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Office Hours: Managing Inter-Institutional Authoring Teams

Audio Transcript:


  • Apurva Ashok (Director of Open Education, The Rebus Foundation)
  • Karen Lauritsen (Publishing Director, Open Education Network)
  • Donna Westfall-Rudd (Associate Professor, Agricultural, Leadership, and Community, Virginia Tech)
  • Mary Leigh Wolfe (Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech)
  • Matthew DeCarlo (Assistant Professor of Social Work, La Salle University)
  • Jonathan Lashley (Associate Chief Academic Officer, Idaho State Board of Education)

Apurva: Hello everybody, welcome to another Office Hours. I think it might be our last Office Hours this summer in the northern hemisphere, that is at least. I hope everyone is doing well. I’m Apurva Ashok, I am the Director for Open Education at the Rebus Community. And as always, I’m very excited to be co-hosting another Office Hours session with our lovely partners, the Open Education Network. Karen, I’ll pass it over to you to just introduce yourself and the OEN briefly.

Karen: Thank you, Apurva. As always, it’s great to be here with you. My name is Karen Lauritsen, I’m publishing director with the Open Education Network, and we are a community of professionals working to make higher education more open. We are really glad that you’ve joined us today for a conversation about working with groups of authors across institutions, which is a really big undertaking.

And I know my co-host has some experience and expertise to share in that area as well. Apurva, do you want me to jump into introductions?

Apurva: Go ahead.

Karen: Okay. So today we are joined by Donna Westfall-Rudd, she is Associate Professor of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community at Virginia Tech. Mary Leigh Wolfe, who is Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. Matthew DeCarlo, who is Assistant Professor of Social Work at La Salle University. And finally, Jonathan Lashley, who is Associate Chief Academic Officer with the Idaho State Board of Education.

So if you’re new to Office Hours, what’s going to happen is each of our four guests will spend just a handful of minutes talking about their experience working with authors from different institutions to create OER and open textbooks. And then, we will look to you, for your questions, your experience, this really is meant to be an Office Hours for you to talk about whatever is on your mind.

And as often happens, there is a lot of expertise in the room in addition to our four guests, so if you have stories you want to share during the hour, please don’t hesitate to chime in in the chat or unmute and let us know. So, I think I covered everything, and without further ado I’m going to hand things over to Mary Leigh.

Mary Leigh: Thank you very much, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to be here with this group and hear about what everybody is doing. The project that I want to spend a few minutes talking about is an open textbook that I’ve been involved with developing. It’s called Introduction to Biosystems Engineering. And this project to do this book came out of a previous project that was really focused on mobility of students across the Atlantic.

Colleagues in the US and in Europe were funded by the respective US and European Union. And most of that project was students studying abroad, but also we involved faculty in developing things, materials to help globalize our curriculum in biosystems engineering. And so, coming out of that, we wanted to pursue developing a textbook at the introductory level for first and second year university students.

Our design, the way we really wanted it to work was that we would have separate chapters about a variety of topics within our discipline, and that then an instructor could choose which topics were appropriate for their particular course or program. And we do have a lot of variety in the details of our programs around the world, so we wanted that kind of flexible thing.

So we got in, there were four of us, two faculty from my department here at Virginia Tech and then two colleagues at University College Dublin in Ireland. And we’re all members of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers or ASABE. And so, the four of us wrote a proposal to ASABE about seeking funding for supporting the development of this type of open, I wouldn’t know all the right language to use when we were developing it.

We didn’t really know we were developing an open educational resource, but we knew we wanted everybody to have it for free. But we didn’t really know all that, so we’ve learned a lot. And one of the people we actually learned a lot of this from is on the call here today, Anita Walz, from Virginia Tech publishing. So, she may add a few things later as well, and perhaps correct me as we go.

So, what we did, as I said, we went to ASABE, applied for funding, special project funds they have and they awarded them to us, so that was very nice. And then, as we were getting started with it, my colleague here at Virginia Tech, Jactone is his first name. Jactone said, “Oh we need to go talk to Anita.” Because he’d been talking to Anita about something else he was working on.

So we did, and the way it worked out then, Virginia Tech publishing and ASABE reached agreement very amiably about producing this and publishing together, so that was really exciting. So then, with regard to the authors, etc the way we set it up, as I said, there were the four of us that I think we called ourselves the coordinating group all along. And then, what we did, the original set of chapters covered six different technical communities within ASABE.

So we recruited section editors for each of those six, so two people for each section, so there were 12 of them. And then, they were instrumental in helping to identify topics and authors across the different areas. And so that was our structure, we had the oversight group, section editors and then authors. We put together authors, guidelines for authors, guidelines for editors, and talking about outlining how it should be structured.

As I said at the beginning, this is focused on the audience being first and second year university students. And so, one of our biggest challenges working with authors was getting them to write at that level. Many people in academia when we write a chapter for a book, it’s like the state of the knowledge on that subject. And that’s not what we needed. And so, that was one of our biggest challenges in terms of that content with the authors.

Everybody was excited and wanted to do it, and that part was good. Another challenge that we had was that many of us and many of the authors weren’t so familiar about one particular thing took a lot of time with figures and diagrams, illustrations about licensing. And obviously, this was going to be a license CC BY, and we had to get that done. So, that was another challenge that we learned a lot now.

So I’ll stop by showing you, the book has been published. Thank you. We were posted online in January of 2021, and it’s set so that the individual chapters can each be downloaded by themselves. The compilation can be downloaded also for free. And then, a hard – it’s really soft bound, but hard print copy can be ordered through Amazon. In the US that’s just $35.

