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Audio Transcript

Open Publishing Fest: Launching a Grant-Funded Open Textbook Program


  • Karen Lauritsen (Publishing Director, Open Education Network)
  • Amanda Hurford (Scholarly Communications Director, PALNI)
  • Jennifer Coronado (Scholarly Communications Librarian, Butler University)
  • Erin Milanese (Affordable Learning Project Coordinator, PALNI)

Karen: Hello! Welcome to the Open Publishing Fest. My name is Karen Lauritsen. I am the publishing director with the Open Education Network. I’m joined today by Barb Thees, our community manager. And if you are not already familiar with the Open Education Network, or OEN for short, we’re a community of higher ed professionals working together to make education more equitable through open education. We’re based at the University of Minnesota in the United States. And you can learn more about us at

Today we’re talking with Amanda Hurford who is the Scholarly Communications Director at PALNI, and PALNI stands for the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana. She is joined by Jennifer Coronado who is Scholarly Communication Librarian at Butler University, part of PALNI, and Erin Milanese who is Affordable Learning Project Coordinator at PALNI. They are going to talk together about how they launched their first grant funded open textbook creation grants program.

I prepared several questions for the PALNI team, but your questions are welcomed and encouraged so please feel free to put them in the chat as they occur to you. There will also be plenty of time at the end for you to unmute or put them in the chat then. Really, our conversation is intended to be informal. I don’t think anyone has slides prepared. We just want to chat about all things OER publishing. So this is modeled after some tea time meetings that we have in the publishing cooperative where we talk about whatever’s on our mind and not necessarily things that we have figured out either.

So before we get started I’d like to share a few housekeeping details. Live transcription has been enabled. If you’re not seeing it please let us know. We are committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees. So please join us in creating that safe and constructive space. We are, as you know, recording the session. It will be available shortly on the OEN YouTube channel and also archived with the Open Publishing Fest.

Okay. That concludes our preamble. Now is the time to start chatting. So, first question for our guests, please tell us a little bit about PALNI and how it’s structured.

Amanda: Okay, I can take that one. So as Karen mentioned, PALNI is the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana, and we are a library consortium of 23 institutions all across Indiana from the most northern part to the most southern part. And all of our institutions are small private colleges. Our largest institution I believe is Butler, which Jennifer is a staff member of, and that is around 5,000 FTE.

And PALNI itself has a small full-time staff, including me, and I work on a variety of scholarly communications projects as the scholarly communications director. And we also have a number of coordinators who are part-time and do more focused work, more project specific work on things like affordable learning and that’s Erin’s role as our affordable learning project coordinator. And PALNI is rooted in deep collaboration. So what we do as a consortium is we connect folks from all across of our supported institutions to work together on problems that everyone faces to kind of make the problem smaller by having more hands in it to figure out how to attack things.

So, we have a number of task forces and ongoing committees that we work with at PALNI, and that’s how this program got started. We had an Affordable Learning Committee, I want to say back in 2017 or 2018, where we started talking about all of this and the publishing program just kind of ended up being an evolution of that work. Another one thing I wanted to mention about PALNI and this project is that it’s supported by a grant that we got from the Lilly Endowment for $520,000. So that’s how we’ve been able to fund not only the publishing program that we have, but also stipends for reviews and course redesigns and things like that.

Karen: Thanks, Amanda. So you mentioned that you were all on an Affordable Learning Committee. Can you say more about how the three of you specifically became collaborators on this project?

Jennifer: I could probably tackle that a little bit because when Amanda had started the Affordable Education Committee it was a smaller group. And then we decided to branch it and make it a little bit larger and pull in additional people to create PALSAVE, which is kind of like our overarching admin team for anything related to affordable education. So it kind of encompassed, you know, course redesigns, OERs, and then with that, Butler, we had some interest in doing publications and textbook creation and it was something that Amanda was interested in also, developing that kind of arm of PALSAVE. And then Erin was brought on as our coordinator, but she had originally started at Goshen. So it just kind of happened to fall in, you know, the three of us had interests in getting something like this off the ground.

And so, you know, part of Butler, I had a faculty member who was very much a go-getter in all things, everything. And so we used him to kind of be a pilot member of this. And so he was very easy going. He had an idea of what he wanted to have happen, so we were able to kind of use him as a pilot. And so, you know, he understood that he was going to essentially be a guinea pig for this and was very much open to that.

So, because I had this connection, it kind of allowed us to play with some of the things that we wanted to achieve and make sure we kind of ironed out some wrinkles before we went ahead and did a full call for proposals for all of the funding we could give for our textbook creation. So it just kind of fell into, the three of us were the ones who were most interested in developing out this idea.

Karen: And just to follow up on that, Jennifer, so it sounds like you were working with one faculty member, like you said, to kind of pilot things before you launched officially. How long was that period?

