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B.C. Open Textbook Collection Through the Years: 2018

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. In this monthly blog post series, we’re looking back and highlighting some significant milestones of the project.

By Lauri Aesoph, manager, Open Education Operations, BCcampus

Providing open textbook grants for the B.C. post-secondary sector was a first step toward building an open educational resources (OER) library. The bulk of this work, however, centred on the writing, management, and production required for each book. In 2018, four years after the first B.C. open textbook was published, the BCcampus team knew better author support was needed.

By 2018 BCcampus project managers had accrued significant experience after publishing almost 70 open textbooks. They had learned about the unique challenges writers face when composing an open textbook compared to a traditional one, such as understanding and complying with the legal requirements of a Creative Commons (CC) license. In some cases authors were hesitant about using open content without first asking the copyright holder for written permission, an unnecessary step according to CC license rules. 

Over time, as authors found their OER footing, they began asking more complex questions about open textbook writing. This meant the first resources developed by the B.C. Open Textbook Project no longer met the needs of all its grantees.

New and Improved Guides

We released the BC Open Textbook Authoring Guide in 2014 as a reference manual for the province’s open textbook authors. Soon other open projects, such as those in AlbertaSaskatchewan, and Ontario, adapted this guide for their own purposes. 

We replaced the foundational authoring guide in 2018 with the more advanced and expanded Self-Publishing Guide. This new guide took open textbook authors step by step through the writing and publishing process and provided detailed resources such as contract templates and project checklists. 

The authoring guide had been a go-to for all aspects of open textbooks, including how to create an adapted book, how to adopt a book, and Pressbooks basics. So, in line with addressing the need for more comprehensive OER support, we established separate publications for those topics too, with the Adoption GuideAdaptation Guide, and Pressbooks Guide.

Pressbooks Training

Over the past decade, Pressbooks has become the standard open-source system for OER authoring and publishing. From the start, the B.C. Open Textbook Project used Pressbooks and encouraged its authors to write their books inside the platform. B.C. open textbook creation in general became easier when, in 2016, BCcampus offered post-secondary faculty and staff from B.C. and the Yukon free access to a dedicated self-serve instance of Pressbooks: the British Columbia/Yukon Open Authoring Platform. As users grew in numbers and experience, the need for enhanced resources and training expanded too.

We formed a Pressbooks Advisory Committee, comprised of open education leaders from several B.C. post-secondary institutions, in 2018. Meetings covered how to enhance the platform’s usefulness through tools such as Common Cartridge and H5P, how to better support Pressbooks users, and discussions about common problems and issues. 

We also created the Pressbooks Tutorial Videos in 2018. Like the Pressbooks Guide, the videos focus on the BCcampus instance of Pressbooks and include recordings such as How to Create a Pressbooks Account and Clone a Book. That same year, we began a series of Pressbooks tutorial webinars for both beginning and intermediate users. 

We now offer advanced Pressbooks trainings as part of the OER Production Series. Most recently, we made LaTeX support available through a LaTeX Questions Answered section in the Pressbooks Guide and an email channel devoted to LaTeX help (latextsupport@bccampus.ca). LaTeX—pronounced LAY-tech—is a math markup language that makes STEM resources more accessible and professional-looking and can be used in Pressbooks-based publications.

OER Production Team

The work initiated in 2018 led to further enhancements of BCcampus OER production and publishing services with the appointment of Josie Gray as manager of Production and Publishing in 2021. Josie formed the BCcampus OER Production Team and scheduled the OER Production Series webinars.

Josie and the team also assembled two resources that target the needs of grantees. Getting Started: OER Publishing at BCcampus is a high-level overview of what people who have received grants from BCcampus need to know when creating or adapting OER. This is accompanied by the BCcampus Open Education Publishing Style Guide, which lays out internal guidelines and style decisions used by the OER Production team when preparing OER for publication.

Today open education is alive and well across B.C., with many institutions offering on-campus OER support, training, and open publishing. As testament to this success, 1600 accounts have been created on the British Columbia/Yukon Open Authoring Platform, and over 1500 completed and in-progress open textbooks have been posted. 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection, and we’re celebrating the collection all year long. Stay tuned for the next post in our B.C. Open Textbook Collection Through The Years series as we revisit the milestones from 2019. 

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