Hacking a Media Textbook (in a Weekend)

Global_Open_Educational_Resources_(OER)_Logo_-_Black_and_White_variation.svgOn the weekend of 16-17 November, a group of academics and librarians across Australia and New Zealand are getting together at their respective campuses to collaboratively write – or ‘hack’ – an open textbook.

Led by Erika Pearson, Richard White and Simon Hart at the University of Otago – with assistance from Bernard Madill – the open textbook project will be an experiment in the production of open educational resources in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The team was inspired by a group of Finnish mathematicians who (successfully) attempted to write an open mathematics textbook in a weekend.

An ‘open’ textbook is one which is free of all technical and legal restrictions on access and reuse. That means a textbook that is free to read, free to adapt and free to distribute – all over the world.

This initial textbook project will be for undergraduate students in Communication and Media Studies around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. In the future, though, we could see open textbook projects for subjects and levels across the New Zealand education system.

To this end, the organising team are producing an accompanying ‘cookbook” to provide a roadmap for other projects.

The project is partially funded by Creative Commons, who have been supporting open education projects around the world. Creative Commons affiliates, for their part, have been working to implement open education projects and policies — with a great deal of success.

CCvidIn Latin America, Project LATIN is working to produce open textbooks to address the affordability of educational resources. As the project home points out, annual textbook costs for an undergraduate at the Universidade de São Paulo add up to 67% of the Brazilian minimum wage. “This,” the members of Project LATIN point out, “makes [it] almost impossible for low-income families to support university study.”

In Europe, the Open Education Policy Network is making the case to governments across the continent that free content licences — like CC BY or CC BY SA — “should be adopted for all publicly funded educational content.” Projects are already in place: Poland and Macedonia have been producing state-funded open textbooks for the compulsory sector, and other countries have developed repositories for open educational resources, like the Belgian Klascement, Dutch Wikiwijs and Norwegian NDLA.

On August 13, the Indian Government launched NROER, a repository for providing open educational resources for the Indian school sector. in Mongolia, the One Academy is translating and creating open resources.

In North America, California and British Columbia have both announced plans to use open textbooks for high enrolment courses. And then the Department of Labor and the Department of Educationin the US announced $2 billion to create open educational resources for US community colleges.

Closer to home, the Open Educational Resources university has launched, which uses open textbooks to teach — and provide credit — for university courses.

And that really is just the beginning: there are major open educational resources projects in just about every country on the planet. Open textbooks are clearly taking off — and for good reason. Open textbooks ensure that educational resources are accessible, affordable and reusable, helping organisations and governments to realise their basic goal of enabling universal access to education.

It’s exciting to see the global movement for open textbooks reach New Zealand. May this open textbook project be the first of many!

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