Jennifer: Well, it’s still ongoing. He has not finalized a book yet. We kind of did it in a staggered motion. So, you know, we did a lot of that pre-development and figuring out timelines and papers and documentation. So we’d figured that out, worked with him to kind of give him some of these pre-documents that we had created, and essentially he’s maybe about six months ahead of where our current authors are.

So right now he’s in the peer review stage, whereas our other authors are still in the writing stage. So he’s only slightly ahead of everybody else. We knew we couldn’t do an entire, you know, two- to three-year textbook and then start on everybody else. So he just happened to start a little bit earlier than everybody else. So we’re seeing how, we’re still, what is it, the expression? We’re flying the plane as we’re building it? So that’s a little bit of how our approach has been.

Karen: But you have excellent…I’m trying to extend the metaphor, GPS? Goggles? I don’t know, vision?

Jennifer: Yes! Engineers, all of it, yes.

Karen: Thank you. So how did each of you define your roles and responsibilities in this grant program?

Erin: Yeah, I’ll take that one. It wasn’t really anything formal. It was more just who has the time and interest and also thinking about our respective roles. So like Jen said, she was the one at Butler working, so she sort of became the project manager working with the author because that’s what made sense for her to do. And Amanda, as a scholarly communications director for PALNI handled a lot of things that are kind of at that director level. And so, yeah, it was just sort of who has time and interest and also thinking about what our designated roles were for PALNI and our organizations.

In terms of interest, things like, one of Jen’s random skills is redesigning documents to be really pretty, so she took that on. And like, in my life outside of PALNI, I do a lot in instructional tech, so anything that was sort of, like when we needed to figure out how H5P works in Pressbooks, I sort of volunteered to do that, ’cause that’s sort of a hat I wear. So yeah, nothing really formal, but that’s sort of how we define who would do what.

Karen: Thanks. So can you talk a little bit, Jen, you mentioned some things with your solo faculty author kind of paving the way and then launching the full program. Can all of you, or whoever, please talk a little bit more about how you prepared to launch? So, you haven’t done the official thing yet. What went into that process?

Erin: Yeah, and I think we will all chime in on this one. I can start. One of the first things we did and I handled a lot of this, was just, we did a ton of research and like looking at what everyone else had done. So, attending things like this and hearing from people who were a bit ahead of us in launching their own publishing programs. And we all did the PUB101 course, which was really helpful. And we talked to people. I sent a lot of emails to other consortia to see how they had done this at that scale.

And in particular, I want to shout-out Stephanie at the VIVA Consortia in Virginia, who sent me multiple emails and talked to me on the phone and just gave, sent us a ton of their documents so that we weren’t starting at like square one. We were starting at like square four, which was just really amazing. So if any of you are at that point where you’re like, how do I even start? Just ask people for their stuff because they will give it to you. This is such a welcoming community that’s so willing to share. So that was sort of my role at the beginning was doing a lot of that research and sort of getting us some documents to start with.

Jennifer: Right, and then once we kind of got those documents, then it was a matter of, okay, how do we repurpose those to fit our needs? Because you know, we were working with, you know, private institutions and, you know, things work a little bit differently than, you know, maybe like for more public institutions, so it was a lot of redoing some of those documents.

And like I said earlier, we had most of our documentation already done before our call for proposal ever went out. So we had done our lead author agreements, timelines. If our authors were, you know, working with third-party people on some of their books, we had agreements for those. We had the applications already, you know, completed, along with like the call for proposal. All that documentation, all that verbiage, everything for marketing, we had all those things pretty much sorted out before we even launched our call for proposal.

Actually, to be honest, we had also our rubric for how we were going to assess the applications that came in. All those things were done first because those were the things that we were also sharing as part of our call for proposal so that our faculty who were interested in applying, they knew the types of things that we were going to be looking at, some of the things that we, you know, ranked a little bit higher than others. So, we had all that documentation available for people to look at before we, pretty much once we launched it, all that documentation was done.

And I will say in terms of our timeline, we had to pretty much work backwards. You know, we knew that based on our grant, things had to be done, you know, 2023, 2024. Things had to be wrapped up by then. So from there it was, alright, how much time do we need to leave for cover creation? How much time do we need to leave for copy editing, peer review? How much time do they need to actually write the thing? So you kind of had to work your way backwards to figure out, “Oh, shoot. We were supposed to launch our call for proposals last week, probably.” So figuring out that timeline was very important and it actually has helped us stay on schedule.

And I think also, I would say, is making sure that you allot more time than you think is necessary. So I think that’s one of the things that we’re starting to learn right now as we kind of fall into peer review timeline for our pilot person, but it was very helpful. Like, and Amanda probably can speak to this in a little bit, but you know, in our lead author agreements, we clearly defined the things that we said that we would do as PALNI support. We would make sure that copy editing was done and the textbook cover creation, like those were the types of things that we were ready to support.

