Supercharged OER at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Many of you who are active in the OER community will already know Rajiv Jhangiani’s name. Besides being the co-editor of a well-regarded 2017 book on open education, “Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science,” and an outspoken advocate for open pedagogy and improving global access to educational opportunities, Rajiv currently serves as special advisor to the provost on Open Education and is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He was instrumental in KPU’s 2017 launch of the first “Zed Cred” program in Canada, in which all of the courses for a credential are available with zero textbook costs. A second Zed Cred program launched in 2018.

In his role at KPU, Rajiv leads a mission to “supercharge” OER efforts university-wide.

KPU is the leading institutional adopter of OER in Canada. In the past, the university has worked with BCcampus to adopt dozens of open textbooks hosted on BCcampus’s open source Pressbooks instance. Now, KPU also hosts adaptations and new open textbooks on their own Pressbooks network.

Rajiv, himself a long-time practitioner of open pedagogy, adapted two OERs for BCcampus, and a third for his own use, early in his days in the OER community.

When he began these projects, he wasn’t aware of Pressbooks and was using a Word document for the manuscripts. However, “Once I learned about Pressbooks’ existence, it became the default tool,” Rajiv says. Now he even uses it to create non-textbook materials, such as KPU’s strategic plan and OER workshop training materials.

KPU now boasts more than 300 courses with zero textbook costs–many of them utilizing open textbooks on a Pressbooks platform.

As KPU’s OER initiative grew and evolved from adoption and minor adaptation into publishing of open textbooks, they identified several benefits to having their own individual Pressbooks network on which to produce, publish, and distribute open textbooks.

Investing in an institutional network allows KPU control over the network and the branding of their own open textbook catalog, and also instills confidence that the system is routinely maintained, optimized, and up-to-date with the latest features.

Rajiv says after the initial institutional cost of subscribing to Pressbooks, the potential for OER production is virtually limitless.

“There’s nothing to prevent us from cloning away,” he says.

So far on KPU’s network they’ve built resources for the Learning Centre, such as books on learning to learn online, time management, and study skills. Some recent OER grant-funded projects include consumer behavior, ancient and medieval history, and mathematics adaptations.

KPU plans to formally launch OPUS (Open Publishing Suite), in March.

“The academic areas are really what’s going to ramp up quite a bit,” Rajiv says.

He envisions their catalog including a number of adaptations of OpenStax or BCcampus textbooks for high-enrollment courses.

After making a “master” clone of each of these books onto their Pressbooks system and revising the text to localize its content, KPU can clone each book again multiple times, so that each instructor of these courses with multiple sections can make their own instructor-level customizations. For instance, instructors might want to rearrange the chapters to match the order they teach, add research examples from their department, or otherwise tailor the book to their teaching style.

OER creation on Pressbooks is just one piece of KPU’s overarching open publishing suite of tools and services, OPUS, which also includes assistance with Open Journal Systems, Zed Cred preparation, and embedding open content in courses. Grants are available for faculty wanting to create or adapt a textbook. So far efforts have been split evenly between the two, but Rajiv says he expects to see more adaptation in the future.

Faculty can submit a project for consideration on the OPUS website.

For selected projects, faculty can use Pressbooks in one of three ways: 1) They can create a resource from scratch in Pressbooks. 2) KPU can assist them to clone an existing book, and they can make their edits in Pressbooks. Or 3) a Pressbooks conversion service is available to faculty who already have materials in Word or similar programs.

Rajiv says they try to be flexible, and “meet faculty where they are.”

OPUS is a partnership between Open Education and the Library. Two librarians, Caroline Daniels and Karen Meijer-Kline, are the key point people for the project, which is strongly supported by University Librarian Todd Mundle.

A big push to apply for the Pressbooks Conversion Library Service will be kicked off on March 7 at events during Open Education Week. A panel of speakers already using Pressbooks will speak about their experiences, and hands-on training for the software will be provided. This training is guaranteed to be offered on at least three of KPU’s five campuses every semester. Online, asynchronous training, as well as “just-in-time” training for faculty are available, and Rajiv says they are in the process of building videos and digital assets to promote Pressbooks internally. They also send frequent updates about newly published OER, KPU events and speakers, and anything related to open education to an open ed listserv of more than 150 subscribers.

At KPU, the open ethos has been embedded into practices and procedures: “Open ed is part of the identity of the institution now,” he says.

Rajiv says KPU chose Pressbooks out of pragmatism.

“Pressbooks has become the standard, as you know,” he says, with lots of big organizations like BCcampus using it for the creation and cloning of open textbooks.

It hasn’t been too hard for faculty to pick up, as Rajiv has observed.

“It has a learning curve, but it’s not ridiculous,” he says.

There were several factors that made Pressbooks attractive to KPU. Among these were language support (such as Punjabi scripts), LaTeX support, support for print-on-demand, and interactive tools like the H5P plugin now available on PressbooksEDU.

So far, they’ve been using H5P for formative quizzing Rajiv says the “desire for that is pretty big.” They’ve also used H5P for timelines and clickable hotspots, which can “make a static visual resource a little more interactive.”

Pressbooks’ commitment to providing an accessible, open source software was also an important factor in the institution’s decision.

“A piece of open source software makes a huge difference philosophically,” Rajiv says.

Likewise, the ability to take Pressbooks exports and easily and affordably create print-on-demand versions was crucial. KPU has its own print-on-demand wing, a partnership between the bookstore and the print shop. KPU’s bookstore manager is a member of the Open Education Working Group.

They started with a few courses and tweaked existing procedures six months ago using Verba Collect, the platform where KPU professors specify the textbooks students should buy for their courses. Now, professors can use the same platform they use to identify a traditional textbook to point to an OER that can be printed by the bookstore.

When a student decides to buy a print copy of the OER, the purchase sends the Pressbooks PDF export to the print shop, generating an affordable print-on-demand version for them that’s available within 1-2 days. Rajiv says while the books are priced very affordably, it’s still a new revenue stream for the bookstore. Even on Creative Commons NC (non-commercial)-licensed books that they print, the bookstore can still see an indirect revenue when the students come into the bookstore and see other merchandise for sale.

Rajiv knows he’s lucky to be at an institution that proudly supports open education as part of its culture. For programs that are just emerging, though, he advises starting small and focusing on proving impact.

“It is important that [OER efforts are] properly supported,” he says. “I think you could start without the support, and then it’s almost worse than not starting.”

Rajiv suggests the following strategy for early-stage OER initiatives:

  • Look at your bandwidth and pick two to three high-enrollment projects that you can really support, he says. Make sure you provide those projects with instructional design support and create high-quality books. Ensure they meet accessibility requirements and are designed with UDL principles and individual learning differences in mind. This will ensure the resources are well-thought-through and will be effective and useful for learners once you publish.
  • Leverage those as early wins.
  • Research, at your institution, is a big part of being able to do that. Evaluate and document the impact of adoption on course outcomes. Compare the cost and impact on course enrollment, persistence, and completion. Take a highlighter to the strategic plan and map your proposal to its tenets. Then, it will be easier to get people to say yes to a pilot.
  • How to keep those resources fresh? Conduct open pedagogy projects. Have students in future classes that are using the textbook update the stats, add H5P elements, and annotations. “Supercharge the basic book through the pedagogy piece and then it takes on a life of its own.”

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