2020 Update #1: Architecting the future of Open Textbooks in Minneapolis

The Open Textbook Network and Coko kicked off a collaboration on December 11, 2019, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The two communities came together to address a shared problem: Helping authors write and design an open textbook. Together, over the next three years and supported by IMLS funding, they will be designing a tool to support authors with the book making process.

The day’s work was driven by the experiences of the advisory group. “Our advisory group represents a variety of roles in OER production, and they have creative and practical ideas for how to support authors in making structured open textbooks both in terms of workflows and tools,” said Karen Lauritsen, Open Textbook Network’s Publishing Director. “We had a very productive kickoff meeting in Minneapolis and are excited to continue our work together in close collaboration with Adam and Coko.”

Coko Founder Adam Hyde facilitated the advisory group, guiding them to address specific parts of the complex book-making process and imagine possible solutions.

Defining scope

The advisory group decided to focus on textbooks as the initial concrete space for this project. Textbooks are unique in that they include pedagogical devices that create structure and organization so that students have a consistent reading experience. With that in mind, the advisory group wants to support the specific process of making a textbook. At the same time, they agreed that the door is open to supporting other publication types later.

Structuring books

The advisory group decided that they wanted to focus on helping authors structure textbooks in two scenarios: 1) Author in the wild, acting solo, and 2) Author collaborating with others including other authors.

Building for collaboration and interoperability

The group felt strongly that, as much as possible, whatever they design should be interoperable with the current landscape of OER production tools.

Yet while the group agreed interoperability is important, it does pose challenges. Adam asked the group for guidance about the workflow relationship between developing book structure and publishing a book. “Can the structure making process be separate from the writing process?” he asked. “In other words, what is the experience of using a structuring tool that is agnostic to the publishing environment? We have the technical capacity, but many production tools do not have a design environment. This means we cannot do one-to-one integration. We ask these questions knowing that structuring content is not an isolated moment in time.”

The complexity of these questions indicates that the tool may work best when tightly coupled with a publishing tool, in this case, Editoria.

Next steps

Adam is going to start working with a user experience designer on the Coko team to develop a chapter centric design process for creating textbook structure. He expects that he will have a mockup workflow by the end of January. At that time, it will be shared with the advisory group for feedback.