Booksprints

September 2019 OER Sprint Releases – English Composition and UH Microeconomics

September 2019 OER Sprint Releases – English Composition and UH Microeconomics

With the semester getting into full swing, we are proud to share the outputs of the OER sprints conducted in May of this year. During two sprint events, faculty and instructors from throughout the University of Hawaii system focused their energy and expertise to produce two OERs.

Likened to a coding hackathon, book sprints involve rapid planning, writing, revising, and more writing. Book Sprints champions the notion of going “zero to book in five days” but due to time constraints, three-day sprints were planned and focused on content for English 100 and Economic 131 (Microeconomics). Our teams gathered at the Information Technology Center (ITC) at UH Manoa to take part in this experimental approach to curriculum development, spending 11-to-12-hour days giving their all to the project. From roughly 9:00am to 9:00pm, these subject matter experts sought out existing content, drafted entire chapters from scratch, and edited each others’ work.

Professors and a facilitator in front of a white board

The first sprint team members had already adopted the widely-used Openstax Principles of Microeconomics in their courses, which provided an excellent base of content. As many instructors do in the classroom, each instructor brought with them extensive notes about how they might change or augment the curriculum if given the opportunity. While it can be a slow process to make substantive changes to a textbook over a semester, the sprint offered the chance to make changes immediately and receive expert feedback from others who work with the same content, resulting in a book that better supports the needs of the instructors. Changes from the off-the-shelf Openstax version to the UH version include a Use of Mathematics appendix as part of the first chapter, the combining of multiple chapters and updates to examples, tables, and data throughout.

After major combinations or eliminations of chapters and sections were decided, a checklist of tasks was established for each chapter and work was divided among the participants. For the Microeconomics book, each of the seventeen chapters went through phases of text revision, figure/table updating, checking links to external content, knowledge check revision, alignment with learning objectives, and final in-house copyediting. Each night while the subject matter experts rested, Book Sprints staff in South Africa and Germany copyedited the day’s work and made suggestions to align the content with a style guide established at the beginning of the sprint. This process repeated for each of the chapters, and each day the group began by reviewing the copyediting notes and making plans for the next full day of work. As a final step, figures and equations throughout the book were formatted in LaTeX.

Screenshot of UH Microeconomics OER textbook

Click the above image to visit the book.

The second sprint group focused on the creation of a writing and rhetoric guide that is commonly assigned alongside a set of readings and contemporary literature. English 100 is taken by as many as 10,000 UH students each year across all campuses, representing one of the highest enrollment courses in the entire system. Several similar OER guides in various website and course formats had been produced at the time of this sprint, but the end goal was to create a guide that would take book form.

As with many courses, the approaches and objectives for English 100 vary somewhat from campus to campus and between instructors. The Book Sprints team guided the team of subject matter experts through a process of harmonizing the variations of learning outcomes associated with sections of the course, clarifying the goals for the project. In what can be described as a semi-chaotic post-it note session, the instructors were tasked with curating all the ideas and goals for the book into buckets representing chapters. Many ideas and goals overlapped, and some were discarded if they did not fit within the scope of the book or were a better fit for an individual instructor’s edition of the book — which was promised from the beginning. Having a shared collaborative version was foundational, and the open licensing and simple cloning in Pressbooks meant that each instructor now has their own version to use with their students and continually edit during the pilot period.

Organizing ideas on post-it notes on a white board

As it turned out, three days of sprinting was barely enough time to yield the first draft of the text, now titled English Composition. Finishing touches on this initial version of the text were made in the weeks following the sprint, ensuring each instructor could confidently move forward with the text. The book begins with a chapter on student success, which gives helpful tips for communicating with professors and other students, and for understanding standards of quality for writing. The following chapters then explain the writing process and distinguish between types of essays that students are likely to write during their college experience. A final chapter on research skills rounds out the core content of the book, which is supplemented by appendices that recommend place-based and culture-based readings, videos and sample assignments.