So, that’s where we are now, and I just have to brag on one thing, because we were kind of stunned. As of this morning, the book has been downloaded 23,002 times, so we’re like unbelievable. But I know I need to stop there, and I’ll be happy to say a little bit more later about how we’re going forward now. So, thank you.

Apurva: Thank you, Mary Leigh. I have so many questions, it sounds like a wonderful collaboration with two faculty based in the US and the other two in Ireland. So, I will invite folks, if you have questions please feel free to keep them coming for Mary Leigh in the chat. And congratulations, Mary Leigh, 23,000 and counting downloads, that is fantastic, for you and for the rest of the team.

Mary Leigh: And Anita has put all the links in there, thank you, Anita.

Anita: Yeah, sure.

Apurva: And Donna, I’ll pass it over to you to tell us a little more about your team and your projects.

Donna: Yes, thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here and it really is a privilege to work at Virginia Teach where I also get to work with Anita. And Mary Leigh and I work in a similar space, so it’s just great to be here with my colleagues. And our project started from a different place, and it’s really fun to talk about how we have a different group working with our book. We are producing teaching in the university, learning from graduate students and early career faculty.

And this book came about from several years of conversations with graduate students in our College of Agriculture’s graduate teaching scholarship program. It was created in 2012, and our PhD students in our college are eligible to apply to this three-year program. And as we’ve conducted this cohort-based experience for our students, there was frequently conversation about what resources should we be using.

There’s lots of different teaching resources out and about, but they’re expensive. And if you look at all the different topics we try to address in our program, the pricing of those resources became a challenge for our students. And so, for a couple of years we said, “We should just write a book.” So finally, two years ago we decided why not? And so, the exciting piece for me in this is that there’s three editors.

I’m lead editor, my two other co-editors are Dr Courtney Vengrin and Dr Jeremy Elliott-Engel, who are my former students. And they were the TAs for the program itself. So we all have a lot of heart in the work we’re doing, and we have longstanding relationships. And then, we have 14 chapters that they’re now final, we are getting close to being almost done with editing in the next couple of months.

And with that, we have 17 authors, which is a little crazy. And also, we have seven vignettes that we’re inserting in our chapters, and I think that brings in another six authors to our group. So we have a group of people, one of the strengths of working in this group and having the standing common experience of the graduate teaching scholars program is we really didn’t have conflicts.

We’ve had a lot of common experiences within the group, and so anything that came up as something to talk about really we’ve had these long-term relationships. So we just had conversations and we came to consensus. So that was really wonderful. We are challenged by the fact that we are all young authors, where some of our authors are current finishing PhD students, and you can imagine their work right now.

And then they also are if not that, they’re very early career faculty somewhere in the US and they’ve all been teaching through COVID at the same time that they are trying to write these books. We lost a couple of authors, one person said that during the semester her modality in teaching expectations had changed four times. And so that had a real impact on her ability to write the book because she was constantly rewriting her class resources.

And so, we really understood that, so we did lose a couple of authors. So that is one of our challenges. We’re a tight group so that breaks our heart a little bit. So it might be scaring Anita, or I’m not sure how she feels about this, but we’re already talking about a second edition because we’re really using this not only as a resource for students to read and utilize in the program but learning about writing book chapters and using these types of resources is part integrated now into the program instruction.

And so I see us having another version in short time, especially because some of our students now have done a lot of work teaching online as graduate students and as early career faculty and they are very innovative in their teaching practices. So we already have several chapters, we know we need to add but nobody has time to do it right now. So we’re starting a list for the next edition.

And so, with that I don’t even want to say when we’re done, but I’m reading through things for a final time and we have to turn it over for editing on September 1 and we will have it sent, I promise, Anita. There was what we do.

Apurva: Thanks, Donna, and it sounds like Anita is game for a second edition or a volume or whatever you and your team is willing to put forward to her.

Donna: Well, she’s a rock star and we also want another excuse to work with her.

Apurva: That will be wonderful, I also especially love how with your team you have really brought students to the forefront, and recognized the expertise that they can hold, especially the graduate students and really thinking about ways to use this collaborative authorship opportunity to help them advance as well. So that’s really great to see. Jonathan, I think you’re going to take the mic over from Donna next, so I’ll pass it over to you.

Jonathan: Thanks, Apurva, thanks everyone. It’s nice to see all of you. Inter-institutional authoring has been a really important priority for all of our open education work in Idaho and this predates any of the work that I’ve been doing at the state level. Before this was formalized, we were just doing a lot of affinity-based work where we were trying to find counterparts at other institutions, who were interested in open ed and authoring projects.

And trying to figure out how we can consolidate resources and expertise and faculty interest and so on. But today I really want to highlight a program that we just completed the first cohort passing through a three-semester fellowship program at the state. And we’re now looking to start our second cohort this coming Fall. It’s a fellowship that we refer to as the OPAL program, and OPAL stands for openness, pedagogy, advocacy, and leadership.

And the genesis of it is that in 2019 the Idaho state legislature awarded $50,000 to our state board of education to pursue collaborative OER development. They had to meet specific requirements, so in Idaho we have common indexing framework for our general education courses. Meaning that there’s 43 courses that have been identified that if they’re taught at Boise State or College of Easter Idaho or LC State, they’re effectively equivalent.

They’re in the same outcomes, they have roughly comparable experiences for students. And so, they wanted OER to take root in those courses, which makes a lot of sense from an efficacy standpoint. I think many of us who have worked in this for a while we know that Gen Ed courses are great because they’re high impact, they’re high enrolment, they’re often required. But additionally, they wanted to see collaboration happen between institutions.

And so, this was one of the first tasks that I inherited when I came into my role back in 2019. And the question I asked, and I wasn’t turned away, we were given latitude to instead exploring how can we replace specific textbooks by identifying maybe those highest cost textbooks that exist in the state, instead it was a matter of how can we empower faculty and students to improve course material use in these specific courses.

