Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop group sessions

This blog post was written by Graham Stone, Senior Research Manager, Jisc.

As part of our Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop in Birmingham on 16 June 2017, we asked our projects to cover the following broad themes in their presentations:

• Costs: how long did the books take to write, what were the hidden costs?
• Benchmarking: cost benefit analysis and evidence to invest in more e-textbooks
• Technology: the technology used including lessons learned and issues faced
• Licensing: issues encountered including CC licenses, 3rd party copyright issues
• Dissemination, distributions and discovery: concepts and processes behind the dissemination, uptake, and wider adoption of the e-textbooks
• Uptake: evidence of usage by students and courses
• Feedback: Would the authors do it again, would they act as champions?
• Implications of implementation: What are the implications for the wider adoption of the e-textbooks at other institutions?

In the afternoon group session, delegates and speakers contributed their own thoughts and ideas in relation to their own institutions. We’ve distilled the ideas in this blog post to give you a flavour of the session. Next steps for us are to use the ideas to shape a proposed toolkit for institutions, which will be a major outcome of the project.

Institutions wanted to know more about ‘hidden costs’ of creating the textbooks in order to plan all the details. For example, the time taken to write, but also other areas that may progress at a different pace.

We hope to be able to make a number of survey documents live on the blog very soon – one is an excellent survey of authors, which will help institutions to understand these costs. We hope to survey all of our authors and provide an analysis too.

Questions were asked about the full costs of this form of publishing verses commercial publishing. This is more difficult to quantify due to the different nature of each project. As are the costs of dedicated staff, as each project uses a different business model. However, we hope to capture some of this for the toolkit too.

Business models around crowdfunding and subscriptions were also mentioned. There is an overlap here with the OA monographs toolkit, which is also planned for 2017/18.

Benchmarking against commercial publishers was mentioned and we will provide some further details about this in the toolkit. It was thought that qualitative benchmarking might be too expensive to do. However, we think that the survey templates we hope to make available will help in this area.

There was some overlap here with evaluating uptake, international students and outreach were mentioned.

Regarding the question about the need to benchmark and for whom was it necessary, the USP and distinctiveness of a textbook was suggested. We will ask the projects to expand on this.

Comments on technology discussed the need to make sure that technology followed engagement and pedagogy and not the other way round. The need for proper resourcing and the use of open source technology was also mentioned. We will pull together the experiences of all the project as part of the toolkit.

Issues around 3rd party rights and CC licences were prevalent. We will add more information to the toolkit. However the Jisc/AHRC OAPEN-UK guide to Creative Commons is still available. In addition, there might be external guidance such as Extended Collective Licensing.

Delegates wanted to know about both internal (VLEs) and external dissemination (Kindle, Google Books). We will ask the projects to provide more information in the final year of the project about how they planned and evaluated their dissemination and discovery.

Institutions want a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data and we hope to provide this, both as survey templates and analysis.

The need for pre-determined aims of success and the definition of value were mentioned and we will ask projects to provide their experience.

Student value was important and we will have more data on this during the final year.

Feedback from authors and students was considered essential and we’ll provide some more details on this in the coming months. Learning technologists and tech companies were also mentioned.

We are planning some further case studies from authors and analysis form surveys in the next year. As mentioned above, we hope to provide some survey templates.

Implications for implementation

Delegates saw a number of opportunities, such as dissemination of ideas beyond the authors HEI, institutional reputation, collaboration, student experience, value to pedagogy and potential recruitment.

Potential challenges were seen as IPR and licensing, too narrow a focus for widespread adoption, collaboration vs competition, accessibility, dissemination via platforms, issues around providing continual content, sustainability, preservation, working out pedagogical value and time.

We’ll ask the projects to report back on their experiences in due course.

Finally, we asked delegates to tell us if there was anything we had missed regarding a potential toolkit. Collaboration, shared costs and centralised resources were mentioned as were shared platforms.

Concerns were expressed about which technology to use, long term preservation and the risk of dumbing down if HEIs produce their own learning resources.

A question was also asked about why a ‘core textbook’ was not featured in the project and whether it was too difficult. Regarding this, the second Liverpool book could be considered a ‘core textbook’ in this sense and a blog post will be published in due course.

We hope you find this useful – comments are always welcome. We will continue to blog as the toolkit takes shape.

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