Screenshot of English Composition OER textbook

Click the above image to visit the book.

Both books are now available on the UH Pressbooks site, to be viewed and used and downloaded under the terms of the CC BY license attached to it. Print on demand for both books is being finalized, which will allow students to access low-cost print copies. Overall, the sprint approach to OER development holds real value for those interested in OER but who, like many, haven’t moved to the adaptation and creation phases of OER beyond off-the-shelf adoption.

A huge thanks to Barbara and Karina from Book Sprints for their master facilitation skills, and to the eight authors across both sprints who shared their expertise and collaborative energies with us. Big thanks as well to Davilla Gose and Laura Chuang for helping make the logistics and operational side of the sprints smooth.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Sprints
Happening this May: UH OER Sprints!

Happening this May: UH OER Sprints!

Over the last several years, instructors and faculty from across the UH system have joined the movement in adopting OER in place of textbooks and other costly resources in their classes. A subset within this wave of adoptions includes content that has been adapted or customized to better suit the teaching style of the instructor and needs of the students, something that can only be accomplished with OER — which carry copyright licenses that allow such modification. These customized OER projects have typically followed the OER Production Workflow we published just over two years ago. Even with project milestones and sufficient assistance in place, the single largest barrier to meeting projects goals has been time. It can take months or even years to produce a single OER textbook.

Recognizing this barrier, we have begun to wonder how the processes of adaptation and creation of new content can be invigorated, and how the energy and enthusiasm of our faculty could be focused in way that would allow us to reach a pilot-ready OER in less time. To that end, we’ve made plans to employ sprint-based textbook development methods this year to build customized UH OER. Using existing OER content as a base, our motivated faculty and instructors will have the opportunity to build curricular materials that demonstrate their expertise in a given subject area. Beyond simply replacing costly materials, there will be opportunities to explore innovative pedagogical approaches that might be done during course refreshes.

But what the heck is an OER sprint?

When introducing the concept of a sprint, we often compare it to a “hackathon” like is done for code, but instead to build a book. Putting the rather important nuances on hold for a moment, sprint methods usually involve a small group of subject matter experts who are guided through the ideation, writing, and revision phases of writing a book over the course of a few days. A facilitator and handful of support staff assist with each step in the process, and some post-production in done after the writing and revisions have ended, polishing up the content and forming in into a useful package. Sprint methods have been used for more than a decade to create documentation very quickly, and have now expanded to include textbooks and even ancillary materials like assessment banks.

In our case, we will be sprinting to build OER books to address needs within some of our highest enrollment courses in the UH system. This May our first sprints will take place between May 15 and May 22, in three-day all-day sessions of curating, writing, and revising content for Introductory Microeconomics and Macroeconomics (ECON 130/131) and English Composition (ENG 100). In some cases, faculty who teach these courses have already begun to gather and adapt OER for their specific course at their campus, and now we are moving to create foundational OER available to all UH campuses where these courses are delivered — even the online ones!

What if I’m interested in being a part of this but haven’t yet had the chance to chime in?

We are still gathering instructors and faculty to from all campuses to take part in the May sprints. Please reach out to Davilla Gose (drgose@hawaii.edu) or Billy Meinke-Lau (wmeinke@hawaii.edu) ASAP if you would like to get more information or sign up for participation.

What if I think this sounds *awesome* but I am not available in May during the above window of time?

The response to our call for interest in OER sprints has been overwhelming, and for this first set of sprints we are going to focus on these few courses. Instructors from a range of fields including history, physiology and anatomy, chemistry and more have reached out, and so we are already making plans to host more sprint-style events in the coming Fall semester. These will likely be single-day events to address lighter revisions/remixing and the development of shared ancillary resources like quiz banks and lecture slides decks.

If you are interested in future activities like OER sprints and training or workshops around customizing OER, be sure to sign up for the UH system-wide listserv by making a request via email to oer@hawaii.edu.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Sprints