And so, we had a call for proposals go out that was reviewed by our general education committee. We had far more applicants than I expected, and I think that’s one of the benefits of looking for collaborators across eight institutions is that the coalition of the willing then suddenly expands eightfold. And we ended up giving fellowships to 15 faculty from English, from world languages, and from math.

And the output has been everything from a more traditional e-text that’s 2,000 pages in length and it’s published, and it’s modular and based in Pressbooks that folks can use to openly licensing assignments and interactive modules. And importantly, the emphasis on pedagogy and on instructional practice and assessment and trying to scale that across institutions led faculty to think they might have all had preferred textbooks or resources that they were using in their specific courses, in their sections of say English 101 or 102.

But when all of a sudden you’re having conversations about assessment and about course schedule and about the experience and the assignments that you want your students to have at your specific institution. And then pluralizing that across multiple institutions, they found that they were really leading with that sort of backwards design mentality, focusing on what do we want the student experience to be.

And then, how can we find ways to support one another in reaching those assessment goals and those experience goals. And so, it’s been a really cool process. It’s gotten a lot of attention, actually from our state and I’m happy that we’re able to watch a second cohort, because it’s proven that it’s been sustainable because not only are those faculty still working on these projects, it was a three-semester commitment.

And these drafts are ongoing, but ultimately now they’re bringing in other faculty into the mix. And so, it’s like fellows by extension, I suppose. And with that, I’ll kick it over to Matt.

Karen: Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you, Matt, take it away.

Matt: Yeah, I’m a faculty member, sorry, I have a PowerPoint. Yeah, all right, it’s done, thanks. I’m really excited about this thing. It took three years, and it’s basically a labor of love. So it’s me and three of my friends from my PhD cohort, the team varied, but it was those four core people. And we created this textbook, it’s a 24-chapter textbook intended for graduate level research methods.

We saw it as a love letter to our doctoral institution, and that multi-paradigmatic research approach that they had. We’re really excited, we have 250 students who’ve already adopted it, despite the fact that it’s been in very, very slow final production over the last year. And yeah, we have an adaptation project coming, we have some doc students who are actually going to adapt it.

And we are going to go meet with them and be like, “Hey we were you guys, and we created this thing. Maybe you guys want to [inaudible 0:19:26].” So I think everybody here talked about some of the things that went well. I had some things that didn’t go so well. So our collaboration was we got a VIVA grant, which means that we were collaborating with other Virginia institutions.

And our major collaborator just basically their work continued, but in a very, very limited capacity. So, they didn’t ultimately end up adopting the resource, they didn’t end up producing as much of the resource as they had committed to doing originally. And while that sort of allowed us to sort of excise them from the final product, somebody still has to do that work now.

Whatever sort of stuff is not on the plate of one institution partner, the other institutional partner has to make that up. And it ended up taking another year of labor to actually get that stuff done. So some of the stuff that I learned out of that was obviously to plan for contingencies, even just blowing through our first deadlines and building in slack. Even our second set of deadlines we had to blow through just because this institutional partnership fell apart.

Some of the things that I really wish that I had done differently in addition to building in slack was hiring a project coordinator. So we are a very tight group of four co-authors, we could really rely on each other’s work. But also, I was the person on that authoring team who was doing a lot of the coordinating work. So I was doing the background stuff and the grants management and dealing with getting funds paid at a university.

It takes a really long time, and there needs to be somebody, who if you are able to can dedicate that stuff or if not, you need to dedicate that time. That resource does need to be dedicated in some way. So if you’re like me and you don’t have a project coordinator, if you don’t have a Jonathan at your campus or an Anita, you need somebody. That sort of stuff needs to come in.

But at the same time, we ended up finding a lot of new, I guess it’s inter-institutional partnerships. Sorry. Yeah, we had faculty transition so two authors moved to different institutions, so we have two new people or two new campuses who have adopted the book, coincidentally. Unfortunately, that process takes a year, no one who authored this book used it in the year after it was published because we weren’t allowed to.

But through peer review, through some marketing, which is what I’m calling my social media addiction, we were able to build enough people who are going to adopt the resource. And through getting a lot of those peer review comments, we got that first round of people who might adopt it. Some of the stuff that I’m really excited that I hope people start with are some of our appendices.

So we were really hoping that this textbook becomes a hub for just people across institutions. I think one of the challenges in OER is there’s tons of great repositories, there’s tons of great stuff, but there’s not really a central place for faculty members who teach the same course to share their preparations and stuff. So we’re hoping that this stuff or that appendix B is a place for that to happen.

And appendix A we have some students who have shared some stuff, including a student who was an MS studies student, now a PhD student, who adapted our exercises into a workbook for students, replacing a $50 resource in our discipline. And then, another one who used the undergrad book, found our stuff, peer reviewed for us, and then ended up writing a guide for other students on how to use Mendeley.

So we’re excited to see where this stuff goes, and with that I’m going to leave it to up questions, I think is next.

Karen: Thank you, Matt. And thank you to all four of our guests for getting us started and sharing your experience so far with your projects. This is the time when we turn to everyone in the call and invite you to ask your questions in the chat as Emily has just done, thank you, Emily. Also feel free to unmute if you prefer. So, question from Emily, which is for Mary Leigh, how did you all manage the collaboration on this international project?

Did you all have online meetings or mainly provide updates via email or some other tool? Sounds like part of what Emily is wondering about are different time zones.