And then we had an outline of responsibilities of authors so that everybody was clearly designated as to what we expected of them and then what they can expect of us. So I think that kind of helped our authors understand, you know, what was on their plate and what they could expect, and what were the things that we are going to help kind of take off of their plate that they didn’t have to worry about.

Amanda: I’ll just kind of wrap up this topic. As Erin and Jennifer mentioned, we did want to do as much preparing as we could and being as organized as we could. I think partly to kind of combat the, maybe the imposter syndrome that we were feeling a bit about publishing and the fact that we had never done this before.

A good way for me to always feel better about something that I’ve never done before is to over-prepare and just feel like I can draw from the resources that are available to me to be as ready as I can for whatever comes up. So I feel like we really did that. Before the pandemic hit, right before the pandemic hit, like late 2019, we spent a whole day at Butler in this little office, which sounds, I don’t know, maybe not that fun. But it was great because we ordered lunch and we just, you know, we spread out all of our papers and I think we even called into one of the tea times from the OEN Publishing Co-Op to learn about copyrights.

And we just really sorted through all of the details and we made a plan to make all of the different documents that we needed to make. And I feel like having that dedicated organization time and delegation time, and just having the three of us who were really taking on the responsibility of all of the different pieces, and having that core group has really been the best thing that we could do to prepare.

I will mention also that we, in thinking about reviewing our proposals, we added a fourth person to our team in order to help with those reviews, and we set aside some dedicated time in order to review the proposals when they came in. But we’ll talk a little bit more about what we did in order to review in a moment.

Karen: Thank you all. It really sounds like you had the time and space to kind of, probably thanks in large part to the grant funding, to think about how you wanted to do this. And there’s always so many benefits to, like you said, Amanda, planning especially if you feel like I haven’t done this before, I’m really going to plan this extra hard with many steps. And I think that can really help clarify for ourselves, for myself, as well as help with the communication stage when you are reaching out to authors. Like Jennifer was saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s what you’re going to do.” You can’t know that until you really sort of map all of it out.

So you spend this time in the office. You order lunch. Good things are happening. A pandemic happens, and then you launch your call for proposals. What did you hope to accomplish? How did that timing workout? Did you have specific metrics like, “Gosh, I hope we get X number of applicants.” Or “I hope they’re from these disciplines.” What was that like?

Amanda: Sure, I can take that one. So we didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations going into our call for proposals. We knew what our final goal was, which was to do what we said we were going to do in our grant application, which was to publish five open textbooks by the end of our grant cycle, which ends in 2024.

So, we were just crossing our fingers that we got at least five applications. And we really wanted to make sure that we had enough applications, enough quality applications, to satisfy that grant requirement. And then also, you know, just that it was a good pool of, you know, diverse projects, interesting projects, things that we thought we could handle. So we were just kind of hoping that the ones that came in would be right for us.

And we also really wanted to just determine interest. Like I said, we had no idea if we would have even enough applications to do what we set out to do. You know, we wanted to find out are PALNI faculty even interested in writing textbooks? We hadn’t really heard a whole lot of indication one way or another other than, you know, when we would do our workshops, letting faculty know about OER, every once in a while, we’d get the question of like, “Well, what do I do if there’s nothing in my subject area?” And we’d be like, “Why don’t you write a textbook?” And they’d be like, “Okay!” So we didn’t really know what the interest was.

And then, you know, also just out of curiosity, again, do PALNI faculty have the capacity to write a textbook and will they even apply? So I definitely think that we were excited and impressed and surprised by the outcome that we did ultimately have.

Karen: Related to that, about, you mentioned that Lilly wanted five by 2024. Did you have a sense of how many projects you could support and exactly how you could support it beyond that five? Like, “Oh, if we get 20, we’re going to take on 20!” Or was it, how did you sort that out?

Erin: Well, funny that you chose 20 because that is exactly how many we ended up getting. I guess 21, if we include our pilot project. We, as has been mentioned, PALNI schools are small and the majority of people that work for us on PALSAVE, or really on any PALNI committee, are volunteers. So with that in mind, we kind of knew we couldn’t take on a whole lot more, but also in terms of funding.

So we did end up, one, I guess, advantage of COVID is that we were able to move some grant money that had been allocated for like going to conferences and things like that, that just ended up not happening, we were able to repurpose some of that money to allow us to accept five projects from the pool of 20, so we are doing six. So, we have the five from the 20 and then the pilot. So we did take on one more.

And for those we are doing, like Jen talked about a little bit earlier, like those are the ones that we’re really like supporting copy editing and doing a cover, really paying them money. Like there’s just a lot more going on for those.

