST, 7:00 am SAST, and 4:00 pm AEST at this link in the Rebus Community forum. Guests can participate in an asynchronous discussion related to the recording here throughout the week of March 4-9. This is so that we can enjoy a conversation with guests from many continents in varying time zones. Please feel free to use the language of your choice. We will use Google translate to facilitate an international conversation.

Watch the video and post any questions you have in the discussion below!

Read the full transcript.

Tomohiro, Jessica, Thomas, Werner, and Mark — Thanks so much for taking the time out to record a clip for this session! We’re hoping that everyone gets a chance to watch the video (in its entirety, or even in part) over the course of the week and post any questions or comments here in the forum.

I guess I’ll get the discussion going! @tomohiro-nagashima0529 talked about how textbook prices aren’t that much of an issue in Japan. The cost-benefits or cost-savings aspects of OERs is something that is greatly promoted, and as @alex mentioned on the forum, “we run the risk of being assessed in a pure cost-recovery model.” Tomohiro, what do you think are some other benefits of OERs that could be advertised, and would be important in the Japanese context?

Zoe, when can we expect to see the model for Open Textbook publishing?

Jessica, do you have any examples of Australian universities working together to publish an Open Textbook? And what is the special interest group which is being formed?

@thomasmboa The challenge of bypassing established school systems may be something that is faced by OT creators around the world. How do we empower creators, or give them a better standing when they approach people in charge of educational policies in their country?

Hi @janeoxyz
At my university (Queensland University of Technology) we are in the early stages of collaborating with a few other universities on an open intellectual property law textbook. I am part of the project team for this and currently we are trying to lock down some collaborators and work out what content they will contribute. We have people from a number of Australian Universities interested but no offical contributions confirmed yet (outside of our academics at QUT). We anticipate this project being progressed more next year.

With respect to the special interest group, this is coming out of the University of the Southern Queensland - I am aware that this group is set to meet at a conference this month and more information regarding this group should be available after that. I am interested in keeping up to date with the interest group and ensuring Creative Commons Australia is collaborating with them - if there is a way I can keep you posted on this group I am more than happy to do that.

@jessica.stevens @janeoxyz

The Open Textbook Network is working with the University of Southern Queensland. Our Executive Director, Dave Ernst, was there just last month. If you have any questions, please let me know.

It is so sad to say @lizmays but, In my country and particularly in French African Speaking Countries, people and our leader are still colonised in mind. So they trust in all ressources and informations coming from white people and Western context rather than trust in local OT creators. So one strategy is to use white people to explain our idea and many time it is working.

@thomasmboa I’m shocked to hear this. I guess this puts an added responsibility on those of us doing work in this area in North America to make resources that translate. Let us know if there are other ways the community can support additional strategies in your region.

Mark, Do you think that some of the challenges that you see in OER projects in South Africa might be similar to ones elsewhere in the world (not the U.S. as you mentioned)? I suspect that this might be the case, and wonder how we could work together to find resolutions!

I have another question, this one is for Werner: Translation is something I hold dear, and a very important obstacle that the OER community will need to overcome – do you find that OERs made in other parts of the world, which would be used in Chile, are unable to be adopted due to language barriers/restrictions?

@lizmays Sure it is shocking to hear this truth that many people don’t want to talk about. But we cannot build a relevant strategy without any consideration of this situation.

@lizmays give OT creators a better standing when they approach people in charge of educational policies can work in certain context, but In my country I guess it is not the right strategy to bypass established school systems which are still colonial.
For me the best strategy is to empower OT creators, by giving them tools to hack this static system. and the question is how to do that?

1 Like

I have to admit my terrible lateness in finally finishing watching the whole video (and I have no excuse - I work here!), but it was so worth it! We’ll be posting a proper “Rebus” recap in the next week or so, but I wanted to chime in with some thoughts I had while watching.

I’ll start by saying I have a foot in a few different camps that make this an interesting topic for me. I work mostly in a North American context (although we do work with projects & contributors from all over the world), but I’m from New Zealand, speak French and live in a technically North American, but very unique bilingual city (Montreal). It’s an odd combination, and one that puts me both inside and outside the anglo-North American norm. I felt both these sides of me reacting in different ways to the speakers’ comments which was interesting!