Mary Leigh: Yes, we learned time zones quite well during this. So it was a combination, for the four of us, between Blacksburg and Dublin, Ireland, the four of us communicated all the time. We had lots of online meetings, etc. As we expanded that, of course, then when we had our chapter editors were from four different countries, the authors in the end, we ended up with 23 chapters, 44 co-authors from 16 countries.

And so, the way we ended up, we used shared Google docs a lot and Google documents and things a lot that way. And mostly it was that the four of us just tried to stay on top of everything and touching base with each other all the time. So, yeah, we have some ideas going forward about how to get more efficient at some of that of course but being able to get into shared drives was really good, shared documents of all kinds.

Because when we were talking to each other, we could all be looking at the same thing and you didn’t have to share screens and all of that.

Karen: Go ahead.

Apurva: No, I think we’re picking up on the same thing, Karen, so go ahead.

Karen: I was just going to ask our other guests if they could speak to how they would coordinate and get together, was it through Zoom? How was most of the work done? Asynchronously, synchronously, sprinted.

Jonathan: So, in Idaho, we have two time zones, we have mountain and Pacific. And at one point, we were also working really closely with the Rebus Community as part of their textbook success program. So we were navigating cohorts and collaborating even just in conversation with cohorts from other time zones as well. And at least in Idaho what that ended up meaning for me in managing the project was holding separate office hours to basically do a second presentation off of the curriculum that was openly licensed.

So we could do so pretty effectively. And what that snowballed into especially because this coincided with the rise of the global pandemic and the shutdown and remote work of all of us, is that we all became very familiar with Zoom. And we all recognized the importance of making time not for really long sweeping meetings or coworking sessions but making sure that there were just regularly scheduled check ins where people could drop in if they had questions, if they had concerns, if they needed feedback and so on.

And so that consistent and sustained engagement through synchronous means, one it was easier for me to facilitate to just have 30 minutes here or there, even multiple times a day. Even in addition to all of the other workload that I had. It’s one of those things that also a tool like Zoom though I think I can probably speak for everyone, we all have a healthy dose of Zoom fatigue at this point, it doesn’t have to just be me who’s also coordinating these meetings. People could have these ad hoc.

Matt: One of the things that I would also just point out is that in addition to the tools, it’s also about the resources that each university has. And the parts of the collaboration that really worked were our collaboration worked with the instructional design and educational technologists with our institutional partners. And what we ended up bringing to the table as a teaching focused institution was a lot of student labor, was a lot of graduate assistance.

Students who could read and write and provide feedback on the textbook that R1s wouldn’t necessarily have.

Donna: To facilitate communications we did a couple of things, we had Zoom meetings, and we worked across multiple time zones within our editing team, as well as our authors, so that was crazy. We did do a lot of email type communications, the one thing we found worked well most of the time was that since we had three editors and so many authors, we divided our authors into groups with each editor having a team of five to six people that they were working with directly.

And so we did smaller group discussions, if you want to think about it that way. And we really facilitated most of our communications then that way. And then I was just sending out general communications broadly about deadlines and just cheerful encouragement and keeping people as a group caught up. But I think it was really helpful that we divided people into groups with different editors.

Apurva: Thanks, Donna and everyone else. I think all of the four speakers have highlighted the joys and the positives of being able to collaborate and the relationships and networks they’re building with whether it’s authors, editors, students, other teaching faculty that you’ve worked with. But Elizabeth Batte is asking in the chat and they wonder if you have any project management advice for a team that might never have met each other before, never worked together before.

How do you navigate the challenges of starting off a project with strangers, but ending up being very close over the time you’ve worked together?

Jonathan: So for us, I’ll just say it helped that we by design were focusing on things that we had in common, at least for the individual faculty groups. They were there because they were all faculty who taught specific courses, even if they were at different institutions. And so, they had that shared professional affinity. Then, from there, affinities just snowballed in that then all of a sudden we were all navigating collectively a global pandemic.

We were all becoming much more well versed in Zoom. I should also say that the faculty who I was working with, many of whom had never taught online before or in an emergency remote context, they were thrilled that they had been introduced to Zoom really quickly as part of this program. It was easier for them to navigate back in March 2020.

But that said, it was really one of the things that was most exciting for me to see because we were focusing on what we want to do in terms of assessment and student experience first is that we were also seeing where assessment and pedagogical strategy aligned across the disciplines. And so, all of a sudden we had math faculty who were finding creative ideas about how they could better assess students in their courses from our German faculty.

And so just making room and space for those kind of organic conversations to happen that were a little bit outside of just open publishing was hugely helpful.

Apurva: And I’ll say it might be of interest, Elizabeth, the math team that Jonathan might be referring to comprised not only of folks from institutions, but also high school instructors and teachers. So also navigating that difference in the way these courses are taught, based on whether they’re working with high school students or college students, I think. Making space for that conversation can be helpful.

Any of the other authors want to talk about what project management for the team was like? Mary Leigh, anything you have to share with your 44 contributors?

Mary Leigh: Well, just one part, it was helpful to us at the different levels to have the master calendar and that action thing about who was supposed to be doing what when and have everybody have access to it. And that helped with communication as well because we could individually go in and put updates in it. And you didn’t have to email everybody else and check. And obviously as you would expect it didn’t always work smoothly, but it was helpful to do that. One good tool, I think.

Anita: So I would jump in regarding that question about project management. There is a lot of tracking that we do on the backend of just what’s the status of this chapter? Where is the author? Has the author dropped? Is there another co-author? Did they sign their contributor agreement? Do we have it? Just all of those things, there’s a lot of tracking that is needed to keep things moving and to keep them organized.

So some of that Mary Leigh developed herself, some of it we developed collaboratively. And then, the production team had our own things that we had organized and so it was really quite a few different teams working together toward the same end. But every project is a little different and the way that people work is a little different. Some tools don’t work for people, so what I usually do is ask well, how would you like to organize this?