And then we talked a lot about what a second tier of support could look like because there were so many good projects that we had to say, no or sorry, we can’t give you the grant. But we did give everyone the option to use Pressbooks. So that’s sort of our second tier, but there’s not really any formal support. Like we can help you maybe get your Pressbooks account set up and give you some basics, but we’re not doing copy editing, we’re not designing a cover, like those sorts of things for those other books. Yeah, so that’s sort of our extra tier, but yeah.

Karen: Did anyone take you up on it?

Erin: Yes, actually! If you go to, I think Amanda may have put the PALNI press link in there, but we do have, I think two books up there now that were just people who were interested in creating a book, and so they did. And we’ve had a lot of other people express interest in that, and I think in early 2022, we might try and do a workshop for faculty on just like how to use Pressbooks.

Karen: But those two were pretty self-sufficient. It sounds like there wasn’t a lot of Pressbooks support.

Erin: Yeah. We’ve been surprised at how some faculty are really like, they don’t even ask a question. We give them the login information and next thing we know they’ve got a textbook on there.

Amanda: Well, I just wanted to follow up on one point on that. So we do have Pressbooks that we’re offering out to the entire PALNI community, not just for the purposes of creating an open textbook. So the link that I just shared has three books, and one of them is already in the Open Textbook Library with two reviews, which is super exciting because we literally didn’t have to invest any energy at all in getting that textbook off and running. And then the other two are more sort of like scholarly publications, but one of them was actually used in the course at one of the PALNI schools. So it’s not necessarily a book that’s organized like a textbook per se, but it was used for that purpose.

Karen: Great. I really appreciate how all of you are talking about sort of different publishing models depending on different scales. So somebody listening who might be a one-person program could think about, well, is there a way we provide, for example, access to Pressbooks or another tool, or, you know, copyright consultation, whatever is sort of scalable to them as an individual. 

And then we’re going all the way to sort of generously funded grant program where there’s also, you know, peer review, cover design, copy editing, so there’s so much room in there to experiment and find and define your support. So these six projects, or maybe five is more applicable to this next question, how did you select those five from the 20? How did you make that tough decision?

Jennifer: Sure.

Karen: You mentioned a rubric.

Jennifer: Mm-hmm. So we were very excited that, like I said, we had 20 and we were really hoping that we would get five. So it was really nice that we had that opportunity to really dig in and see what we had. And as Amanda mentioned earlier, we added a fourth person to help during the review because, you know, we asked for, you know, a pretty lengthy application. It went into how do you foresee yourself finishing and writing this book and please provide us, you know, a sample chapter or a sense of a table of contents, and it was a pretty involved application, and so we knew between the three of us, we were really worried about that sense of fatigue.

So we had a rubric, and within that rubric, we were really looking at how well do they adhere to the rubric? Because like I said, it was part of the call for proposal documentation that they all had access to when we sent out the call. So it was something they could look at and, you know, try and make sure they adhere to a lot of the pieces. And so we basically were looking at how well did they fill out these questions and give us a good sense of where they’re coming from and things like that.

And so we, all four of us, looked at every single project. But one of the things I think that we did, that if we were to do this again, we’ll definitely do it this way, because we staggered who started where in looking at the applications. Not everybody started with the first one, and then everybody ended on the last one, because you know, that first one is going to be, “Oh, this is great.” But then by the time you get to the end, you’re so tired of looking at anything that you’re just like, “Ugh, I don’t want to look at this anymore.”

So by having everybody start in different places of looking at the applications, it really helped reduce that sense of fatigue, and we didn’t want to, you know, have that all dumped on the last person. And so I thought that was a great way that we handled it.

But one of the things that we were looking at as well, aside from how well they adhere to the rubric, was looking at the diversity of authors. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just giving funds to every white man writing about a STEM field. We were looking at ways, how can we increase the diversity of our authors, the subject matter.

And then, because, you know, we are PALNI, we’re private academics, we wanted to try and touch on some of those more niche topics that not everybody’s going to get a textbook funded to write about, especially when we hit things like religion and music, some of those topics that, you know, we don’t need another economics, you know, Intro to Economics . There are plenty of those out there that people can put together. But what are some of those a little bit more niche topics that maybe there aren’t as many materials out there for.

So we are definitely wanting to, you know, create a little bit more of a well rounded sense of who and what was being funded. And I think in the next iteration, if we get to have one, we wanted to put a little bit more emphasis on DEI type subjects, or applications that include a little bit more of a DEI focus. So, you know, the ones that stood out to us were those applications that included some of those topics, and so I think in the future, if we’re able to do this again, we would like to include that a little bit more heavily and a little bit more focused in the rubric itself.