Now to some thoughts/questions/etc.:

  • @tomohiro-nagashima0529 and others seemed to share the experience that the real value/selling point of OER in their contexts isn’t cost savings, but the ability to remix & adapt resources. This has bubbled up in NA too, and @rajiv-jhangiani has written about it on his blog, but it’s probably one of the biggest differences between NA & the rest of the world. I wonder if there’s a risk of OER being dismissed in places where cost isn’t as much of an issue because it’s too closely associated with free (as in beer) due to NA dominance. I also think that as traditional publishers push their low cost options (like Cengage’s recently announced subscription model), the Open Ed movement in NA has to change how they articulate the value of OER. This might create some more common ground, globally!

  • Related to this is the challenge of permission to remix versus practical ability to remix, which is something we think about a lot at Rebus. I’ve written a little about this too. When cost savings aren’t the main driver, it becomes far more important for the act remixing to be possible. A few people mentioned the need for good editing tools and support for people to use them. We use Pressbooks at Rebus, but have discussed being fairly agnostic about platforms so long as they produce genuinely remixable formats. In the same way we advocate for CC-BY, we think this kind of openness is fundamental to the future success of OER.

  • @jessica-stevens mentioned briefly that philanthropic funding isn’t really a thing in Australia (it’s the same in New Zealand), which again, I think, is a big contrast to NA. It means government funding becomes more important, which seems tied to the question of sustainability (another recurring theme) for better or worse! If OER can be funded as a public service, it could become sustainable, but changing governments also means fluctuations in policy that affect funding. @thomasmboa talked about the importance of state buy-in too, but it sounds like there’s a very different situation again in Cameroon - there is private investment, but getting government on board is the challenge. Again, context is key!

  • Translation. This is a biggie. I see it on the horizon as a massive question to tackle for OTs. I think most of the speakers talked about how local creation is so important, which also means creation in local languages, but I’m interested in whether translating from English into other languages could or should be considered a viable option for increasing the availability of OTs. I have mixed feelings, so would love to hear from others. I do think there could be real power in translation to English from other languages, to try to counter anglo- and Western-centrism in education…

  • Thomas, je voulais dire aussi que je le trouve interessant que tu utilises ‘open textbooks’ et d’autres termes anglais en parlant. Je sais pas si c’est juste l’influence Quebecoise, mais moi, je trouve souvent que je n’ai pas le vocabulaire pour parler de mon travail en francais.
    Par conséquence, j’imagine que meme si on partagait des resources à propos des OERs pour traduire, ce serai pas facile parce que la langue défaut, c’est l’anglais. Qu’est-ce que t’en penses?

  • I loved that Werner and Mark both spoke about connecting OER to the challenges faced in your particular environment. That seems like one piece of advice that can be used anywhere - think about whatever the biggest challenges in education are in your context and figure out how OER might be part of the solution!

  • I really appreciated that Mark mentioned the 25 hour flight to get to the US from South Africa! Beyond having different needs & priorities, there are some very practical barriers to participation in any kind of global OER community. Being from New Zealand, which is almost as far away from anything as you can get, I know I’d never be able to attend the events I have from Montreal. And I don’t just mean physically - timezones are another huge challenge, not to mention technical barriers to online participation. We’ve tried to highlight some of these differences in our format this month, and I hope it prompts those who live in the “default zone” think a little harder about what people outside their region face when trying to connect with others in the OER community, and think about how they might do things differently in future.

This is a far from comprehensive set of reflections (I could go on for hours), but as I said, there will be more coming. Overall, I was struck by the common threads of the value of OER, the challenges of sustainability, and the fundamental importance of local and cultural context to the work everyone is doing. Again, to all our guests, an enormous thank you for being so generous with your time. I’m feeling so fired up and very much hope we can find ways Rebus can support you in your amazing work in future!

Hi @janeoxyz! The model is in many pieces at the moment, some more developed than others, but we’re expecting to start releasing a few things early next year. We’ve been developing guides & templates with our pilot projects and are now working to make them more general/adaptable so others can benefit from them. All a work in progress, so keep an eye out :slight_smile:

@lizmays A few of the challenges are universal in the K-12 sector:

  • no existing policy and policy work is hard and slow and expensive
  • curriculum alignment required, content doesn’t travel as well
  • technology infrastructure low or nonexistant
  • teacher/educator training levels low

I think there are solutions but they’re relatively unique for Africa, we need to:

The biggest challenge is how to do in a sustainable way as a NPO / Social Enterprise / for-profit entity.

@mark Oh wow, I’d love to hear more about delivery using feature phones. I’ve read a lot about smartphone use in education where computers aren’t accessible, but not feature phones. Could you point me to anything more about how they can be used?