What seems to make sense? And this is how we’ve done it in the past, but we can do it completely differently, if that doesn’t work. Sometimes we develop tools and we don’t use them and that’s okay. But we try to develop things that are useful, but it’s a lot of that on the fly.

Apurva: Jonathan, I see you mention… Go ahead, Matt.

Matt: I was literally going to shout you out. Literally the Rebus guide is the thing that was the urtext I know for me going into it. I’m throwing in the chat, I did link to this before, so building off some of the stuff in there, building off some of the MOUs that were shared. This is I think most of the stuff that I used for editing, writing, dissemination, either reflections or MOUs, grant management, any of that sort of stuff should be anonymized or de-identified. So hopefully that’s of help to people.

Apurva: Thank you, Matt, thanks for the shout out. I always find it helpful to see what documents others have created so we don’t have to duplicate that ourselves. I think that goes back to the sustainability and scalability of this work. If you’re creating something new for every product, then you’re going to find your time in the work week filling up very quickly.

Jonathan, you mentioned in the chat having the shared documentation with Teams and templates has been useful. Can you tell us more about what templates you put together for these fellows?

Jonathan: It always happens at least once a meeting. So as I mentioned, we were navigating multiple time zones and also multiple institutions. And so it meant that in some cases we had duplicate meetings, some that were facilitated by me, some that were facilitated by our Rebus counterparts and others. And so, it was helpful to have something as simple as a shared Google doc where folks could record questions or ideas.

And effectively what that gave me or escalated up to me was a list of these are the tools or the hurdles or the barriers that our fellows are confronting as they’re trying to wrap their minds around open publishing and open authoring and remixing and how they would present content to students, how they would make it accessible. How they would fold that into their pedagogical concerns for a class.

And that document would then end up structuring not only to-do lists for me, but also what other opportunities, demos, additional trainings I might stand up to meet needs as they were emerging. And I think it was a really necessary kind of counter-question. I’ve been talking a lot about the synchronous engagement. But the synchronous engagement was continuously effective because they were always drop in, that was always the expectation was not that these are going to be required.

But making sure that we also had that asynchronous documentation that said, “This is what’s upcoming, this is what the priority is.” And that way the folks who wanted to be there, who needed to be there would show up.

Apurva: It’s helpful to know what the mix of the responsive changes you can make with the synchronous but having the asynchronous documents to lean back on proved useful. I know that there was a question in the chat for Donna from Emily. Just wondering about how to deal with folks joining projects, but also leaving or having to shift focus to other responsibilities midway. So how did you cover some of those gaps, or how did you deal with that big challenge of maybe losing an author?

Donna: We decided given we had a substantial number of topics and chapters still in the book that 14 is probably enough and we shouldn’t be too upset. So we have put those in a list that we honestly are starting for that second volume, that we’ll come back to those authors and maybe start working with them, even within the next 18 to 24 months. So they have a chance to do that, and as we build that resource, then we’ll start looking at that volume.

And that’s because we are part of a program, the students are part of a program and there’s some continued communication. So we’re not losing people necessarily completely out of our circle.

Jonathan: So Apurva knows that we lost two faculty pretty quickly into the program. It was a matter of this being a three-semester program, a pandemic, and folks’ contracts not being renewed for the Fall. And what that meant for at least one group is that they were going to have to completely revise what they were planning to do, not only because of the nature of that person’s dual appointment with a community college, but also with being embedded in a high school for dual credit courses.

And that person no longer had a specific collaborator for his specific course. At the same time, he had disciplinary collaborators, and this was another one of those happy accidents with the design of not focusing on okay, their goal is to create a French textbook. Instead it was what open resources would benefit your instruction in these specific French courses? And so instead what that has emerged to be is a process or a project where it’s more curatorial in scope.

Because there’s already a lot of good French language instruction resources that have been developed by not only post-secondary faculty, but also high school teachers in Idaho. And he’s going through and curating in a Pressbook the resources that he would use and also standing up some additional meta commentary about how he would use them and what assignments or assessments he would also pair with those resources. So it worked out. I expected attrition, just not within weeks of starting.

Apurva: It’s always tough to deal with, but as you were saying earlier on, your focus on pedagogy as well I think was really helpful especially for some of these language instructors where they’re thinking really closely about how students are responding to the materials in front of them. So they were even able to take away some of those pieces, even if they couldn’t stick around to participate in the program in the way that they had intended to at the start. Mary Leigh, did you also experience this with your large team?

Mary Leigh: Yeah, so for us, a few chapters that we thought we were going to have, and we never could get them revised to where they needed to be. But our project is set up so that we’re continuing to solicit new chapters, we have four underway at the moment. And it’s going to work that the new ones as each chapter is completed, it will be posted for free download.

And then, at some time, going forward we’ll do a second compilation. And so like with one of those chapters that just didn’t make it in time to be in the first compilation, we are still working with that person, we think there’s hope, we got them a co-author. We think there’s hope there, but otherwise a couple yeah, we just lost them and let it go.

Apurva: That’s a shame, but that creative problem solving as Donna was describing of okay, let’s think ahead to the second edition. Part of this OER process is also so much of ideating and thinking about well, we want to start off with this particular textbook replacement, but we’d eventually like to grow all the way to something so much larger.

So starting to jot those down, whether it’s in your Google sheets or whatever tools you’re using can be so helpful. Karen, I’ll ask you if there are any other questions that have passed in the chat that we might have missed?

Karen: There is a question from Marty, who is wondering if any of your teams involved graduate assistants in the process. And if you were able to offload a share of the work onto them, and if so, how or if that altered your management plans? And then, after Marty’s question I would like to hear a little bit more about the grant application processes I know some of you are involved with. So any graduate assistants?