Karen: Thank you. I was just reading the chat where Amanda dropped in the rubric and Jennifer, you were talking about wanting a diverse pool of authors and wanting them to incorporate topics of equity and inclusion in the work. And Linda has a question here about why that wasn’t included in this first draft of the rubric, which I haven’t looked at, so I’m not sure if it’s there or if you’d like to, if it is there, and you’d like to emphasize it more.

Jennifer: I mean, to be honest, I think at the time we just hadn’t maybe thought of it entirely and it wasn’t until we were looking at applications that included it that we realized those were the ones that we were gravitating towards. And so for the next iteration, it was just a sense of, we need to make sure that we do include this the next time, because we found it to be so valuable.

Karen: Thank you. Any surprises in the applications or anything that we’ve talked about up to this point where you’re like, “Wow, we did not expect that to take this long,” for example, or any surprises you can think of?

Amanda: Well, I can think of a couple to share. And I think the first one was just how many replies that we got, how many applications that we had come in. Jen mentioned we were hoping for five and we kind of joked around about how, like we hoped we literally got five so that we didn’t have to say no to anybody. But actually it was pretty great that we did get as many as we did just to establish that there was such a great interest in authoring textbooks across PALNI schools.

So we’ve got a good reason to move forward in requesting more funds from Lilly, which they’ve indicated that they’re potentially considering funding a second round. So that’s really exciting because we reported back to them in our last grant report the interest that we had, and the fact that we would love to continue this as an ongoing program.

We were really surprised at the variety of topics that we got, but overall, I would say that having the pilot project with James has helped us to be kind of not too surprised as we’re going through the process, which is great. Since we’re new with this, jumping in with two feet on, you know, five different projects and realizing, “Oh no, we’ve made a mistake. We should have reconfigured this or reworded this, or taken a different approach on this or that.” By working through the process with James, it’s been a lot easier.

And I would say the biggest thing that we were surprised about is that James has been, sorry, James McGrath, the author of our pilot textbook, he’s been really excited to work directly in Pressbooks, which was something that we didn’t really think that faculty would be interested in because it’s, you know, just something else to learn. Who has time to build a new authoring platform? I know it took me a while to carve out the time in order to really get into it. So we were thinking that all of our authors would want to work directly in Word or Google docs or something like that, and would be happy just to pass on the manuscript.

But no, James really wanted to work in Pressbooks and get used to that interface, I think because he wanted to go ahead and make a draft available to his students and have it be a working draft and not just this sort of, you know, black hole that his draft goes into while it goes through copy editing and peer review and all of the processes that we’re putting it in. He wants that draft to be something that’s valuable and available to his students now.

So, you know, we’re learning a lot about faculty working styles and the fact that we’ll need to be flexible as far as, you know, not necessarily requiring that faculty work in one way or another. But then also, you know, staying true to our kind of vision for how the process should work and not necessarily saying yes to everything if it’s going to make our lives that much harder. But at the same time, wanting to accommodate different writing styles. That’s all I can think of as far as surprises so far.

Karen: Thanks, Amanda. And for talking about kind of those, negotiating those boundaries or lines between wanting to be really flexible and supportive, but also understanding that there’s limited capability among the team. And it is really interesting to hear that this author, James, was wanting to work within Pressbooks and hearing his reason why, which is wanting a draft available to his students as it’s still developing makes sense.

There’s a couple of questions here from Linda related to what you were just talking about. Linda is wondering, “Was the consortia Pressbooks cost covered by Lilly and what can the faculty grant be used for? Remuneration to faculty for work, services?”

Amanda: I can take that one. So, we opted not to get an actual hosted instance of Pressbooks. We thought about it, but then after chatting with our local development folks, you know, we realized that this is an open source platform, we can handle this locally. So we decided to go ahead and try that again with the idea of, if it doesn’t work out in our pilot project and we need to go a different route if it’s too hard to maintain, we can shift focus there. So we were able to not have to use grant funds for that. Although of course, our technical person who helps us with that has used some of their time that we just sort of absorb out of our PALNI budget.

And the faculty grant, basically the way that we’re doing the money is that we pay the faculty directly and that they can choose to pay whatever they want to out of that. So if they need to hire students or if they, you know, want to collaborate with another faculty member, that’s fine, but we’re basically just doing the payment directly to the faculty member and we’re not working through the institution or paying out subcontractors or anything like that, just to kind of reduce the administrative load and headaches on our end basically.

But we have run into maybe a little bit of a surprise there because even though it was clearly stated in our author agreements, we’ve had a couple of projects come to us and say, “Oh, okay, well we need money to pay our students.” And it’s in our agreement that says you get the first payment after you turn in your draft. So we’ve had to kind of have some back and forths with some of the authors to remind them of what’s in the author agreement and how the product is laid out. So it has been nice to be prepared and organized in that sense, just to have those documents to refer to.

