Steve Foerster, New World University

Hi everyone, I’m Steve Foerster, President of New World University in Roseau, Dominica. I’ve been keen on OERs for a long time, an extension of interest in open source software from the '90s.

We exclusively use OER textbooks in our curricula, and have a Free Curricula Centre to support that. Currently we are enhancing some of the PDF-only textbooks we use by (1) converting them to EPUB for ease of use on mobiles, and (2) curating multimedia playlists to accompany specific chapters.

Hi @stevefoerster So glad you’ve joined us! This is a fantastic commitment to open textbooks. We hope to find some opportunities for collaboration.

1 Like

Thanks, @lizmays . I’ve asked Vincent Kizza, the Director of our Free Curricula Centre, to join this forum also, you’re welcome to suggest anything to either of us.

One question, I saw that you collaborated with other organisations on your statement of preference for CC-BY. Have you considered making it something that other organisations can also endorse? Because we adapt existing works we’re not always at liberty to use the license of our choice, but when we can we use the CC0 waiver, which being even less restrictive than CC-BY I expect is okay with all you.

Hi Steve, nice to meet you. We too use exclusively OERs at the University of Maryland University College. For some departments, I understand that this is not a great challenge. For mine (History & African American Studies), it is a huge challenge. How do you currently manage OERs for History survey courses?

Hi @danielle, that’s fascinating, I didn’t realise that UMUC doesn’t use commercial textbooks. How do you find OER textbooks for advanced courses in your majors? Or if you can’t, then what is your approach?

As for History, other than searching catalogues like the Open Textbook Library or the Saylor Bookshelf I’m not sure what to tell you. I suppose if your programme includes Art History there’s Smarthistory?

I suppose if you really need to put something together you could consider finding the best quality Wikipedia articles and putting them together as a textbook using their Book Creator tool. I realise some educators have reflexive disdain for Wikipedia content, but some of it is very good and the tool I mentioned really puts it together nicely.

As for us, our institution isn’t in North America, so we don’t have a suite of general education requirements. All of our programmes are in Business at present, where OER textbooks are (relatively) easy to find. We’ll be branching off next into Information Systems, Development Studies, and Education, but even then only as we vet enough existing useful OERs or have the resources to develop them.

@stevefoerster Hi Steve, Welcome – you are doing exciting work. In answer to your CC0 waiver question: We see great benefits to CC BY in that:

a) it allows anyone to use the content for any purpose (which means that the content has the greatest chance of spreading to the widest number of people)

b) but use of the content also requires other users to:
i) acknowledge the authors of the work (important for the people who put time into creating it)
ii) state that the content can be obtained for free (important for anyone who might not be aware)
iii) promote participation in the Rebus Community … (important for the long-term sustainability of the Rebus Community is finding new people to contribute to making more OER)

CC0 meets a) but doesn’t require any of b) … and I think for long-term success of OER, b) will be key.

Can you tell me your thoughts on CC0, and why you prefer it over CC BY?

1 Like

Hi @hugh, yes, I agree entirely with a), including that this is an overwhelming advantage over CC-BY over any of the licenses with the NC or SA restrictions. Those works licensed BY-NC-SA and those licensed BY-SA are in permanently estranged silos, unable to be remixed together, and this was an avoidable tragedy. That said, out of necessity our institution uses some of the textbooks found in the Saylor bookshelf (the ones they salvaged from Flat World Knowledge), which are BY-NC-SA. It’s not at all our preference, but better them than nothing.

And like you, I don’t consider ND to be open at all. If openness is a colour spectrum, then ND works are far infrared at best.

As for b-i), we disagree a bit in that I don’t want works to have any legal restrictions when they can be avoided. That said, I will say that while I don’t prefer a legal requirement for attribution, I do support attribution as a cultural norm, and I also believe that even in cases where attribution isn’t strictly prohibited that’s no defence of plagiarism. For example, legally I could publish Romeo and Juliet under my own name, but I’d be laughed into oblivion and rightly so.

On b-ii), any notice to that effect would do that, it doesn’t take a license.

On b-iii), I’m unsure why CC-BY would do this any better than CC0, but I’d be willing to entertain an argument to that effect.

But I’m only telling you this because you asked. On balance, an attribution requirement is awfully inoffensive, and considering that’s the last one percent of a long journey towards complete openness I’d rather argue about it someday when we actually get there. So given the current landscape I’ll happily support Rebus calling for CC-BY as the OER standard – anything less would feel like complaining that the pony you gave me for Christmas was the wrong colour.

@stevefoerster Actually it’s easier to use OERs with upper level courses than lower level courses because they are more focused. Also, when I say we use exclusively OER’s, I should clarify that we can also use our library’s resources. So, for example, in African American History courses - 400 level - we can use the Oxford Encyclopedia of African American History among other readings. These are high quality resources. Likewise in the capstone series, we rely primarily on articles found in JSTOR. In lower level courses where the span of time and geography is colossal, an overarching narrative is much harder to cobble together from scattered readings, particularly when they are of questionable quality.

It’s great that your field has so many OER textbooks available! Thank you for the Smarthistory link! I had not heard of them, and after a brief perusal, it is clear that they deserve a closer look!


1 Like