Matt: Yeah, we used graduate assistants on our project, they were brought on as student advisors, so from the beginning of the project they were providing feedback on the textbook outline, the proposal for the textbook and then on early drafts and then final drafts as well. Some of the challenges are students have a lot of other things on their plate. It was nice that we were able, since we got funding, to provide some small stipends, like $250 to students.

And to really pick out the students who would do really well with that resource, but at the same time, these were maybe the students that we didn’t need to reach. These are probably the students that would have been fine with a commercial textbook that’s very difficult to understand. And that it might have been more beneficial for our project to choose students whose work we may not have liked as much in our class.

And that may have really benefitted from struggling through another textbook and pointing out where some of those things might be challenging.

Marty: To clarify, this is a graduate assistant that has been introduced late in the process, and it’s more of a I’m not going to have time, so she is probably going to have to do some of this mechanical stuff for me. And I’m like ah, oh, okay. I hope you’re the one doing the writing because you’re the one getting paid. So I’m just curious as to if anybody ran into anything like that.

Matt: I have, I’ve had mixed luck with graduate assistants. I’ve had graduate assistants who have been absolutely outstanding and people who have also authored. And then there are people who have not understood Pressbooks and who have tried to edit a PDF instead of editing the Pressbooks.

Apurva: Go ahead, Jonathan.

Jonathan: I was just going to say that because ours was part of a structured fellowship program we were able upfront to say that one of the stipulations for applying is that if you’re a faculty member you need support from your department in terms of applying for this. Recognizing that they’re going to value this work, that they think it’s a worthwhile use of your time because it is going to be time consuming in ways that we can’t possibly predict.

But also importantly, the resulting cohort most of them came from a community college, so graduate assistants weren’t really an option. At the same time, that became a really formative lesson for all of us, because I’m a faculty at heart as well. And sharing is exceedingly difficult, especially when you’re supposed to be an authority in a classroom.

And a well-defined part of the fellowship early on was that for the second two semesters you were going to be iterating and launching content that was probably incomplete in real time with students. And so, though we didn’t have GAs involved in the process, we absolutely had students involved, and they were the students who were actually taking these courses and interacting with the content in real time.

And everything from being student fact checkers to proofreaders to actually weighing in on how their faculty could do this better.

Marty: And our group does want to involve some of their students during this creation process just to get their feedback. So, it’s encouraging to hear that you were doing something similar to that.

Apurva: Definitely. And I just wanted to maybe invite Donna to share as well, because the book that they’re authoring is comprised mainly of graduate student authors. So Donna, I’m wondering whether you have any advice about how to on board and settle these students into what might seem like larger scale projects? Anita was having a conversation in the chat about guides and documents that might help, but what was the experience like for you navigating the student workers and student collaborators also through the pandemic?

Donna: Well, I think most people abided by the guide, or really referred to it. And perhaps because they are grad students, and they have this in their head idea that they need to follow the directions. And I’m a faculty member responsible for a program. So, we’ve talked all along that I had an advantage that the graduate student authors also were students in the program, so there was accountability outside of this project, which I didn’t really utilize but they could see it that way.

And then, none of our authors were able to utilize graduate students in their work, simply because of where they were and where they are. So, I know when this question was asked I’m like I’m not sure this really applies to us because a good portion of our authors were grad students when they at least started writing. And we do have one of the current students in the program is helping us doing some editing before we move into Pressbooks.

And then, she’s being trained in Pressbooks, and she will be the one really helping us make that piece happen. So now a conversation needs to occur of she’s being paid, but certainly nothing stunning. And so we want to be able to think about how to recognize her in our team, because she’s really contributing something different than others to the book.

Karen: Speaking of payment and financing, Mary Leigh, in the beginning you mentioned that you applied for special project funding with the ASABE. Matt, you mentioned when we were planning this session that you’ve worked on multi-institutional grant applications. And something you said that really stuck with me was that you could talk about the lumpy distribution of resources. And I like that description of lumpy.

So Mary Leigh, Matt, and anyone else could you please speak to the process of securing those resources and then the challenges? Maybe there’s some upsides of distributing those resources?

Mary Leigh: I’d like to say so yeah, we got some money from ASABE. But in the end, the way it worked out, VT publishing actually paid for the publishing. And Anita will have to tell us through where that money came from. I know they told me, but I was happy to get the money, so I have to say we did not personally go after that money.

But the partnership between VT publishing and ASABE and then us as members in that really made that happen. And so, it was really through their open textbook publishing program from VT publishing.

Anita: Yeah, so we worked with the Open Textbook Network’s publishing pilot, and the intro to bio systems was created through that partnership with the vendor Scribe. So, the funding for that came from a grant from the Open Education initiative at the university libraries, which is funded by the libraries. And it came from Virginia Tech publishing, because they fund editorial production, those types of things.

It was more than we thought it would be, but this really was a pilot, this is the first book that we worked on with them. It’s a different kind of process than we have done in the past, but we are all about experiments and trying to find out what works, what works better, why it works. And so I think it was pulling resources from lots of different places as well, we do too.

Matt: Yeah, just to jump in, I think one of the things that was probably a challenge just for our project getting funded at all is that we are redesigning a resource that’s used in 20% graduate classes. And that is a big challenge when most grant programs are faced with trying to bring in savings for students and justifiably so. I think one of the things that was a bit clever about our project was that we were able to stitch together inter-institutional partnerships.