Karen: Yeah, having the author agreement is a really nice touchstone that you can turn, come back to, and look at it together.

Amanda: Well, and just really quick on that. And that was one instance where we wanted to be like, “Oh, well maybe we can go ahead and pay them early.” But you know, after kind of talking it over and realizing, you know, we have an author agreement for a reason. Let’s go ahead and stick to what it says, just again, to make our lives easier, and not think that we have to renegotiate things and create new agreements because you know, circumstances have changed or preferences exist.

Karen: So it’s nice, not just for the author, but for yourselves. “Okay, this is what we decided. We decided this for a reason. Let’s stick to it.” I can understand the temptation, too, of wanting to move away from it. So that’s a really good reminder that it also serves that purpose.

Thank you, Linda, for your questions. We appreciate them, and just a reminder, anyone is welcome to drop your questions into the chat. The next question I have for you is about your ongoing work to support authors, which you’ve touched on a little bit. It sounds like James is in the peer review stage and that the other five are perhaps in the writing stage. So what does that look like for the three of you while those authors are at those stages?

Jennifer: I can speak to that. So, one of the nice things that we set up was this kind of a project manager that’s assigned to each textbook. And so because James is from Butler and I work for Butler and part of this task force, I am James’s project manager. But then for the five authors, we found somebody willing to be a project manager that is from their institution. So they have kind of a touch point without feeling like they have to always reach out to Amanda or Erin or myself. And so it’s kind of a nice way for them to ask their questions of a project manager, and if they know the answer, they can take care of it.

Or what we also set up was basically office hours once a month for our project managers, where if their authors have asked a question, they aren’t quite sure, they can always attend office hours and we can work through it and talk through it if it’s, you know, something we’ve got to work on a little bit more or, you know, we can answer pretty quickly, and then it just kind of allows our authors to have somebody to work pretty directly with.

We ask that they meet about once a month together just to touch, you know, check in, make sure everything’s going okay, you know. Right now, like you said, most of the authors are in just this writing period, so it’s just a matter of the project managers kind of just checking in, making sure that they’re still on, things are still moving along because we don’t want to hit that first milestone of, alright, a draft is due, but they haven’t talked to us in months. We have no idea what’s happening.

So that’s kind of why we set up some project managers to kind of just help increase that touch point just a little bit. And then, like I said, we’re kind of just following through with our timeline and just giving out, like with James, it was about a month before his first draft deadline. So it was kind of checking in with him, making sure that he feels ready to submit a draft to us. Because like I said, in our author agreement, you agreed to a certain timeline, and we understand that things come up, but at the time he seemed pretty confident and he met his October 1st deadline.

So it’s just kind of making sure that, you know, everybody is staying in connection with each other and that sense of communication is there. I think, you know, with our authors who are just currently writing, it’s just making sure that you’re still working on writing, you haven’t hit any sort of a speed bump, or anything that we need to work through.

It’s been really nice having those project managers because it alleviates us needing to touch points with all five authors all the time, which you can really dig into our day-to-day. So having that project manager kind of takes that little bit of load off of our plate, but also provides a closer contact for our authors if something comes up. They have somebody at their own institution to talk to.

Karen: Thanks, Jennifer. And you mentioned that James had met his October 1st deadline. Do you have sort of little deadlines on the way to the big deadline, or was that the big deadline for, you know, the whole manuscript? How is that structured?

Jennifer: So for that one, pretty much, we gave him a deadline of, we need your first draft by this date. But luckily, we had been checking in once a month along the way, you know, whether it was for like just 10 to 15 minutes, it was, “Yep, I’m still working.” And since James was writing directly into Pressbooks, we could easily see that work was being done and, you know, chapters were being written. So at least in that sense, since he was in Pressbooks, we could easily confirm that things were happening.

So I guess we’ll find out if maybe we need to have more smaller concrete deadlines, but so far it seems like things are on the up and up, at least we hope. But yes, James met his October 1st, and so now we’ve moved into that peer review stage for him.

Amanda: There was one other deadline that we had early on in the project, which was to submit a outline. But since it was James, it kind of happened loosey-goosey. But with the other projects, we set that at the beginning. We asked them to submit an outline, both of content and structure in order to make sure that it was including pedagogical elements, like, you know, key terms or review questions at the end, and so that the structure would remain consistent throughout the book.

And then we also had a deadline for the budget, for them to give us an idea of how they were planning to use the funds, and if there were any contributing authors that we also had to set up agreements with.

Karen: Great, thank you both. Ann Marie has a question in the chat about whether you provide any support for faculty authors to advocate for how their work will count for promotion, tenure, and evaluation.

Jennifer: That’s the million dollar question! I mean, that’s something that here at Butler we’re grappling with, because right now some of these activities don’t count towards tenure and promotion. And for us, especially within the library, it’s been a lot of just trying to get the word out that we are advocates for them, because essentially it comes down to faculty talking to their own administration. You know, it’s them having to do the work of pushing to have these things count.

I as a librarian cannot go to, you know, the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences and be like, “You should really change your tenure promotion.” I can really just be more of an advocate on your behalf And so for us, it’s just been about letting faculty know that the library’s here to support them and we’re happy to give any sort of documentation they need to see. If they need to see how things are handled with peer review, we’re happy to show those things, but it’s just that our faculty have to come and basically tell us that they need us to.

We can keep trying to have workshops and things like this, but it’s really up to our faculty to come and say, “We need you to come and maybe talk to our associate deans.” Like I said, it’s not something that I, as a member of the library cannot just go to the dean and ask them to change tenure promotion. So, I’m still waiting to hear that.

Erin: For PALNI schools Butler is maybe the big exception, and Jen just spoke to that, but most of the PALNI schools, like I used to work at one very small, about 900 students, and because of that tenure and promotion in many of our institutions works very differently because they’re mostly teaching-focused tenure track positions instead of research-focused. And so anything they do that counts as like supporting students kind of automatically counts towards tenure.

So for some of our institutions this would be something that counts just sort of by virtue of supporting students. And Butler would be one of our few institutions that functions more like many of the large research-focused institutions out there. So I just wanted to mention that too.

Karen: Thank you both. And thank you for the question. So, you have all of these great phases. You have the first pilot phase, you have this group of five, and now you have the potential for a second Lilly grant since there was already so much interest. You mentioned a couple things you might do differently the second time around, particularly related to the rubric and evaluating proposals and having diversity, equity, and inclusion built into that. Are there other things that you would like to do differently the second time around?

Erin: Well, like you just said, we’re unsure if there will be a second time. We really hope there will be because we learned that there’s a lot of interest. And we also still haven’t made it the whole way through the process so we’re learning some things and we’re learning a lot as we go.

I think one thing we’re thinking a lot about in terms of a second time is, you know, where can we be flexible with author preferences, like writing platforms and, you know, discipline specific things like we have a math book that we accepted. So how do we take our preference for them doing their work in Google Docs and work with them on their preference of writing in LaTeX. So things like that. Like, when to be flexible versus when to stick with what we’ve planned on.

As an example, I’ll just mention that yesterday, so we’ve said that it was great that James learned how to use Pressbooks. As we figured out with the peer reviewers, we ran into, “Oh, well, if we export this from Pressbooks as a PDF,” and anyway, it was a whole thing trying to get it into Google docs format from Pressbooks. We went from Pressbooks to PDF, to Word, to Google Docs, and so we discovered some formatting things. And that might be something that we change for the next time, is saying, “Hey, we need you to have a version of this that’s not just in Pressbooks to make this piece easier.” So just some of those little tech things.

And like you already mentioned, a big one for us is being more explicit in the application process and the rubric and evaluation process on the things we value. So, building DEI into that, building textbooks with a social justice focus,  having that be part of the application process.

Karen: Thanks Erin. Related to this question of whether there will be a second time, are there also institutional funds for any of the work or does it rely on external grants?

Erin: I’m un-muted, so I can answer. Right now, again, all of our institutions are small and most of them are very much struggling. And so almost all of our money comes from these external grants right now. Again there’s a handful of institutions, Jen, I don’t know if you have anything at Butler, but like very few of our institutions would have any funds to support this internally.

Jennifer: If we were talking that COVID had never happened, yes. We would have been able to carve out some budget funds for Butler faculty because one of the initial things that got this whole thing started was, you know, I talked to Amanda saying, if I just let my faculty run wild, they would have taken every publishing opportunity that PALNI would have given. And so it would have been nice that, barring COVID, you know, we would’ve carved out some money so that if we had more Butler faculty who would have wanted to publish, we could have offered it as a parallel program to what PALNI was doing. But, you know, 20 percent reductions in budgets, that money was gone before it even showed up. So at this point we’re still very much relying on external grants.

Amanda: I can say too, from the PALNI perspective, this whole program, our affordable learning program, started as a program funded by PALNI as a consortium, as a nonprofit organization working with the schools, and a significant portion of our original budget came just from the PALNI budget. So, you know, we did several thousand dollars in reviews, stipends, and things like that before we even got the Lilly grant. So affordable learning, and I think publishing, is a goal of PALNI as an organization. So, even if we don’t have external funding to fund projects to the degree that we have working with Lilly, I’m certain that PALNI will be able to budget, allocate some funding to extend this program going forward in some perhaps reduced form. So there is some.