And by redesigning the same small low-enrollment classes at multiple institutions, we were able to make similar or better arguments for cost savings than maybe redesigning your intro psych class to use the OpenStax book as a local university which probably would have been dollar for dollar very similar, but may not have been as I don’t know, I appreciated yeah. Hope that’s helpful.

Apurva: Thanks, Matt. I see another question here in the chat from Emily. And she says, “A lot of these collaborative projects have folks contributing to various degrees and in different roles. What strategies do you all have for managing that ebb and flow of participation? And all of the feelings associated when some participants might be taking on more than others? How have you managed all of that?”

Jonathan: So for me in my management style, and again, I think this is where it’s core understanding building relationships early on and understanding where people’s interests are and also where their skillsets are. Because the pursuit should be equity over equality in terms of involvement. And specifically our math group there’s a lot of different expertise there in math, that we have a lot of common edX math courses, all the math faculty also taught courses outside of the specific framework.

And so, it meant that some maybe had interest in higher level math concepts than others. But it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be critically engaged in really meaningful ways. For instance, one of our math faculty became the LaTeX expert, because he was a LaTeX expert. And he became a real dedicated resource for the technical authoring of the equations in their book.

Whereas others were more bold, because they were more established in their career, they were tenured. And they were interested in really iterating with students on the fly, in their classroom, experimenting with things. And they were much more bold in their sharing, because they felt more protected. And so naturally, they all found their roles, and again, it was just a matter of recognizing each other as people, I would say.

And there was another group where because of the administrative role, the dual employment that one of the contributors had, she had to pull out to a certain degree when they were actually developing and curating and pulling together the resource in this Pressbook. And it was, as I mentioned, a large Pressbook, it was 2,000 pages. But her skillset that was sustainable in a really volatile time was that she, because of her administrative role, knew plenty of other faculty who could assist in proofreading.

And she too could more easily manage proofreading instead of actually the creation curation efforts of the book. And so, again, I think it’s affording people some grace and I think that we all had the benefit of the last couple of years to recognize that grace can be in short supply in this kind of work. And so recognizing where people have different experiences and making time and space for that.

Donna: I think one of my more challenging management situations might have been just trying to be equitable between the two other co-editors. And they have a lot of grace for each other, and at times I might have spoken to them about you don’t have to have that much grace for the other person. You need to have – Anita’s laughing – that you have your opportunities, and you need to realize that this person needs to also do the work.

And you’re being so gracious, that maybe you should pull back a little on that, because they need to be accountable to do the pieces they’re saying they’re going to do. So, that was interesting.

Jonathan: I’ll say I don’t disagree with that, but I was also the enforcer. So it was my responsibility to make sure that equity was maintained.

Apurva: Mary Leigh, Matt, what about on your end? Was there also an enforcer and or someone who was taking a much kinder approach?

Matt: Yeah, that was me, I told you we had some issues with one of our sites. It was ultimately me doing most of that interfacing. Honestly, I haven’t fully processed that, but that’s not even a person that I talk to at this point. Yeah, it was bad.

Mary Leigh: Yeah, among the four of us, the oversight crew, we kind of took turns a bit when we had to enforce a bit because it would depend who it was with. If we were talking about section editors or authors and we would help each other figure out how we should go to that person and what we should do. So I have to say it was really nice that we had a team of four that we really worked well together as it turned out.

And we have worked some together before, but we learned a whole lot during this process and so we supported each other in doing the enforcing.

Karen: Thank you. I think we’ve all learned a lot during this hour together. And so since we’re winding up, I don’t know if there’s anything, Apurva, in the chat or any unanswered questions you want to address?

Apurva: No unanswered questions, but I will say there is a lot of discussion in the chat and maybe eagerness within the group here today to just share documentation and resources. So, I will just say for anyone who wants to continue this conversation, maybe talk to our guests as well, I dropped in a link to the Rebus forum discussion space.

Please feel free to follow up and continue to share your experiences here, even though we’re almost at our hour together. And Karen, I think you can start to close us off and express our gratitude for all of the guests and participants here today.

Karen: Indeed, thank you all for joining us, Mary Leigh, Donna, Jonathan, and Matthew. And thanks to everyone who asked their questions and engaged with one another in the chat. We couldn’t have Office Hours without all of you, so thanks for joining us. We hope to see you in September.

Apurva: Thank you everybody. Take care, and hopefully see you all next month.


Chat Transcript:

00:12:43 Amanda Larson: Hi all, Amanda Larson, Affordable Learning Instructional Consultant at Ohio State joining in from Columbus, OH.

00:13:27 Marty Miller (she, her): Hi Amanda, hi Emily!

00:14:35 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers): Great to see so many familiar names and faces! And hello to anyone who is at Office Hours for the first time. Welcome!

00:15:03 Anita Walz: Introduction to Biosystems Engineering:

00:16:34 Amanda Larson: yay Anita!

00:16:43 Matthew DeCarlo: ANITA!!!!!!

00:16:57 Anita Walz: ASABE’s page about the book:

00:17:32 Anita Walz: Press release about the partnership and book:

00:20:18 Anita Walz: Promo video about the book:

00:20:51 Anita Walz: Teaching In The University: Learning From Grad Students And Early Career Faculty

00:24:17 Anita Walz: If you’re game for a second edition, I am too!

00:24:27 Anita Walz: [or volume, rather…]

00:24:43 Matthew DeCarlo: haha, i’d like to see the project that scares anita

00:26:23 Anita Walz: Matt, there are plenty of projects that scare me!

00:32:10 Anita Walz: VIVA Grant info:

00:34:52 Emily Frank (she/her): Appreciate the discussion of challenges and how you navigated them, Matt!

00:34:54 Matthew DeCarlo: Textbook:

Project management files:–8LrpQmDpV8oxDgpLlQYY5_Zh7A5

00:35:09 Emily Frank (she/her): A question for Mary Leigh: how did you all managed the collaboration on this international project? Did you all have online meetings or mainly provide updates via email (or some other tool)?

00:35:43 Elizabeth Batte (she/they): Any advice on project management for a team who has never previously met/worked together?

00:36:36 Donna Westfall-Rudd (she/her): I neglected to mention that we kicked off our project with the development of possible reader personas to help our authors think about and remember who we all were writing to. The personas were created by current students.

00:36:48 Donna Westfall-Rudd (she/her): We will include them in our introduction section

00:37:38 Emily Frank (she/her): For Donna, since you had some folks leave the project from your team of 17 (!) did you onboard new authors mid-project or cover the gaps they left in some other way? Curious how you managed that

00:37:40 Matthew DeCarlo: Google Docs for original outlines and planning…but directly into Pressbooks for the final book

00:39:19 Andrea Scott (She/Her): Jonathan, Do you have a link you can share for OPAL? I believe that’s the acronym.

00:40:26 Jonathan Lashley: Andrea: I am drafting a report on the pilot cohort right now that will be published at by the end of the month.

00:40:41 Anita Walz: The cheerful encouragement, Donna, is really helpful!

00:40:59 Andrea Scott (She/Her): Excellent! Thanks, Jonathan.

00:42:15 Matthew DeCarlo: our author team already knew each other very well, so i’m less able to speak to this. however, even in our group, the role of developmental editor was really important. and keeping an open document of “continuity” issues that emerged as the textbook was written (even after the original planning and outlining)

00:42:32 Matthew DeCarlo: someone should hold all of the knowledge about what goes where and how ideas are presented in the book

00:42:42 Donna Westfall-Rudd (she/her): Emily – we only lost 4 chapters so we decided not to try to have someone replace those chapters. Instead, we have started a list for the next volume.

00:42:59 Elizabeth Batte (she/they): Thank you all for your feedback – very helpful!!

00:43:17 Emily Frank (she/her): @Donna — thank you!

00:43:47 Marty Miller (she, her): Did any of your team members involve their GAs in the process and offload a share of work onto them?  If so, how did that alter your management plans?

00:44:03 Jonathan Lashley: Yes! Templates and shared documentation are key

00:45:29 Matthew DeCarlo: Project management files:–8LrpQmDpV8oxDgpLlQYY5_Zh7A5

00:45:39 Elizabeth Batte (she/they): Yes – shared documents has been a great asset in smoothing out the process in the beginning

00:45:51 Anita Walz: The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far)

00:48:18 Anita Walz: Jonathan and Matt, how did you onboard your editors and authors? What readings/content were helpful for getting people oriented to start working?

00:49:01 Matthew DeCarlo: author guide and review guide, based on the rebus templates…and for reviewers a lot of gratitude

00:49:14 Jonathan Lashley: Yeah, what Matt said

00:51:33 Anita Walz: Thanks, Jonathan and Matt. This has been a challenging part of the process for me.

00:51:56 Matthew DeCarlo: what part has been challenging??

00:53:01 Anita Walz: The volume of topics to cover: Orientation and what to do about copyright, open licensing, ideal timelines, accessibility . . . .

00:55:40 Matthew DeCarlo: people don’t read the guide?

00:56:28 Anita Walz: Some do. Our processes are somewhat different than the guide because we work with the Publishing group at VT.

00:58:39 Emily Frank (she/her): Marty’s comment made me think of the challenge of any group project where you have individuals contributing to different degrees. Did you all have strategies for managing the ebb and flow of participation and the feelings associated with that when some participants are taking more on than others?

00:58:59 Marty Miller (she, her): Good question, Emily.

01:00:17 Jonathan Lashley: @Anita, I just emailed Emily Frank (also on the call) about her onboarding resources today at LOUIS. She may have some ideas. I rant into some of the same obstacles you mentioned and pulled specific content from the guides when needed in discussion. In other words, the guides were reference materials instead of guiding texts.

01:02:24 Anita Walz: @Jonathan, thanks. That’s a good insight. I’ve since designed an outline of all of the things to cover. This is something I want to better document this year — and to pull in external materials where they fit well.

01:04:24 Emily Frank (she/her): @Anita and Jonathan, In our project we currently have underway, we have started with a training phase that everyone worked through. We have onboarded two individuals later/following the training phase. I have tried to offer a compressed ~1.5 hr live session. But it is a challenge because other participants spent weeks on the training. The training materials are available to all to work through. But it is challenging to onboard mid project.

01:05:35 Emily Frank (she/her): The balance between grace and accountability

01:06:42 Jonathan Lashley: Anita and Emily: it sounds like a remix project that we all should but probably don’t have time to pursue. 😉

01:06:55 Emily Frank (she/her): I appreciate you all sharing that because it is helpful to recognize these issues come up in projects!

01:06:55 Anita Walz: @jonathan lol

01:07:03 Matthew DeCarlo: you all are amazing!!! thank you to my co-presenters and to everyone who came!!!

01:07:05 Apurva Ashok (she/her/hers):

01:07:43 Marty Miller (she, her): Thanks everyone for sharing your expertise!

01:07:46 Amanda Larson: Thanks all!

01:07:49 Anita Walz: @jonathan – would be happy to talk further about onboarding.

01:07:49 Sheryl Shook: Thank you very much!

01:07:49 Allison Brown: Thank you!

01:07:50 Sunyeen Pai: Thank you for this great discussion. It was very nice to see everyone!

01:07:51 Andrea Scott (She/Her): Thanks everyone!

01:07:51 Emily Frank (she/her): Thank you!

01:07:52 Anita Walz: Thanks all!