Erin: And outside of funding, I will say, having formerly worked at a very small PALNI institution where they lack in funds, they are very, like, they realize what PALNI is giving them sort of in return. So basically every librarian at a PALNI institution is on some sort of PALNI committee. So when Amanda was talking about deep collaboration, that is like director level to staff level in these libraries. So even though there’s not necessarily institutional funds, there’s institutional time that is supporting these projects. Throwing that in there, too.

Karen: Thank you all. So the last question I have for you is about how your experience can inform our work more broadly as a community that is publishing OER.

Erin: I think we all have things to say on this. I would just say the reaching out to others and asking questions. Again, that meeting I had with VIVA was just so helpful for getting us going and knowing where to start.

And also, and this might be a unique thing to the kind of faculty we’re working with at PALNI, but I think we were really shocked at how many people we said, “Sorry, we can’t give you this grant” and they were like, “Oh, well how can I publish this book anyway?” So just this reminder that money isn’t necessarily everything that faculty are after. They might just want a platform. They might just really want to put their book out there, and so thinking of those non-monetary ways to support them is important.

Jennifer: And kind of building off of the sense that we were able to offer Pressbooks is the fact that it could be scaled. We initially had our big, these five are fully funded. But then there was also the sense of, well, we can still make the platform available and if you want to put your work out there, we may not be able to provide monetary support, but at least we have platform support and they were able to do that. We have a couple of books.

As Erin said, there were people still wanting to just make their work available. So just the fact that the platform was there seemed to, you know, it was very helpful for faculty just knowing that there was something out there that they could be using to produce their textbook.

Amanda: And I’ll just sort of wrap up with echoing both what Erin and Jen said. We did learn a lot from other community members. This whole experience has really highlighted the need for organizations like the OEN in order to help us get started and give us the confidence that we need to feel like this is something that we can do, even though we don’t really have any idea what we’re doing. You go to several workshops, you go to, you know, an online canvas thing and you learn from your peers and you talk to people, and that’s how we do this.

So, kind of in the spirit of that sharing, we’ve been putting the tools that we create for this program on our website and it’s all licensed CC BY. We’re not necessarily saying that our resources are the best, but they offer examples for you to look at and they are things that we have updated iteratively as we’ve gone through the process. So we’re making them available to you to look at and to adapt, and hopefully they’ll be helpful.

Karen: Thank you very much, Amanda, Jennifer, and Erin. If any of you in this call have last minute questions for them, please feel free to drop them in the chat. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and reflections and also your documentation. It is really valuable.

I’ll just add on to what Amanda mentioned. If you are interested in participating in PUB101, which is free for OEN members and currently being revised by a new PUB101 committee so that it’s up-to-date and relevant for the questions you’re facing, if you’re starting or thinking about OER publishing, we will have a new cohort in the spring. There’s no cost, and it is based on this canvas curriculum, which is currently being revised, but in the meantime I think there’s some helpful resources there in terms of different forms and things that you can adapt for your program.

I have not seen any last-minute questions pop into the chat, but if you are a member of the OEN and they come to you later, please feel free to post them in our Google group. And thank all of you for joining us and being a part of this conversation and doing work to support open education. We appreciate you and your time, and thanks again to our three guests. We hope to see you soon, but until then, farewell. Bye.


Chat Transcript

00:18:01 Barbara R Thees: Open Education Network:
00:18:32 Amanda Hurford: PALNI:
00:19:56 Barbara R Thees: OEN YouTube:
00:22:38 Amanda Hurford:
00:33:22 Barbara R Thees: Info on the OEN’s Pub101 and Publishing Co-op:
00:39:14 Amanda Hurford:
00:41:41 Amanda Hurford: rubric:
00:44:40 linda hauck: Why didn’t you include these considerations in the rubric?
00:44:44 Amanda Hurford: The projects we selected are listed here:
00:45:54 linda hauck: Makes sense!
00:48:33 linda hauck: Was the consortial Pressbooks cost covered by Lilly?
00:49:52 linda hauck: What can faculty grant be used for? Remuneration to faculty for work, services?
00:49:58 Amanda Hurford: We are hosting it locally
00:51:34 linda hauck: Nice simple way to structure it!
00:56:03 Amanda Hurford: Our project managers are on either our PALSave or Publishing Services Team
00:58:58 Anne Marie Gruber: Do you provide any support for faculty authors to advocate for how their work will “count” for promotion/tenure/evaluation?
01:03:02 Anne Marie Gruber: Are there also institutional funds for any of this work or does it only rely on external grants?
01:07:38 Amanda Hurford: good point Erin
01:10:11 Amanda Hurford:
01:10:30 linda hauck: You have so much to be proud of!
01:10:57 Amanda Hurford: Thank you!
01:11:13 Karen Lauritsen: Pub101:
01:11:42 Mélanie Brunet: Thank you!
01:11:55 Rosita Hopper: Great info. Tank you 🙂
01:12:00 Gabby Hernandez: Thank you!